Demonstrative (nonverbal) language refers to the practice of communicating by means of wordless signals (Hargie, 2012). This form of communication comprises all non-worded messages that are employed in everyday communication.
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When communicating orally these non-worded messages are conveyed through accentuation, tonal variation, pauses during speech, the posture of the body during conversation, gestures, and changes in facial expressions. Nonverbal messages play a significant part in our day-to-day communication and makes up more than 90 percent of our total communication.
Therefore, effective communication demands that one understands the different signals applied in nonverbal communication and the different ways of decoding these signals. This paper looks at the various forms of nonverbal communication as well as their effectiveness to the sender as well as to the receiver.
Various Forms of Nonverbal Communication
From the time a child is born, he uses signs like crying to pass messages. Most people attach meaning to body gesture and nonverbal signals depending on their social conditioning. The following section looks at some of the commonly used forms of nonverbal communication.
This refers to the orientation of the narrator’s body. The posture of the body should not be confused with body gesture. Unlike gestures that change considerably during conversation, posture is a steady state. The positioning of the body is often meant to serve a certain objective. It can also be due to the expectations in a certain setting.
For example, the body posture expected in a classroom or office is different from the posture at home or in a social gathering. Certain postures such as leaning or slumping denote relaxation and ease. However, such postures can send a negative signal of the speaker’s attitude about the topic. The listener’s posture is also important as it reflects his attentiveness or feelings towards the issue being discussed.
Intonation refers to alterations in a person’s voice during speech. It is through intonation that we establish whether a person is asking a question or making a statement. In case the sender asks a question, the pitch is raised at the end of the sentence.
However, the tone usually falls towards the end of the sentence if the sender makes a statement. Intonation can also be used to indicate punctuation in speech such as commas and exclamation marks. Intonation also aids in putting emphasis on certain words that the listener is supposed to observe.
Tone of Voice
The voice tone should not be confused with intonation. The tone of voice refers to the way the speaker’s attitude about the issue being discussed is reflected in speech. It is the speaker’s way of seeking a response from the listener.
The tone of the voice varies considerably based on the place of discussion as well as the topic being discussed. In a heated debate, for example, the tone is often upbeat while when reporting facts on a weather channel, the tone is factual and plain. Other scenarios may witness varying degrees of change in voice tones such as hostile, critical, friendly or excited.
These are actions made using parts of the body like the hands or the head to stress, denote, approve, state, or support an orator’s message or attitude. It usually accompanies oral communication, but can also be used when talking to a deaf person.
Body acts that do not require verbal supplement are usually referred to as emblems. For instance, ‘high five’ or waving when saying goodbye contains explicit meaning on its own without the addition of verbal messages.
Facial Expressions and other Forms of Nonverbal Communication
Facial expressions are a good way of telling the emotions of the speaker or the receiver about a certain issue since the face is often seen as the main source of sensations. The expressions vary considerably throughout the interaction and can transition from a smile to a frown or sneer based on the sender’s emotions on the topic.
Other forms of nonverbal communication include long or short pauses in the middle of a conversation. Such pauses have significant impact on the communication process depending on their timing and length.
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The Impact of Nonverbal Communication
Not only is nonverbal communication important in a face-to-face communication setting, but it also plays a significant role in mediated scenarios such as interpretations where the listener cannot visualize the speaker (Thompson, 2002).
For instance, using the wrong tone can send the wrong message to the receiver and can distort the intended meaning. The sender must, therefore, understand the meaning of what he wishes to pass on and the context of the conversation to avoid such misunderstanding.
The main challenge of nonverbal communication lies in the interpretation or misinterpretation of certain signals. Signals are construed differently based on one’s culture and socialization. Another problem arises when the receiver does not understand the context of the message.
For instance, a formal message delivered in an informal or friendly tone may not be taken seriously. Gestures can also be misinterpreted. The interpretation of such a message by the listener is also vital to the way he understands the message.
Since culture plays a vital role in the interpretation of nonverbal messages, it is important for the receiver to understand the culture of those around him and take nonverbal cues in their cultural context. This is because some messages mean different things when taken outside their cultural context. The sender must also try to ensure that he does not send the wrong signal especially in professional settings such as during interviews.
Hargie, O. (2012). The handbook of communication skills. New York: Routledge.
Thompson, S. (2002). Communicate in the workplace. Sydney, Australia: Max Johnson.