December 3, 2014
Nonverbal communication is “any communication that occurs between people, usually within each other’s presence, by means other than spoken or written words or the signs of a sign language” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 315). According to Plessis and Plessis (2008), Dr. Albert Mehrabian stated that fifty-five percent of emotional meaning of a message is portrayed through body language; thirty-eight is communicated through tone of voice and inflection; and only seven percent is presented through the actual words. “While nonverbal communication was once considered innate, it is now recognized that nonverbal communication including body movements, facial expressions, gestures, and the study of time and space etc.. often varies from culture to culture” (Guo & Hu, 2013). “Kinesics is the formal study of communicating with body movements” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 315). Rowe and Leiven (2006) break down kinesics in to four main behaviors: emblems, illustrators, regulators, and adaptors. Emblems are “nonverbal acts that have very specific meanings” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 316). An example of an emblem is the thumbs up sign to signify everything is okay or approval. Illustrators are “nonverbal behaviors that accompany speech and serve to clarify or emphasize what is being said” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 317). An example of an illustrator is using your hands to create a special distance to help show a representation of the size of the fish that was caught during the camping trip. Regulators are “habits, which direct the back-and-forth nature of speaking and listening” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 317). Motions like crossing your arms or looking away from the person who is speaking will give the person cues of interest of disinterest. Adaptors are “nonverbal acts that are not intended to communicate; yet the viewer of such acts might make certain judgments about the person who is displaying them” (Rowe & Leiven, 2006, pp. 317). Unintentional movements such as shaking your leg or fidgeting your fingers may give the other person the idea that you are nervous or in a rush without it being intentional. Rowe and Levin (2006) remind us that emblems, illustrators, regulators, and adaptors differ from culture to culture. “Culture is primarily a nonverbal phenomenon because most aspects of one’s culture are learned through observation and imitation rather than explicit verbal instruction or expression. The primary level of culture is communicated implicitly, without awareness, by primarily nonverbal means” (Guo & Hu, 2013). Therefore, the majority of emblems, illustrators, regulators, and adaptors were learned implicitly through cultural observations. “While not all nonverbal communication is a logical outgrowth of the culture where it developed, some of it is. Thus understanding the culture will help us to understand nonverbal communication” (Guo & Hu, 2013). “In order to help Chinese student to achieve communicative competence in intercultural communication, suggestion are made for teaching nonverbal differences in the English class” (Guo & Hu, 2013). The Chinese are taught in class the differences between American and Chinese cultural kinesics behaviors. This gives the Chinese a better opportunity to make a good impression when meeting Americans for the first time. According to Plessis and Plessis (2008), research shows that the first impressions turn out to be sixty-seven percent accurate. Therefore, “nonverbal communication is like our words, an essential part of overall human communication process” (Guo & Hu, 2013). Kinesics gives us a better emotional understanding of what a person is trying to communicate. “Nonverbal communication is the primary mode for expressing emotions” (Guo & Hu, 2013). Through the movement of the body, we are able to infer a person’s feelings that may be hidden in speech, such as when someone responds “I’m fine” but...
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