Nonverbal Communication essay

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The principles of effective interpersonal communication have recently emerged as a subject of study around the globe and it focuses on the nature and quality of relationships and interpersonal communication. In a way of identifying common ways in which we interact and promoting effective communication, this paper therefore helps us become conscious of the principles to learn to improve the quality of while developing more effective interpersonal communication with: students, work colleagues, parents, partners, and also children. Notably, all around the world, communication has been identified as the main component that has influenced growth of economies, implementation of policies, improved social awareness, interaction and association and also the diversification of cultures. In addition, it has proved to be the backbone of education which has led to the discovery of new ideas which have been used in science, technology and other related disciplines which in turn have proved to be of major importance in our day to day life. This therefore shows the great importance and need of communication (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

In this essay, the focus will be on nonverbal communication as its influence cannot be underestimated or go unmentioned. In his book, Silent Messages, Professor Albert Mehrabian says the messages we send through our posture, gestures, facial expression and spatial distance account for 55% of what is perceived and understood by others (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

Communication can be defined as the process, procedure, activity or means by which information, data, facts or figures is exchanged or passed between two people or more by means of writing, speaking and using signs or a form of behaviour. It is a skill that is acquired through practice and learning. Such skills as speaking, listening and writing are developed in various ways. For instance, we learn the basic communication skills by observing the people around us and some are taught to us directly through education.

Nonverbal and Interpersonal Relationships

For instance, in case an individual transmits information, idea or feelings to another person, communication is said to have occurred. To measure its effectiveness, the similarity between the idea transmitted and the one which has been received is observed. If it happens there is no similarity between the ideas, communication is thus regarded ineffective. In regards to individuals in a particular situations and attributes, communication can differ depending on the manner in which you convey the message. This was certainly true during my schooling days. Because of my distance from and fear for other students, during most recess periods I retreated to the library and also my bookish behaviour indicated that I was totally different from other students. Given the fact that I did not engage voluntarily with other students even in the playground, most students took me as their target for teasing. In short, I can say that every method of communication that I was using appeared different and that put me into troubles always with other students.

Generally, I can say that words have the power to create and affect attitudes, behavior, and perception. This implies that changes of the voice can affect how an individual thinks concerning your feelings. For example if you say hi, with your face down and kind of tired, people may assume you are sad whereas if you say it happily, it may mean something different. However, on the same point facial expression is also another important factor because if you look at the smiley faces, then you immediately know the kind of emotion or feeling is being insinuated. The eyes, grin, frown, eyebrows; we all know relate to an internal human face.     

Communication is a process composed of three elements. These elements are considered essential for communication to occur and with the absence of one, communication is said not to have occurred. The elements include; the source, symbols and the receiver which make communication complete. Furthermore, other than having the basic elements, communication involves three main components and these include; verbal messages, non-verbal messages and paraverbal messages. In simple terms, verbal messages are the words we choose to say or write when conveying a message, paraverbal messages involves how we put the words across to the recipient such as the tone and volume of our voices and non- verbal messages involves the use of our body language when communicating or passing on the message (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

Hybels, & Weaver, (2007) defined noverbal communication as a kind of communication which does not involve words but it includes the use of facial expressions, gestures, vocal sounds and tone of voice. This type of communication can also be incorporated in a person's dress for instance a police uniform communicates order, authority and help. Some nonverbal communications are universal such as facial expressions for emotions such as anger, happiness, fear, anxiety and surprise whereas some are based on cultural standards for example in some communities, happiness is expressed through jumping even dancing. In addition, it gives more meaning when it accompanies words for instance a raised tone can indicate anger, happiness or emphasis. A pause when speaking can be interpreted as giving the listener time to take in the information, hesitation or the speaker arranging their thoughts. Its absence can also mean anxiety.

In other cases personal space is regarded as a form of nonverbal communication and it varies from culture to culture. A listener leaning in towards the speaker can mean interest, attentiveness, attraction or even passing a secret or something confidential. To others, that gesture can be seen as invasion of private space. Looking, staring, winking and blinking can also be important nonverbal behaviours indicated when communicating. An increased rate of blinking can be interpreted to mean interest or anxiety. Staring can indicate a range of emotions including hostility, interest and attraction. Communicating through touch is another form of nonverbal behaviour and it is referred to as haptics. Touching can be interpreted as a form of affection, comfort, remorse and reassurance. To some, it can be interpreted as invasion of personal space or fear.

Hybels, & Weaver, (2007) states that in nonverbal communication, some principles involved include the speaker aligning their body language with what they say. This helps to make the recipient relate to the message being communicated and even believe it because recipients tend to interpret the nonverbal to be accurate. If for instance the nonverbal behaviour observed of the speaker is happiness, the recipient will most likely feel happy about the message being communicated. It is therefore important that the nonverbal behaviour should support verbal behaviour as this ensures effective communication. Authenticity also is of importance because if your nonverbal behaviour appears authentic, then the recipients will listen. With alignment comes authenticity. The lack of alignment between the speakers' content and their nonverbal behaviour does not instigate trust and is therefore read as not authentic. Furthermore, another principle is aligning your words with your emotional intent. In this case, focus is mainly on the emotional intent which one needs to portray. This is important as lack of alignment of the two can result in sending of mixed signals which can be very confusing for the listener.

