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Verbal and Nonverbal Communication in Groups

Nonverbal communication can be described as the sending and receiving of messages without using words, in either spoken or written. Every day, we respond to thousands of nonverbal cues and behaviors, including postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, and tone of voice (Navarro, 2017). Nonverbal communication cues the way we listen, look, move, and react while telling the person we’re communicating with whether or not we care if we’re truthful, and how well we’re listening (Navarro, 2017). When our nonverbal signals match up with the words we’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they can generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.

Nonverbal communication consists of many different forms. Facial expressions can convey countless emotions without saying a word as the human face is extremely expressive (Navarro, 2017). Unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal, expressing happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust (Cherry, 2019). Body movement and posture are affected by the way we sit, walk, stand, or hold our head. The idea that we move and carry ourselves communicates a plethora of information. This can include posture, bearing, stance, and the subtle movements we make. Gestures are conveyed by the way we wave, point, beckon, or us our hands when arguing or speaking animatedly. The meaning of some gestures can send different messages across countries. Therefore, when communicating with individuals of different cultures than our own, we must be careful communicating via gestures (Cherry, 2019). Eye contact is a vital form of nonverbal communication as the visual sense is the dominant sense for many people. The way we look at someone can communicate several things, including but not limited to interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. We can communicate a great deal through the use of touch; firm or weak handshake, strong hug, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on one’s arm (Navarro, 2017). Each one of us needs physical space, although that need differs depending on one’s culture, the specific situation, and the closeness of the relationship. When we speak, others “read” our voice in addition to listening to the words. For example, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

Non-verbal communication helps people in a multitude of ways. People may nod their heads when saying “Yes” to emphasize agreement with the individual they are communicating (Navarro, 2017). Our non-verbal communication can reinforce or modify what we have said in words. Non-verbal communication can also tell a lot about our emotional state. Through our facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language people can often tell exactly how we are feeling without having to say a word (Navarro, 2017). Movements can also reinforce the relationship between two people. For example, holding hands, smiling at the same time, sitting next to each other talking, or by turning to face each other. Smiles and nods can convey to someone that we are listening and that we agree with what they are saying. Movement and hand gestures may indicate that we desire to speak (Navarro, 2017). Non-verbal communication helps to provide feedback to those which we are communicating (Navarro, 2017). There are a variety of signals that we can use to indicate that we have finished speaking. A nod, making eye contact with the chair of a meeting, a firm closing of our lips, or if standing while talking we may sit down once, we have conveyed our message.

Non-verbal communication differs from one person to the next and even more so from one culture to another. One significant cultural difference when it comes to nonverbal communication is the display of emotions (Bajracharya, 2018). For some cultures who are more restrained than others, they refrain from excessive displays of emotion in public or at all. Some cultures may also suppress facial emotions, believing an animated face shows a lack of control over one’s emotions. In many Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is seen as a sign of respect (Bajracharya, 2018). However, those in Latin and North America consider eye contact necessary for conveying equality among individuals (Bajracharya, 2018). A significant number of cultural expressions are achieved through touch. In France, it is common to kiss someone you greet on both cheeks (Bajracharya, 2018). While in the United States, we typically greet individuals with a handshake when meeting them for the first time. Winking is a facial expression that can be particularly varied in meaning. In Latin America, for example, the gesture is often considered a romantic or sexual invitation while the Chinese think the gesture to be rude (Bajracharya, 2018).

There are several tips that we can use to learn to read the nonverbal signs of others and to enhance our ability to communicate effectively. We must learn to pay attention to things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice (Navarro, 2017). If an individual’s words do not match their nonverbal behaviors, we should pay careful attention to the message that is being communicated. For example, someone might be telling us that they are happy while frowning and staring at the ground. The tone of voice can convey a wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger. Eye contact can be an essential nonverbal communication skill as individuals who fail to look others in the eye, can seem as if they are evading or trying to hide something. However, on the other hand, too much eye contact can seem confrontational or intimidating. When communicating with others, always consider the situation and the context in which the communication occurs.

I have learned a great deal about nonverbal communication this week. I was unaware of the different meanings that nonverbal communication can hold throughout various cultures. For instance, the “thumbs up” gesture or the “OK sign” can have vulgar implications in Iran and Latin America. While in other countries the “OK” sign means just “zero”. I have also learned that if our nonverbal communication does not align with our spoken words, our message can come across as mixed or muddled. Thus, the message we are trying to convey will be lost in translation.

Nonverbal communication skills are an essential piece of communication as it can make it easier to convey our point and to read what others are trying to tell us. Some people can appear to come by these skills quite naturally, but anyone can improve their nonverbal skills through practice. Whether one can say they are aware of it or not, while we are interacting with others, we’re continuously giving and receiving nonverbal signals. Through the use of our nonverbal communication; the gestures we make, our posture, our tone of voice, how much eye contact we make, we are sending strong messages. These messages can put people at ease, build trust, draw others towards us, or they can offend, confuse, and undermine what we’re trying to convey. These messages don’t stop when we stop speaking. Even when we’re silent, we’re still communicating nonverbally.

References

Adams, K., & Galanes, G. (2017). Communicating in groups: Application and skills (10th ed.).New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Bajracharya, S. (2018, January 6). Non-verbal communication in different cultures. Retrieved from https://www.businesstopia.net/communication/non-ve…

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