The first group of the observed participants consists of a white female approximately 30 years old and a white male of the same age. The female participant has dark curly hair. She is wearing a brown coat, dark blue pants, and black leather boots. She is also wearing make-up (mascara, red lipstick). The male participant has short blond hair; he is wearing a long striped coat, black pants, and brown oxford shoes.
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The next group of observed participants consists of three people: a male African American, a female African American, and a white male American. The male African American is wearing a jacket, black jeans, and blue sneakers. The female African American is wearing a red hoody, black jeans, and black sneakers. The white male American is wearing a long dark coat, blue jeans, a hat, and black boots.
The third group of observed participants consists of two white Hispanic females. The first is approximately 40 years old and the second is 12-14 years old. The first female is wearing a white trench coat, blue jeans, and blue sneakers. The second female is wearing a black coat, black jeans, and dark blue boots.
The nonverbal communication chosen for this assignment is the tone (vocalics) (McCornack, 2013). The participants are observed in a square near a café in an open environment. Fixed features of it include the square, the café, office and residential buildings, a bus station, several different shops (a bookshop, a grocery shop, and a small retail shop) (McCornack, 2013). Semi-fixed features include benches, cars, and café decorations near the entrance (artificial trees and flowers, natural flowers, vases, garden figures). The participants are observed on Thursday, November 9, in the evening (6 p.m.).
The tone of the first group of observed participants is calm and friendly. It does not change significantly during the conversation course. Sometimes, the tone changes to a happy one, when the participants are laughing. At the beginning of the conversation, the woman’s tone was polite and somewhat distracted. The man’s tone remained calm and polite, although at the end of the conversation it was friendlier than at the beginning. It seems that both of them used their tone to express their politeness and respect toward each other. It is also used to regulate the formal relationships between them.
The tone of the participants in the second group differs significantly. The tone of the male African American is calm and low, somewhat sad or quasi-indifferent. The tone of the female African American is highly irritated, aggressive, and hostile but not toward the other participants. The white male’s tone is aggressive and irritated as well, although not as much as the female participant’s. Their tones sometimes change to less aggressive and more depressive or sad.
The African American male’s tone is changing throughout conversation slightly to more optimistic, although it is still rather dismal. The male African American seems to be using his tone to express sadness over an event or a person and to state facts about it (him/her). The other two participants express aggression toward an event or a person discussed and are irritated by it (them). This hostility in their tones is used to show support for the feelings of the other participant.
The interaction in the third group is quick. The younger female is using enthusiastic tone to describe something. The older female is responding in a calm, somewhat tired tone to her. The younger female’s tone shifts from enthusiastic to indifferent as they leave the place of observation. The older female used the tone to regulate the behavior of the younger female or to express disagreement with her.
My observations support the literature that we are using in class. The first example supports McCornack’s (2013) notions about the functions of the nonverbal communication. In this case, it was used for presenting self (as a reliable worker/employee possibly), managing interactions (respect), and defining relationships (business/work). The third example shows how the tone is used to manage interactions between an older and a younger participant.
The second example supports the point of view expressed by Guerrero and Hecht (2007). They state that the voice channel is important in close relationships because with it people in such relationships interpret meanings of messages (Guerrero & Hecht, 2007). The two participants (female and male) from the second example correctly understood the emotions of the other participant (male) and used their tone to agree with him. This also indicates that the male and female participants from this example might be spouses or partners (Guerrero & Hecht, 2007).
These interactions have shown me how important nonverbal communication is and how many messages can be translated through it. Tone can be used to signify authority, support, agreement, respect, and many other aspects of a mood in a conversation. I also understood that observations often depend on the context, and some misinterpretation could take place as I was not fully aware of the topics of the observed conversations. I have not observed any cultural differences in the use of tone, and it is the only contradiction with the literature that I was able to notice (McCornack, 2013). To conclude, these interactions proved how much information is hidden in nonverbal communication.
Guerrero, L. K., & Hecht, M. L. (2007). The nonverbal communication reader: Classic and contemporary readings. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
McCornack, S. (2013). Reflect & relate: an introduction to interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.