Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
THE WORLD BEYOND WORDS
Nonverbal communication is all aspects of communication other than words themselves. It includes not only
gestures and body language but also how we utter words: inflection, pauses, tone, volume, and accent. These
nonverbal features affect the meaning of our words. Nonverbal communication also includes features of
environments that affect interaction, personal objects such as jewelry and clothes, physical appearance, and
Scholars estimate that nonverbal behavior accounts for 65% to 93% of the total meaning of communication.
To understand verbal and nonverbal dimensions of communication, we identify both similarities and
differences between them.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN VERBAL AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
1. Nonverbal communication is symbolic: Like verbal communication, nonverbal communication is
symbolic. To represent different moods, we shrug our shoulders, lower our eyes, and move away from
or toward others. We smile to symbolize pleasure in seeing a friend, frown to show anger or irritation,
and widen our eyes to indicate surprise. Because nonverbal communication is symbolic, like verbal
communication it is arbitrary, ambiguous, and abstract. Thus, we cannot be sure what a wink or hand
movement means. Similarly, we can't guarantee that others will perceive the meanings we intend to
communicate with our nonverbal actions.
2. Nonverbal communication is rule guided: Within particular societies we share general understanding of
what specific nonverbal behaviors are appropriate in various situations and what they mean. For
example, in United States and many other countries, handshakes are the conventional method of
beginning and ending business meetings. Smiles generally are understood to express friendliness, and
scowls generally are perceived as indicating displeasure of some type. We follow rules (often
unconsciously) to create different interaction climates. For a formal speech, a room might be set up
with a podium that is at a distance from listeners' chairs. The chairs would be arranged in neat rows.
To symbolize a less formal speaking occasion, a podium might be omitted, chairs might be arranged in
a circle, and the person speaking might be seated.
3. Nonverbal communication may be intentional or unintentional: Both verbal and nonverbal
communication may be deliberately controlled or unintentional. For example, you may carefully select
clothes to create a professional impression when you are going to a job interview. You may also
deliberately control your verbal language in the interview to present yourself as assertive, articulate, and
respectful. We exert conscious control over most of our nonverbal communication.
4. Nonverbal communication reflects culture: Like verbal communication, nonverbal communication is
shaped by cultural ideas, values, customs, and history. Just as we learn the language of a culture, we
also learn it nonverbal codes. For example, in the United States most people use knives, forks and
spoons to eat. In Korea, Japan, China, Nepal, and other Asian countries, chopsticks often are the
primary eating utensil.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN VERBAL AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
1. Nonverbal communication is believed to be more believable than verbal: One major difference is that
most people perceive nonverbal communication as more trustworthy than verbal communication,
especially when verbal and nonverbal messages are inconsistent. If someone glares and says, "I'm glad
to see you;" you are likely to believe the nonverbal message, which communicates a lack of pleasure in
2. Nonverbal communication is multichanneled: Nonverbal communication often occurs simultaneously
in two or more channels, whereas verbal communication tends to take place in a single channel.
Nonverbal communication may be see, felt, heard, smelled, and tasted, and we may receive nonverbal
communication through several of these channels at the same time.
3. Nonverbal communication is continuous: Finally, nonverbal communication is more continuous than
verbal communication. Verbal symbols start and stop. We say something or write something and then
we stop talking or writing. However, it is difficult , if not impossible, to stop nonverbal
Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
PRINCIPLES OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
1. Nonverbal Communication May Supplement Or Replace Verbal Communication
Communication researchers have identified five ways in which nonverbal behaviors interact with verbal
communication. First, nonverbal behaviors may repeat verbal messages. For example, you might say, "yes"
while nodding your head. Second, nonverbal behaviors may highlight verbal communication. For example, you
can emphasize particular words by speaking more loudly. Third, we use nonverbal behavior to complement or
add to words. When you see a friend, you might say, "I'm glad to see you" and underline the verbal message
with a warm embrace. Fourth, nonverbal behaviors may contradict verbal messages, as when someone says,
"Nothing's wrong" in a hostile tone of voice. Finally, we sometimes substitute nonverbal behavior for verbal
ones. For instance, you might roll your eyes to indicate that you disapprove of something.
2. Nonverbal Communication May Regulate Interaction
More than verbal cues, nonverbal behavior regulate the flow of communication between people. In
conversations, we generally know when someone else is through speaking and when it is our turn to talk.
Seldom do explicit verbal cues tell us when to speak and when to keep silent.
