Communication is the process by which we understand others and in turn endeavour to be understood by them. Non-verbal communication is a silent form of communication which has a great influence over social environment and the whole communication process. It consists of all the messages other than words that are used in communication. In oral communication, these symbolic messages are transferred by means of intonation, tone of voice, vocally produced noises, body posture, body gestures, facial expressions or pauses as we try to substitute, complement, contradict and accentuate oral communication for it to be effective.
The importance of non-verbal communication increases when we are faced with a different culture, especially in the case when we do not speak the language very well and we need to use our hands in order to support our vocabulary. We have to be careful about our body language and gestures as every culture uses non-verbal communication in a different way. The use of body language in oral communication complements verbal communication. Sometimes our body language says it all without having to speak a word. An eye roll, for example, tells the other person that we think something is ridiculous or frustrating. There are other times, however, when our body language can accentuate and complement our verbal communication, making us more effective communicators. For example, when an individual speaks in an even tone with direct eye contact, and a friendly facial expression, the message is likely to be received as positive or at least neutral. Also, in a classroom or lecture situation, eye contact between the lecturer and the student would give the lecturer the impression that the student is paying attention and grasping the concept fast. However, in the Western culture, a person who makes eye contact with another person is thought to be confident and bold but the Asian, African and Latin American cultures, disagree as they say, an extended eye contact can be taken as an affront or a challenge of authority. It is often considered more polite to have only sporadic or brief eye contact.
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Clack and Clinton (2002) says “Substitution in nonverbal communication refers to specific words being replaced by nonverbal gestures especially if one is blocked by noise, interruption and long distance” it enables effective communication. For example, we may nod our heads up and down to indicate “yes.” in substitution, unlike repeating, no words are spoken. Gestures also reinforce basic meaning for example, pointing to the door when you tell someone to leave. Facial expressions reinforce the emotional states we convey through verbal communication. For example, smiling while telling a funny story better conveys your emotions, Hargie (2011). Vocal variation can help us emphasize a part of a message, which helps reinforce a word or sentence’s meaning. For example, saying “How was your weekend?” conveys a different meaning than “How was your weekend?” Substituting verbal communication can also be useful in a quiet situation where verbal communication would be disturbing; for example, one may use a gesture to signal to a friend that you are ready to leave the library. Crowded or loud places can also impede verbal communication and lead people to rely more on nonverbal messages.
Also substituting verbal communication with non-verbal cues using fascial expressions as well as gestures such as happiness, anger, interest, sadness, curiosity, hurt, annoyance, anxiety, hope, embarrassment to mention but a few can convey empathy and emotions. While we can certainly tell people how we feel, we more frequently use nonverbal communication to express our emotions. Conversely, we tend to interpret emotions by examining nonverbal communication. For example, a friend may be feeling sad one day and it is probably easy to tell this by her nonverbal communication. Not only may she be less talkative, but her shoulders may be slumped, and she may not smile. One study suggests that it is important to use and interpret nonverbal communication for emotional expression, and ultimately relational attachment and satisfaction, Krauss (2001). Research also underscores the fact that people in close relationships have an easier time reading the nonverbal communication of emotion of their relational partners than those who aren’t close.
Nonverbal communication can convey meaning by contradicting verbal communication. As we learned earlier, we often perceive nonverbal communication to be more credible than verbal communication. This is especially true when we receive mixed messages, or messages in which verbal and nonverbal signals contradict each other. For example, a person may say, “You can’t do anything right!” in a mean tone but follow that up with a wink, which could indicate the person is teasing or joking. Mixed messages lead to uncertainty and confusion on the part of receivers, which leads us to look for more information to try to determine which message is more credible. If we are unable to resolve the discrepancy, we are likely to react negatively and potentially withdraw from the interaction (Hargie, 2011). Thus, persistent mixed messages can lead to relational distress and hurt a person’s credibility in professional settings.
Also, at times our action may not match with our word, that is, nonverbal communication can contradict verbal communication, for example, an employee might visit her boss’s office and she asks if she is enjoying a new work assignment. The employee may feel obligated to respond positively because it is her boss asking the question, even though she may not truly feel this way. However, the employee’s nonverbal communication may contradict her verbal message, indicating to her boss that she really does not enjoy the new work assignment. In this example, the employee’s nonverbal communication contradicts her verbal message and sends a mixed message to her boss. Research suggests that when verbal and nonverbal messages contradict one another, receivers often place greater value on the nonverbal communication as the more accurate message. One place this occurs frequently is in greeting sequences. You might say to your friend in passing, “How are you?” She might say, “Fine” but have a sad tone to her voice. In this case, her nonverbal behaviours go against her verbal response. Therefore, we are more likely to interpret the nonverbal communication in this situation than the verbal response.
Usually ,non-verbal cues should match with what one says as they bring conviction and affinity to what one is saying at that particular time ,but however at times they might contradict ,that is, what one may be saying may be different from what he or she is communicating non verbally and as such this may bring about rigidity, distrust and misperception .For example ,one can actually tell if a person is being honest or dishonest by considering fascial expressions .Normally it is believed that people smile or blink frequently when they are joking and when they are being dishonest respectively (https://courses.lumenlearning.com). The tone of voice may also contradict with one’s fascial expression. We use nonverbal communication to mislead others. We can also use nonverbal communication to deceive, and often, focus on a person’s nonverbal communication when trying to detect deception. Recall a time when someone asked your opinion of a new haircut. If you did not like it, you may have stated verbally that you like and yet you didn’t like it. Conversely, when we try to determine if someone is misleading us, we generally focus on the nonverbal communication of the other person.
In addition, oral communication can also be accentuated to reinforce communication. It increases understanding of messages, as a way to emphasis certain points in a conversation, non-verbal communication acts stronger in most cases. Usually when one wants to point or significance. While nonverbal communication complements verbal communication, we also use it to accent verbal communication by emphasizing certain parts of the verbal message. For instance, you may be upset with a family member and state, “I’m very angry with you.” To emphasis on the word “very” to demonstrate the magnitude of your anger (https://openlib.umn.edd.com). In this example, it is your tone of voice (paralanguage) that serves as the nonverbal communication that accents the message. Parents might tell their children to “come here.” If they point to the spot in front of them dramatically, they are accenting the “here” part of the verbal message.
Inconclusion, non-verbal cues play a significant role in oral communication through the way they substitute, complement, contradict and accentuate because the enables messages to be conveyed effectives and thus enhancing understanding between people as they communicate. However different interpretations of these non-verbal cue depending on culture and belief can hinder effective communication.
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Krauss (2001) The Psychology of Verbal Communication, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
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Https://www.openlib.edd.com (Principles and Functions of Non-Verbal Communication) (Accessed 11/04/18)
https://courses.lumenlearning.com (Accessed 11/04/18)