Interpersonal communication not only involves the explicit meaning of words, the information or message conveyed, but also refers to implicit messages, whether intentional or not, which are expressed through non-verbal behaviors.
Non-verbal communications include facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures displayed through body language (kinesics) and the physical distance between the communicators (proxemics). These non-verbal signals can give clues and additional information and meaning over and above spoken (verbal) communication.
Many popular books on non-verbal communication present the topic as if it were a language that can be learned, the implication being that if the meaning of every nod, eye movement, and gesture were known, the real feelings and intentions of a person would be understood.
Unfortunately interpreting non-verbal communication is not that simple. As covered in the Interpersonal Communication lesson, the way communication is influenced by the context in which it occurs. For example, a nod of the head between colleagues in a committee meeting may mean something very different to when the same action is used to acknowledge someone across a crowded room.
Interpersonal communication is further complicated in that it is usually not possible to interpret a gesture or expression accurately on its own. Non-verbal communication consists of a complete package of expressions, hand and eye movements, postures, and gestures which should be interpreted along with speech (verbal communication).
The types of interpersonal communication that are not expressed verbally are called non-verbal communications.
When we communicate, non-verbal cues can have as great as an impact on the listener as the spoken word.
There are many different aspects of non-verbal communication including:
We are often drawn towards people having a good personality. A good personality shows the confidence in you which attracts other people. In public speaking, our body language plays a major role in creating an impact on the audience. The biggest challenge during public speaking is to maintain an impactful posture which is the effect of a good emotional intelligence.
The way we deliver our speech is made up of two components namely: Visual and verbal. The visual component, usually carries more weight with audience members. This comprises mainly of a person’s body language, posture, eye contact and facial expressions.
You may control the words you speak, do have control over what you say with your body language?
Body movements include gestures, posture, head and hand movements or whole body movements. Body movements can be used to reinforce or emphasise what a person is saying and also offer information about the emotions and attitudes of a person. However, it is also possible for body movements to conflict with what is said. A skilled observer may be able to detect such discrepancies in behaviour and use them as a clue to what someone is really feeling. Research work has identified the different categories of body movement that are detailed below with each category describing the purpose they commonly serve:
Posture can reflect people's emotions, attitudes and intentions. Research has identified a wide range of postural signals and their meanings, such as:
Mirroring: Notice the way a loving couple relate to each other. You might like to observe a close relationship in person or on television. You will see that the partners' postures will match, as if one partner is a mirror reflection of the other. For example, if one partner drapes an arm over the back of a chair this might be replicated in the other person's position. If one partner frowns, it could be reflected in the other partner's facial expression. This 'mirroring' indicates interest and approval between people and serves to reassure others of interest in them and what they are saying.
Open and Closed Posture: Two forms of posture have been identified, ‘open’ and ‘closed’, which may reflect an individual's degree of confidence, status or receptivity to another person. Someone seated in a closed position might have his/her arms folded, legs crossed or be positioned at a slight angle from the person with whom they are interacting. In an open posture you might expect to see someone directly facing you with hands apart on the arms of the chair. An open posture can be used to communicate openness or interest in someone and a readiness to listen, whereas the closed posture might imply discomfort or disinterest.
Eye contact is an important aspect of non-verbal behavior. In interpersonal interaction, it serves three main purposes:
Para-language relates to all aspects of the voice which are not strictly part of the verbal message, including the tone and pitch of the voice, the speed and volume at which a message is delivered, and pauses and hesitations between words.
These signals can serve to indicate feelings about what is being said. Emphasising particular words can imply whether or not feedback is required.
Every culture has different levels of physical closeness appropriate to different types of relationship, and individuals learn these distances from the society in which they grew up.
In today's multicultural society, it is important to consider the range of non-verbal codes as expressed in different ethnic groups. When someone violates an 'appropriate' distance, people may feel uncomfortable or defensive. Their actions may well be open to misinterpretation.
In Western society, four distances have been defined according to the relationship between the people involved, the study of personal space is termed proxemics.
The four main categories of proxemics are:
These four distances are associated with the four main types of relationship - intimate, personal, social and public. Each of the distances are divided into two, giving a close phase and a far phase, thus making eight divisions in all. It is worth noting that these distances are considered the norm in Western Society:
Understanding these distances allows us to approach others in non-threatening and appropriate ways. People can begin to understand how others feel about them, how they view the relationship and, if appropriate, adjust their behavior accordingly.
As you can see, non-verbal communication is an extremely complex yet integral part of overall communication skills. People are often totally unaware of the non-verbal behavior they use. A basic awareness of these aspects of communication strategies, over and above what is actually said, can help to improve interaction with others. Knowledge of these signs can be used to encourage people to talk about their concerns and can lead to a greater shared understand.
This lesson helped increase your understanding of non-verbal communication and how to stand and act inside dealerships or when speaking to people.
In the following lesson you will learn how important personal appearance really is and how you can improve your professional skills.
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