Wednesday, 10 February 2016


1. Communicating interpersonally
Communicating occurs at three different levels: extrapersonal, intrapersonal, interpersonal. It’s extrapersonal when pets are involved. It’s not uncommon to find people talking to animals, pets, plants, elements of nature. Intrapersonal refers to talking to oneself.
When we meditate, contemplate, think, analyze, interpret, we are communicating to
ourselves. Interpersonal involves two or more than two people passing on and receiving messages of various kinds interactively as speaker(s)-listener(s) or listener(s)-speaker(s). It happens through several mediums, the major ones being verbal and non—verbal, some of the other ones being dancing, painting. When messages are passed on from one person to another without using words or speech, they are termed non-verbal.

2. Non-verbal messages
Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication (Wikipedia).
Sometimes we communicate only nonverbally. We may enter or leave a place without permission to show there is no formality or to show authority. We may throw or pretend to throw an object at a person seriously or for fun. 

People tend to have much less control over their non-verbal messages than of what they’re actually saying. This is partly because non-verbal communication is much more emotional  and instinctive. If there is a mismatch between the two, therefore, you should probably trust the non-verbal messages, rather than the words used.

A lack of non-verbal message may also be a signal of sorts, suggesting that the speaker is carefully controlling their body language, and may be trying to hide their true emotions.

Cross-cultural studies done in various countries on all continents show people not only express basic emotions very similarly (happiness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, sadness) but also recognize them without hesitation.

3. Interaction between verbal and nonverbal messages
Nonverbal messages can interact with verbal messages thus:
When verbals and nonverbals convey conflicting messages the latter are taken as revealing the mental disposition.

Accurate interpretation of messages is made easier when nonverbals and verbals complement each other. Besides, messages are remembered better when nonverbal signals affirm the verbal exchange.

Nonverbal signals can be used by themselves.  Widening of the eyes indicates wonder, raising of the eyebrows, doubt, and a smile, satisfaction or happiness.

4. Body Language
Non-verbal communication is equated with ‘body language’. Because most of it occurs through the use of the body. Body language also includes ‘gestures’ that we do with different parts of the body. 

4.1 face
Winking, rolling the eyes, raising the eyebrows, twitching the nose, scratching the head, gnashing the teeth, putting the tongue out, closing the eyes, intentional coughing, tapping the forehead, massaging temples, face turned away, bent head, head shaking, raising the chin, using fingers or arms, nodding,  pouting express messages.

4.2 physical characteristics
Height, weight, colour, hair, beard, unkempt hair, thick or thin eyebrows, dress, dress colours, its quality convey messages.

4.3 eye contact
This is a very essential body language for socialization purposes. It’s generally said that eyes don’t lie. When somebody fails to look at you, we say   ‘Look me in the eye.’  

4.4 posture
This happens when we keep our body in a particular position, when we hold our body in a particular way—the way we stand, the way we’re seated.

4.5 proximity
This refers to physical space that we have in mind and put to use when we are with others in a given place. ‘Space’ refers to the body distance between others and us.

4.6 touch
We employ this when we shake hands, placing a hand on another’s shoulder, embrace, lift one bodily.

4.7 time
By ‘time’, we refer to the amount of time we take to respond. We may take less or more time. The partner will interpret the ‘time’ according to the situation, his/her mental make-up at that moment and understanding of the person responding.

4.8 speech aspects
4.8.1 tone (vocal and nonverbal)
When someone asks a question, we say ‘yes’ to agree with or accept what the other person is saying. For this, our tone is normal. But it’s possible that we want to add some more meaning to the ‘yes’. When we wish to do this, we use our tone. For instance, the ‘yes’ with a raised volume can imply impatience or ‘so what?’ When we say ‘yes’ haltingly, it can send a message of ‘hesitation’. When there is aggression in the tone, the ‘yes’ will probably be a threat. The ‘yes’ with a bored voice means ‘disinterest’ or ‘compulsion’. The ‘yes’ in a whisper indicates ‘reluctance’ or ‘meekness’. ‘Yes’ with a falling tone means that the idea is complete. ‘Yes’ with a rising tone is a question.  

4.8.2. volume (vocal and nonverbal)
When we speak, the volume of our voice is normal in the sense that it’s clearly heard and doesn’t disturb the hearer. But sometimes, we may increase or reduce the volume, depending on the need.

4.8.3 sound symbols (vocal and nonverbal) 
‘Ah’, ‘aha’, ‘er…’, ‘ha’, ‘ha ha’, ‘hey’, ‘hi’, ‘ho’ ‘oh’, ‘oho’, ‘ooh’, ‘ouch’, ‘sh’, ’uh’, ‘um’, ‘uh-huh’, ‘mmm..’ are sounds that we produce as symbols to express our emotions.

4.9 silence (non-vocal and nonverbal)
It can be a very effective tool of communication when used sparingly.

