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Nonverbal Communication

Q1.  After reading chapter six, select the two concepts which you feel are the most important in regard to nonverbal communication. Two nonverbal communication concepts from chapter six;

  • Facial expression
  • Body movements

Q2.  Name the two concepts and give a direct quote from the text (with page citation) for each.

Facial expression

“Some nonverbal behaviour is universal.  Certain expressions have the same meanings around the world. Smiles and laughter are a universal signal of positive emotions, for example, while the same sour expressions convey displeasure in every culture” (p. 180). “While nonverbal expressions like these may be universal, the way they are used varies widely around the world (Matsumoto, 2006).  In some cultures, display rules discourage the overt demonstration of feelings like happiness or anger. In other cultures, the same feelings are perfectly appropriate.  Thus, a Japanese person might appear much more controlled and placid than an Arab, when in fact their feelings might be identical” (p. 182).

Body language

“Some nonverbal behaviour called emblems is culturally understood as substitutes for verbal expressions. Nodding the head up and down is an accepted way of saying “yes” in most cultures. Likewise, aside-to-side head shake is a nonverbal way of saying “no”, and a shrug of the shoulders is commonly understood as meaning “I don’t know’ or “I’m not sure.” Remember, however, that some emblems-such as the thumbs-up gesture vary from one culture to another (it means “Good job!” in the United States, the number 1 in Germany, and the number 5 in Japan) (p. 181).

Q3.  After you have done this, provide specific examples from your own
experience which further support the importance and your understanding
of these concepts.

Facial Expression                                   

This concept is usually characterised with unconscious transmission of information from the sender to the receiver.  For instance, it is possible to figure out when someone likes something or another person just by looking at how that person expresses his/her face on the first glance at the thing or the person.  Facial expression conveys unspoken messages; a simple smile communicates easiness or friendliness while a frown sends a message of hatred or indifference.  It is possible to tell the attitude of a person to others by looking at their facial expression when he/she is talking or when he/she hears the names of the persons mentioned.

However, some facial expressions are made intentionally especially when the other person is using verbal communication in order to show contentment or discontentment of the message being communicated verbally.  In other instances, facial expressions are used intentionally especially for social importance.  

In addition, interpretation of facial expressions differs across cultures; for example while smiling a lot is seen as a sign of friendliness in one culture, in another culture it is viewed as shallowness. In other cultures especially where there is gender discrimination, too much smiling is taken as a woman character and men are expected to smile less.

Body Language

This form of nonverbal communication involves the use of gestures and body movements to convey a message.  While gestures can be voluntary and vary from culture to culture, body movements are in most cases involuntary.  For instance, body orientation, position of legs, emotional statue such as fidgeting is done involuntarily and they send messages.

Gestures are usually culture specific and may convey contradicting information depending on where the receivers of the information come from.  For instance, emblems are used in different cultures, while an emblem of horns is a sign of victory in the Western Countries; to an Italian man it suggests infidelity of his wife.  There are gestures which are used as regulators during a conversation; for example, nodding of head is meant to show interest in a conversation or agreement with what the other person is communicating.  

Q4.  Then, please respond to the following:  Using terminology from the text, describe a type of nonverbal communication that you have used recently. Describe the situation and give an example which illustrates the concept.

I have heard from people that eye contact performs the function of monitoring communication especially in public speaking.  It is an interpersonal communication skill and it helps to regulate communication.  Eye contact indicates interest in a conversation and it helps to monitor feedback during a conversation. In some cases, it can be used to determine truthfulness of feedback given by a person.  A week ago, I attended an interview and I remembered our professor advising us that direct eye contact with an interviewer indicates confidence and it is used to determine truthfulness of response given by a person.  Sure enough, it regulated my conversation with the panel in the board room.

Q5.  Finally, make 2 questions from each concept

Looking at the two concepts of nonverbal communication discussed above, one may be left asking the following questions;

  • Are facial expressions really enough to convey information considering that it is possible for example to fake a smile?
  • Should body language be used to determine a person interest in a conversation especially in interviews considering that some people perform certain body movements involuntarily; for example, leaning backward on a chair?

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