Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen (1969) discussed the interdependence between nonverbal and verbal messages. They described six important ways that nonverbal communication directly affects verbal communication:
Nonverbal signals can help emphasis words. People can do this by forceful gestures, deliberate pause, fluctuation in vocal volume and speech rate.
Non-verbal behaviour can reaffirm what people say. Such as one can nod their head while saying yes to someone.
Nonverbal cues can be used to substitute words. Just shaking the head to say no or yes, using our thumbs-up to say good job, etc.
Turn taking signals. Nonverbal signals can be used to take turns while presenting something together or even during speaking and listening to alternate the conversational roles.
Nonverbal messages can sometimes contradict with what one is saying especially when they cannot hear them clearly.
Nonverbal cues can help to clarify the words one uses and expose the true nature of feelings. It can complement the verbal content. For example, being upset could mean one feels sad, depressed, angry or just a little on edge. One can look at the nonverbal signals on a personâ€™s face to understand the true feeling behind feeling upset.
Types of Non-verbal Communication
Judee Burgoon in 1994 described seven dimensions to nonverbal communication:
Importance of Non-verbal Communication
The importance of nonverbal communication can be measured by the impact it has on the listener and the overall outcome of the communication. There are many reasons why nonverbal communication is considered important:
The nature of nonverbal communication is emotional and that is why it is lot more instinctive and helps people to connect with other people on an emotional level.
It helps in defining the relationship between people. It helps in building rapport and helps in feeling more connected.
It helps other person in providing feedback. Smiles and nods convey the message that one is listening. It can also mean that one agrees with them. Facial expressions and hand gestures may indicate that one wishes to speak. These nonverbal cues give information subtly and clearly.
It helps in regulating the flow of communication. It helps in signalling other people whether one is done speaking or they would like to speak. Such as making eye contact with the person speaking and nodding slightly could mean that they would want to add in what they are saying.
Nonverbal communication is integral part of overall communication skills. It is a complex process and very often people are totally unaware of their nonverbal actions.
A basic understanding of nonverbal behaviours can be helpful in improving interactions with others. It can also be used in encouraging others to talk about them and can lead to shared understanding, which is, the ultimate goal or purpose of communication.
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