Interpersonal Communication

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Interpersonal Communication

Overview - Nonverbal communication is a part of the process of interpersonal communication that sends messages without using words or phrases. It uses body posture, facial expressions, hand and arm gestures, posture, and even eye contact. For humans it also uses objects that we use culturally: clothing, jewelry, hairstyles and combinations of ways we present ourselves (e.g. using certain jewelry to communicate affluence, or a particular style of glasses to show “hipness,” etc.). With speech, we can use rhythm, tone, timbre, style, or emotion to emphasize a message as well. Much of the study of nonverbal communication though is categorized into three major templates: the particular environment, the physical characteristics of the communicators, and the behaviors of those communicators as they interact (Knapp and Hall 2007, 7). In fact, the first scholarly study of nonverbal communication was done in 1872 by Charles Darwin, who argued that animals, too, show emotion and communication in their facial expressions (Darwin 2009).

Nonverbal communication is also culturally based – expressions taught in childhood in one culture could be offensive in another, or the opposite. It is thus an area of study that focuses on numerous disciplines: sociology, anthropology, psychology, communications, art, music, criminology, etc. As part of the human communication paradgim, nonverbal comunication often defines the communication process by providing a basic template for message. It can also regulate regular verbal communication and provide clues and emphasis – signals that the listner understands almost implicitly. By the same token, the person communicating looks for signals from the audience – whether they are bored, interested, antagonistic, or sympathetic (Verckens 2003).

Relationship Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication – Social psychologist Paul Ekman is a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relationship to expressions and nonverbal communication. He believes there are at least six different ways in which verbal and nonverbal communications relate: repeat/enhance, contradict, complement, accent, substitute, and regulate (See below) IssueDefinitionComments

SubstituteUse nonverbal instead of verbalShaking one’s head rather than answering yes or no RepetitionUse nonverbal and verbal at the same timeSaying “no” and shaking head side to side ContradictOpposite meaningsSomeone might say, “this will be fun” yet display a facial expression of disgust- this is sarcasm; words are positive, nonverbal communication is negative ComplientEnhance or emphasizeSomeone very tired or worn out might say “I’ve had a bad day,” white simultaneously slumping in posture and looking sad or tired AccentEmphasize a part of the conversation or issueSomeone might say, “It was really smooth,” while mimicing the smoothness with hands and voice tone RegulationUsing nonverbal clues to regulate speed, depth, and intensity of communicationNodding, smiling, looking away, etc. Source: (Ekman 2007).

Another interesting facet of nonverbal communication is that while verbal communication is more overt, non-verbal is less controllable, and therefore, more honest and truthful. Speaking usually means that some sort of audible or visual message is available and is the target of communication. Once this is written or recorded, it can be used to discuss, reinvent, comment, etc. Nonverbal communication, however, is an impression made and often clues given without the speaker even realizing. These clues, though, are powerful enough to remain with the audience long after the message was sent. This, of course, is particularly true with politicians, performers, and even news reporters (Depaulo 1996). Nonverbal Macro Signals - Nonverbal communication is extremely important in public speaking, the media, and interpersonal issues that focus on business relationships. While radio can disguise much by just using voice,...
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