3. Nonverbal Communication Often Establishes Relationship-Level Meanings
The content level of meaning is the literal message. The relationship level of meaning defines communicators'
identities and relationship between them. Nonverbal communication often acts as a "relationship language"
that expresses the overall feeling of relationships. Three dimensions of relationship-level meanings are
conveyed primarily through nonverbal communication; responsiveness, likeness, and power.
TYPES OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
In this section we describe nine types of nonverbal communication:
1. KINESICS refers to body position and body motions, including those of face. Someone who stands
erectly and walks confidently announces self-assurance, whereas someone who slouches and shuffles
seems to be saying, "I'm not very sure of myself." One of the most important aspects of kinesics
concerns how we position ourselves relative to others and what our positions say about our feelings
2. HAPTICS, the sense of touch, is the first of our five senses to develop, and many communication
scholars believe touching and being touched are essential to a healthy life. Research on dysfunctional
families reveals that mothers touch babies less often and less affectionately than mothers in healthy
families. Touching also communicates power and status. People with high status touch others and
invade others' space more than people with less status. As adults, women tend to engage in touch to
show liking and intimacy, whereas men are more likely than women to use touch to assert power and
3. PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: Western culture places a high value on physical appearance. For this
reason, in face-to-face interactions, most of us notice how others look, and we often form initial
evaluations of others based on their appearance, over which they have limited control. This excessive
emphasis on physical appearance in the West probably explains the astounding growth in cosmetic
4. ARTIFACTS are personal objects we use to announce our identities and heritage and to personalize
our environment. We craft our image by how we dress and what objects we carry and use. Nurses and
physicians wear white and often drape stethoscope around their necks, professors travel with
briefcases, whereas students more often tote backpacks.
5. ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS are elements of settings that affect how we feel and act. For
instance, we respond to architecture, colors, room design, temperature, sounds, smells, and lighting.
Rooms with comfortable chairs invite relaxation, whereas rooms with stiff chairs induce formality.
6. PROXEMICS refers to space and how we use it. Every culture has norms that prescribe how people
should use space, how close people should be to one another, and how much space different people
are entitled to have. Space also announces status, with greater space being assumed by those with
7. CHRONEMICS refer to how we perceive and use time to define identities and interaction. Within
Western culture there is a norm that important people with high status can keep others waiting.
Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
Conversely, people with low status are expected to be punctual. It is standard practice to have to wait,
sometimes a good while, to see a physician, even if you have an appointment. This carries the message
that the physician's time is more valuable than yours. Similarly, the duration of time we spend with
various people reflect our interpersonal priorities.
8. PARALANGUAGE is communication that is vocal but does not use words. It includes sounds, such
as murmurs and gasps, and vocal qualities, such as volume, pitch, and inflection. Paralanguage also
includes accents, pronunciation, and the complexity of sentences. Whispering, for instance, signals
secrecy and intimacy, whereas shouting conveys anger. A sarcastic tone communicates scorn or dislike
more emphatically than words.
9. SILENCE is a final type of nonverbal behavior, which can communicate powerful messages. "I'm not
speaking to you" actually speaks volumes. We use silence to communicate different meanings. For
instance, it can symbolize contentment when intimates are so comfortable, they don't need to talk.
Silence can also communicate awkwardness, as you know if you've ever had trouble keeping
conversation going on a first meeting.
Hearing is a physiological activity that occurs when sound waves hit our eardrums.
Listening is far more complex than hearing or otherwise physically receiving messages. Listening has
psychological and cognitive dimensions that mere hearing does not. The first step in listening is making a
decision to be mindful or being present in the moment. To be mindful is to keep your mind on what is
happening in the here and now. When we are mindful, we don't let our thoughts wander away from the present
Literature identifies three levels of listening:
1. With MARGINAL LISTENING, as the sender speaks, the receiver does not pay attention. The use of
marginal listening results in misunderstanding and errors.
2. EVALUATIVE LISTENING requires the listener to pay reasonably close attention to the speaker.
The receiver evaluates the speaker's remarks as correct or not and determines if he or she will continue
to really listen. Once the receiver hears something he or she does not accept, listening stops, and the
rebuttal is formed.
3. EMPHATIC LISTENING is the ability to understand and relate to another's situation and feelings.
Most messages have two components feelings and content. Try to relate to both. In this type of
listening the receiver listens carefully, putting him or her self into the position of the sender to
understand what is being said from the speaker's viewpoint.
EMPHATIC LISTENING TIPS
1. Pay attention
2. Avoid distractions
3. Stay tuned in
4. Do not assume and interrupt
5. Watch for nonverbal cues
6. Ask questions
7. Take notes
8. Convey meanings
10. Evaluate after listening
11. Evaluate facts presented
12. Paraphrase first
13. Watch for nonverbal cues
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