Nonverbal Communication

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Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is defined as “behavior, other than spoken or written communication, that creates or represents meaning”. This behavior includes facial expressions, gestures, body movements, mood/emotion, and even attitude. As a society, either through conscious choice or subconscious unawareness we communicate nonverbally everyday often in conjunction with our verbal communications. Let us examine the importance of nonverbal communication to the interpersonal process as well as identifying components of nonverbal communications.

There are several dimensions associated with communication. Traditional dimensions of nonverbal communication include physical appearance, territory and personal space, facial expressions, gestures and posture, vocal cues, time, eye contact, and touch. Kinesics, haptics, proxemics, and paralinguistics encompass the majority of these components.

Kinesics

Kinesics is defined as the study of nonlinguistic body movements, such as gestures and facial expressions, as a systematic mode of communication. A gesture it is said can be worth a thousand words or perhaps the expression if looks could kill sums it up best- facial expressions and gestures have as much meaning in our society as words and can be just as powerful. An iconic piece of American history is the image of a very young John F. Kennedy, Jr. saluting as his father’s hearse passes by. The picture is still powerful more than 25 years later and words are not necessary to convey meaning.

Haptics

Derived from the Greek word haptikos which means to touch or grasp, Haptics is another form of nonverbal communication. Touch can be used to communicate affection, familiarity, sympathy and other emotions.

Proxemics

Proxemics is the study of space and our use of space in interpersonal communication. Territory in proxemics is identified as physical and personal. Everyone has their own personal territory or bubble of space where they are comfortable with interactions. Generally increased intimacy and familiarity allows with a person allows them closer access within your personal space bubble. For example, I would not allow a stranger the same closeness I would my sister.

Paralinguistics

Paralinguistics is the use of tone, pitch, loudness and inflection to change the meaning of a sentence. How something is said is oftentimes as relevant and important as what is said.

Facial expressions, body language, eye contact, tone, and touch are all important elements in nonverbal communication and have huge impacts on the interpersonal communication process. Each component is integral to the communication process and is interwoven with verbal communication usage. For example, how often have you seen a friend or acquaintance at a small distance and may have said hello but certainly you also waved. Often our gestures accompany certain words at a subconscious level. People with speech and hearing impairments may have a greater reliance on nonverbal components. A person who is nonverbal relies on kinesics for communication more than a person whom is not speech impaired. A person who cannot speak, hear or talk relies on tactical sign language a form of haptics. No matter the level of individual need every person relies on nonverbal components of communication every day.

Proxemics Experiment

Intent: Discover at what point people will outwardly display feelings after invading their personal space.

Expected Outcome: Anticipate fairly quick reactions to invasion of personal space

Implementation: I will purposefully sit closer than is acceptable to people in the waiting area of a local urgent care. Any conversation or interaction will be closer than is socially acceptable. I will use 2 test subjects- a mature woman and man.

Upon entering the waiting area there are very few people present. An older couple is sitting near the back wall and a young lady is sitting across the room facing the...
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