5. Why is non-verbal communication important?
We use both verbal and nonverbal messages to communicate with others. But it is believed that generally speaking, we derive meaning from nonverbal messages rather than from the verbal. Because the former is more natural, instinctive, involuntary and automatic. Words may lie. Verbal messages may hide our thoughts or feelings. We may speak, converse and continue our relationship with a person even when we hate that person. We may call someone names but we don’t mean them. We may say “I’ll kill you” but more often it stays at the threat level. We may bless someone while in our mind we’re actually cursing that person.

Non-verbal communication does not usually lie. Very rarely do we plan it. But it may lie when we want to intentionally deceive or when we have in mind some gain for ourselves or our close ones. We may embrace a person to show friendship or relationship, but we may actually be planning how to steal their property.

6. Interpreting nonverbals
Sources for this subsection:
iii. Steve Darn’s Aspects of Nonverbal Communication in The Internet TESL Journal, Vol.   
     XI, No. 2, February 2005, at

6.1 in different countries
There is another aspect that should be remembered constantly. The interpretation of non-verbal communication is likely to differ from culture to culture.

Italians express their emotions freely whereas Englanders are generally very restrained. However, even in Italy, there are geographical variations.

The thumbs-up gesture, which generally signals approval in English-speaking countries, is considered offensive in other countries, including apparently Greece, Italy and some parts of the Middle East.

Making a circle with your thumb and forefinger like this means OK in Western cultures. It is used in particular by divers in this way. In Japan, however, it is reputedly the sign for money, and in Arabic countries, it is a threat.

The Chinese prefer silence to verbal communication. 

There are differences in how people handle time. In Italy and Spain people perform several activities at once where as in America, people do one thing at a time.

In the United States, pointing is the gesture of a finger or hand to indicate "come here please" when beckoning a dog. But pointing with one finger is also considered to be rude in some cultures. Those from Asian cultures typically use their entire hand to point to something.

Sticking the tongue out is seen in Western countries as mockery but in Polynesia it serves as a greeting and a sign of reverence.

Clapping is a North American way of applauding, but in Spain it’s used to summon a waiter at a restaurant.

Northern Europeans nodding their heads up and down to say “yes”, and shaking their head from side to side to say “no”. But the Greeks have for at least three thousand years used the upward nod for disagreement and the downward nod for agreement. 

There are many ways of waving goodbye: Americans face the palm outward and move the hand side to side, Italians face the palm inward and move the fingers facing the other person, French and Germans face the hand horizontal and move the fingers toward the person leaving. 

In Arab and Iranian cultures, people express grief openly. They mourn out loud, while in Asian cultures, the general belief is that it is unacceptable to show emotion openly. 

For people in Westernized countries, laughter is a sign of amusement, but in some parts of Africa it is a sign of wonder or embarrassment. 

Native Americans tend to be more reserved and less expressive with emotions. Frequent touches are common for Chinese people; however, such actions like touching, patting, hugging or kissing are less frequent in America and not often publicly displayed.

As Latin American cultures embrace big speech gestures, Middle Eastern cultures are relatively more modest in public and are not expressive.

In Western culture, eye contact is interpreted as attentiveness and honesty. In Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American cultures, eye contact is thought to be disrespectful or rude, and lack of eye contact does not mean that a person is not paying attention.

In Latin America and the Middle East the acceptable distance is much shorter than what most Europeans and Americans feel comfortable with. This is why an American or a European might wonder why the other person is invading his or her personal space by standing so close, while the other person might wonder why an American or a European is standing so far from him or her. 

The following are examples of common gestures which have different functions and meanings in different cultures:

1. the forefinger and the thumb forming a circle:
    Commonly: everything is ok, perfect
    France: worthless, Japan—money, Germany—rude, Malta, Greece and Brazil—obscene

2. Thumbsup
     Commonly: all OK, Australia, Iran—rude, Nigeria—very offensive, Japan—five,
     Turkey—political rightist party

3. showing right palm: stop, enough (person, car, action),
     Turkey—you get nothing from me, W.Africa—you have 5 fahters

4. The fig (fingers folded into the palm with the thumb pushed between the foreginger and
    the middle finger
    Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Holland—obscene, Russia—you get nothing from me,   
    Yugoslavia—you can’t have it, Brazil—good luck 

6.2 in the same community
It’s also necessary to remember constantly that the messages that non-verbal communication conveys need not be the same for all the members even in the same community. For instance, let’s consider shaking hands. A may just touch B’s hand with just the fingers lightly indicating a perfunctory gesture, A may grip B’s hand in such a way B may feel pain, A may embrace B’s hand completely indicating acceptance. A smile may or may not accompany shaking hands indicating presence or absence of warmth.    

7. Conclusion
It’s incumbent on the part of everyone—tourists, bureaucrats, politicians, scientists, technologists, common public—to observe how they use body language to communicate and how others use theirs and learn from the observation so they would be able to handle different relationships better and enjoy harmony with others. They would also be able to monitor their own signals and achieve better control over themselves and so function more effectively.

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