We will write a custom Essay on Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Eyes are the most informative part of the human body. Frequently, they reflect the actual intent of a person much better than words or gestures. The way the individual looks at a collocutor may define the overall tone of the communication. For this reason, the norms of visual behavior are very important.
Behavioral Norms and Their Violation
The major property of eye behavior is salience (Richmond, Mc Croskey, & Hickson, 2012). For instance, during formal negotiations, the individual may fixedly look into the eyes of another person and, in this way, encourage the partner to concentrate. The appropriateness of the intensity and duration of the gaze is largely defined by a social context. However, in every situation, an unfocused sight is rather seen as a violation of the norm because when eyes hectically move from side to side, when the person looks away, it can signify that he/she is afraid, feels uncomfortable, tries to hide something, etc.
In my experiment, I decided to evaluate the effects of eye aversion. When talking to a person, I never looked at his or her face. Although my face and body could be turned to the collocutor, I avoided the eye contact by staring aside or down.
Nonverbal Behavior as Part of Collocutors’ Responses
I started the experiment when talking to one of my close friends. We sat in front of each other at the table in the coffee shop, and I did not look at her face either when she was talking to me or when I replied. During the conversation, she started to look aside as well. Then, within a short time, the conversation ceased, and my friend started tapping on her smartphone. Such a reaction was natural because she decided that I was bored and uninterested. There was no emotional connection which normally can be established during the mutual gaze.
I used the same tactics in the class and constantly looked at the flow while the teacher instructed us. Since the student group was rather small and I sat in the front row, the teacher noticed and asked to pay attention without showing any particular nonverbal response. In the third case, I used gaze aversion when speaking to my mom at home and her reaction was somewhat similar to the one that my friend had in the coffee shop − although we were sitting at the table together, she stood up and started to do other things. However, she continued to talk, and it was evident that she thinks I am listening to her despite my eye behavior.
In two other times, I used eye aversion with unfamiliar people. After I was introduced to these individuals, I gave them a short glance and looked aside right away. They tried to talk to me for a while, and although I replied each question and tried to maintain the conversation, the dialog came to an end quickly in both cases. During the communication, the first person took a closed pose with his hands crossed. It was apparent that he feels uneasy.
It was uncomfortable to violate the norms in the situations with the unfamiliar people because I felt they may have a wrong impression about me. As stated by Richmond et al. (2012), people may find it frustrating to communicate with someone who looks everywhere but one’s eyes. Moreover, I am convinced that the first impression is hard to change and by avoiding the eye contact I might have lost a valuable acquaintance with an interesting person. However, it was less uncomfortable to do so with people whom I know well as I feel they accept me even when I am bored and inattentive.
Eye behavior fulfills an essential social function. It signifies our attitudes to a people and defines relationships with them. Eyes express emotions and, thus, it is hard to understand what a person thinks or feels in case he/she avoids eye contact. Therefore, appropriate eye behavior is not just a form of etiquette but core to socialization itself.
Richmond, V. P., McCroskey, J. C., & Hickson, M. (2012). Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.