Being open, passionate, associated and listening to your audience is another principle that governs nonverbal communication. With openness, the audience allows you to interact with them and through this interaction effective communication is allowed to take place as the listeners can be involved in asking of questions and discussions. Passion lets you make an impression with your audience whereas without passion conveying of the message will be blunt and will not resonate with the audience. Finally, listening to your audience can greatly result in effective communication. Listening here entails the speaker interpreting the nonverbal behaviour of the recipients. For example, a relaxed audience can mean that they are in harmony with the speaker. Finally, as a speaker, focussing on the underlying intent or emotion makes you look more of a natural speaker. Having an idea of the underlying intent is important as this makes communication more effective. Enthusiasm, happiness, sadness or anger spreads rapidly to the audience as long as the emotion is focussed and relevant (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

In nonverbal communication, some of the misconceptions include all nonverbal behaviours are universal. Some people assume and forget that there is the cultural influence on this form of communication. In some places or communities standing close to each other while communicating is translated as invasion of personal space while for others it is acceptable. A further misconception is that in communication words account for the largest importance than the nonverbal behaviour but the reverse is the case. Most audiences or listeners tend to communicate with the speaker through nonverbal behaviour as they find it more accurate as it works to reinforce the speaker's words. For example, a speaker who has upright posture conveys confidence. These nonverbal behaviours occur unconsciously and recipients pick it up unconsciously and they in turn determine the effectiveness of communication (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

The misconceptions are numerous but it is up to us to learn our nonverbal behaviours as it will foster more understanding to the kind of messages we send through to our audiences or even ourselves when we are communicating. For every form of communication, there are barriers which are encountered. These barriers hinder effective communication and it is of great importance to know what they are as knowledge of them will enable the speaker to communicate effectively to their audience. In nonverbal communication, some of the barriers occur due to several factors ranging from cultural differences, deception, mental problems and lack of common experience (Hybels, & Weaver, 2007).

In nonverbal communication, lack of common experience between or among the speaker and recipient is probably the greatest single barrier to effective communication. This is a common occurrence especially when the two parties involved are strangers to each other. For example, a student's past experience with words and phrases and their meanings will determine how the student will respond to what the teacher is saying. Therefore, in order for communication to be effective, ones understand of the meaning of the words and nonverbal behaviour needs to be the same as that of the other party (Wood, 2009).

Generally, the primary misconception concerning effective communication is that it refers to simply saying individual's feelings; whereby you simply express ideas, thoughts, and an emotions but that doesn't make communication effective. Effective communication can only be considered effective when the listener accurately comprehends the message and this makes communication to be clear, consistent, and free of any offensive language.    

Mental problems also are a barrier to effective nonverbal communication as they make an individual lack the ability to interpret nonverbal behaviour. For instance, according to the Helpguide and the Mayo Clinic websites, autistic children and adults often display unusual nonverbal communication gestures. They also frequently lack the ability to read social or nonverbal cues from other people. A mixed message is also considered as a barrier to effective nonverbal communication as nonverbal messages may directly contradict the meaning of the verbal message. These mixed messages can cause anxiety even a state of confusion for the recipient because they must make a decision whether to believe the verbal or the nonverbal message.

Cultural differences are another major barrier to effective nonverbal communication as different gestures have different meanings to people in different cultures. For example, waving the hand vertically with the palm facing outward means "goodbye'' in the United States, but can be misinterpreted as meaning "come here" to someone from Korea, according to the Korea Times. Deceptive gestures also are a barrier to effective communication as nonverbal gestures considered in isolation can lead to misinterpretation. A speaker wringing his hands can be interpreted as lying and in fact it's often an indication of nervousness.

Some other forms of nonverbal communication barriers include flashing or rolling eyes, quick or slow movements, arms crossed, legs crossed, gestures made with exasperation, slouching, hunching over, poor personal care, staring at people or avoiding eye contact and excessive fidgeting with materials. These actions can be interpreted to mean, nervousness, anxiety, lack of confidence, controlling, boring, and incompetent, unfriendliness and even tiredness. According to Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren, these barriers thwart communication, mutual understanding, respect, problem solving and identifying solutions. They put a serious strain on relationships and also emotional distancing between the parties involved (Wood, 2009).

Nonverbal communication as a form of communication like any other skill has to be developed and maintained. Some ways in which this skill can be developed and maintained include giving full attention to your nonverbal behaviour and building the foundation for nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is an interactive process and therefore one has to give attention to the signals they are receiving in order to adjust accordingly. To affect this, one needs to have a clear mind from distractions. This will give one the presence of mind to pick nonverbal cues and understand fully what is being communicated across.

In building the foundation for nonverbal communication, one has to know how to manage stress and connect or identify your own emotions as well as the other person's. For a speaker who is overly stressed, sending of or receiving nonverbal cues is difficult as the stress tends to take your focus away thus losing concentration and connection to the audience. Stress also tends to impair your capacity to influence or accurately read others and convey true feelings (Wood, 2009). Therefore, one has to learn how to manage stress so as to enhance effective communication. To send the right information, it is important that as a speaker you be aware of your emotions and how they influence you.

In addition, you also need to be able to recognize the emotions of your audience and the nonverbal cues they are sending. Being emotional aware enables the speaker to, accurately read the emotional cues the audience sends such as grief, worry, happiness or confused. It also enables you to respond to the audiences' cues with nonverbal cues that reflect understanding of their needs and also to know if the relationship is worth repairing or move on. Another way to maintain or develop the skill of nonverbal communication is by observing when people are interacting. This helps to give one a better judgement on the different kinds of nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expression, tone and voice and posture and body language (Wood, 2009).


Communication has been identified as the major factor for growth of economies and even social interaction. It has been defined as the conveying of information between two parties and its elements include sender, symbols and recipient. Nonverbal communication has been observed to form 55% of communication according to Mehrabian and has been defined as the conveying of information without the use of words. Some barriers to nonverbal communication identified include cultural differences, deceptive gestures and mental problems.  For nonverbal communication to be effective, one has to avoid stress, be aware of their emotions as well as those of others and must pay attention in order to receive an accurate and consistent message that is free of any abusive language.

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