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Communication is the process of conveying information, which requires the sender of the information, the receiver, and the message to be delivered to the recipient. The process plays an important role in passing of information and interaction between human beings. This can be either verbal or non-verbal and the choice between the two depends on the suitability to the users and the environment.
In nonverbal communication, the use of body language is essential where effectiveness in this type of communication depends on the user’s understanding. This essay analyzes non-verbal communication by looking at the use of body language as well as the actual communication using communication theories basing on observations made.
The shopping event
The communication event took place between a friend who was a customer and a shopping mall attendant in a busy downtown shopping mall where both non-verbal and verbal communications were used for effectiveness. To begin with, the customer walked to the counter and begun addressing the mall attendant and after the attention of the attendant, he pointed to the Corner of the store where different types of shoes were displayed.
He again looked at the shoes that he was wearing and continued talking to the attendant who listened attentively. At one point, the attendant nodded his head and raised his right hand towards the corner where shoes were displayed to confirm that the type of shoe that the customer required was available.
The attendant then left the counter and directed the customer to the position where shoes had been displayed as the customer followed him. The customer then selected the type of shoes he required then went to the counter together with the attendant.
A discussion between the two people followed and it seemed as if there was disagreement between them. Later they reached an agreement and the attendant packed the shoes for the customer. At this point, they smiled at each other and finally the attendant waived his hand to the departing customer.
Expectancy value model
In any communication, there are expectations from both the sender and the recipient of the message. These expectations determine the behaviour of the two parties and their attitude towards the message. In the observed event, the customer expected the attendant to respond and listen to him carefully while the attendant expected the customer to describe the type, size and the quality of the pair of shoes required.
Expectancy value model therefore apply in the conversation where Palmgreen (1984) states that, “People orient themselves to the world according to their expectations, beliefs and evaluations”. Expectations determine behaviour of a person, which then plays an important role in determining the person’s attitude towards the message or the other person.
The theory of planned behaviour
Bandura (1986) stated that, from experiences, people are able to plan, which also applies in communication. Getting the attention of the listener is important to the speaker and at the same time, impressing the listener is of equal importance. The speaker avoids a situation whereby the message he or she passes becomes irrelevant or lacks attention.
The theory of planned behaviour suggests that the intention of a person determines his/her behaviour and attitude determines the intention. In the shopping mall communication event the attendant seemed to have a good experience of what the customers’ needed where the attendant gained this experience from interacting with several customers.
On the other hand, the customer seemed to know that the attendant offer useful guidance in the selection process and from his experience, the customer explained the details of the pair of shoes to the attendant accurately expecting him to listen to the details. Pajares (2002) found that, prediction plays an important role in communication and it is a direct consequence of the theory.
In communication, a person predicts the reaction of the other where these predictions are usually on other person’s response, reaction, and choice of words. In the mall conversation, the customer and the attendant sometimes predicted the next action of the other person. For example, when the attendant walked back to the counter, he expected the customer to follow him.
The self-cognitive theory of communication
According to Parraga (1990), the environment plays an important role in determining a person’s behaviour and therefore affects communication. Environment determines people’s behaviour, which in turn determines their attitude. Human beings on the other hand have the ability to counter the effects of the environment through self-organization.
Pajares & Schunk (2002) suggested that, “Environments and social systems influence human behaviour through psychological mechanisms of the self system.” The self-cognitive theory of communication suggests that people are proactive and they are able to control their behaviour from effects of the environment.
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In the communication event under analysis, the shopping mall had a noisy and a busy environment and this was a determining factor in the communication methods and approach taken. It is however observable that both the customer and the attendant were able to adapt to the environment by being attentive, moving close to each other and using body language.
Bandura, A 1986, Social foundations of thought and action, A social cognitive theory, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.
Pajares, F & Schunk 2001, Self-beliefs and school success: Self-efficacy, self-concept, and school achievement, In R. Riding & S, Rayner (Eds.), Self-perception (pp. 239-266), Ablex Publishing, London.
Pajares, F 2002, Overview of social cognitive theory and of self-efficacy, retrieved, November 19, 2011. (MEST) from HTML.
Palmgreen, P 1984, Uses and gratifications, a theoretical perspective. In: Bostrom, R.N. (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 8 (61-72), Sage Publications, Beverly Hills.
Parraga, I 1990, “Determinants of food consumption”, Journal of American Dietetic Association, 90: 661-663.