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The Psychology of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Essay

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Updated: Oct 3rd, 2019

While discussing how verbal and nonverbal communication can affect interactions in four offered areas, the psychology of both signals, which carry information-bearing messages, must be considered. Thus, first of all, it should be pointed out that the ability to communicate is recognized to be extremely important for people’s cooperation.

Robert Krauss (2002) is of the opinion that verbal communication gives an opportunity to convey meanings through words, but “a listener who has understood the utterance has gone beyond the literal meaning of the words and grasped the particular sense in which the speaker intended them to be understood” (p. 1).

Nonverbal communication, in its turn, conveys information, which is related to a person’s emotional state. On the other hand, one is to keep in mind that the main purpose of the kind of communication is to aid in the formulation of thoughts or ideas, which are expressed through speech. Nonverbal behavior seems to reflect semantic content in relation to the addressee.

The importance of nonverbal communication in police situations

In my opinion, the role of verbal communication in police situations is obvious, as verbal communication is based on an immediate contact between the participants, who are involved into the process of communication; however, the most interesting issue is the opposite kind of communication.

So, it is necessary to state that nonverbal communication gives the officers an opportunity to understand, when criminals lie. On the other hand, serious criminals are also familiar with nonverbal strategies, which police officers use, in order to catch offenders. Moreover, police officers’ safety mostly depends upon their abilities to control non-verbal behaviors.

One can suppose that a police interview is a stressful event; so, a person can feel uncertainty and cause some suspicions. However, it must be noted that police officers are familiar with all the aspects nonverbal behaviors include; therefore, they can distinguish between excitement/nervousness and lie. A detective Andy Brown (2005) from the West Yorkshire Police HQ says that such kind of gestures as “eye movement, hand movement, foot movement, sweating” (para. 9) are considered the most common signs of lie.

As far as nonverbal communication reflects the emotional state of a person, one can make a conclusion that the process of observation is considered to be one of the ways to reveal true thoughts of a suspect.

However, the above-mentioned supposition cannot be regarded at totally reliable, as “without the accompanying speech, the gestures/face expressions may convey little or nothing; in the presence of the accompanying speech, it may add little or nothing to what is conveyed by the speech” (Krauss et. al., n. d., p. 10).

Traditionally, the naïve participants cannot disclose relevant information certain gestures, face expressions, or body movements may reflect.

However, when speaking about police situations and the participants involved into these situations, it becomes evident that police officers’ interpretations are based on careful viewing and their ability to establish corresponding relations between semantic content of the kind of nonverbal behavior and a person’s evidence. Moreover, tone quality of a person is also to be taken into consideration.

One more important point, which must be analyzed, is police officers’ and criminals’ misinterpretation of nonverbal communication, if the participants’ interaction is culturally different. Those people, who have no relation to forensic science, do not take into account different cultural background.

Thus, they think that it is verbal communication, which is more important; however, they are wrong. In the United States a special investigation was held. Its results showed that “93 percent of a message was transmitted by the speakers’ tone of voice and facial expressions. Only 7 percent of the person’s attitude was conveyed by words. Apparently, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally” (“Nonverbal Communication,” 1993, para. 3).

The importance of nonverbal communication in courtroom setting

When speaking about the importance of nonverbal communication in courtroom setting, one is to keep in mind that interaction between various participants is recognized to be one of the key elements the court system is based on. Of course, most of people understand the meaning of nonverbal behavior.

Moreover, nobody will deny the fact that nonverbal communication happens naturally; so, a person’s emotional state cannot be hidden.

However, it is also necessary to state that a certain nonverbal behavior can contradict verbal messages; so, for this reason, one can make a conclusion that the participants of legal processes must be aware of the kind of communication. It is a well-known fact that when jurors take certain decisions, the most important factor, which determines the final verdict, is an offender’s nonverbal behavior.

In the early nineties, Martin S. Remland conducted a special research. The results showed that trust is mostly gained not by verbal behavior, but the opposite one. In other words, nonverbal communication is recognized to be warmer (eye contact and voice are extremely important).

It should be pointed out that opening and closing statements give jurors an opportunity to evaluate a lawyer’s credibility. So, when making the above-mentioned statements, one is to keep in mind that nonverbal behavior is to be consistent with a lawyer’s voice and his or her hand gestures must be natural.

While discussing cross-examination, it is necessary to point out that lawyers can rely on the so-called intimidating behavior. For instance, such widespread nonverbal cues as sarcasm or well-planned pauses can be regarded as attempts to discredit a witness or an offender. However, lawyers are to be careful while using the above-mentioned techniques, if a defendant or a witness is too young. In this case, jurors can feel more sympathy for young persons.

Another important aspect, which cannot be neglected, is a judge’s nonverbal behavior. It seems to be obvious that a judge’s nonverbal cues can be considered as the so-called prompts, which jurors keep in mind while making a decision.

According to Remland’s research, it is the intensity with which a judge looks at an offender, which influences jurors’ final decision in relation to a defendant. On the other hand, it is also necessary to state that if a judge believes that a defendant is guilty, he or she can assure jurors with special face expressions, tone of voice, tussiculation, etc.

Maria V. Lyons (1989) states that “65 % of social meaning in a face to face encounter is communicated nonverbally” (p. 20). The most important constituents nonverbal communication includes are touch communications, sign language, objective language, and paralanguage. When jurors evaluate an offender’s nonverbal behavior, they must also remember about the barriers, which obstruct correct interpretation of nonverbal cues.

Thus, the common obstacles include autistic thinking, ego involvement, ethnocentrism, and selective exposure. Lyons (1989) says that “the jury uses the first impression to evaluate a person they have never seen before. Appropriate closing can compensate for positive negative bias, but poor or inappropriate attire could cause a major devaluating of both stature and abilities” (p. 21).

The peculiarities of verbal/nonverbal communication in relation to corrections facility

Generally, it is necessary to state that verbal communication in corrections is of particular importance. The most interesting phenomenon, however, which is to be highlighted, is the so-called verbal de-escalation. It must be noted that verbal communication in corrections has some peculiarities. In other words, one cannot understand the aspects of verbal communication in its common sense.

The workers of correctional facilities should develop verbal de-escalation skills, in order to manage violent and aggressive individuals. There are special courses, which provide the officers with useful information as how to deal with poor behavior. Of course, it is necessary to be a good communicator and manipulator, in order to interact with criminals.

Long conversations are not needed, as criminals do not accept officers’ polite demands. Therefore, verbal communication is to be based on short phrases, which express not demands, but strict commands. In this case, communicative intentions must be immediately understood.

Another aspect, which should be pointed out is the so-called problem of Perspective-Taking. Still, this aspect of verbal communication in corrections should not be analyzed in its common sense. As far as people perceive words somewhat differently, communicative intentions can be misunderstood in some way.

However, the essence of short commands is to make a certain demand clear for all. That is why verbal de-escalation is extremely important to maintain an unflagging discipline in corrections. The psychology of verbal communication is special departments differs from the common aspects of verbal communication.

Of course, there are some situations, when verbal communication is an inappropriate way to maintain a discipline. So, some other means must be used. It is necessary to remember that an officer’s main aim is to control aggressive individuals. For this reason, the verbal statements, which cannot be neglected, are:

“I’m ready to kill someone! / Don’t come near me! / Don’t touch me! / You want me to show you! / Announcing threats or plans for hurting others / Argumentative” (Barnhart, 2009, para. 9).

The basic functions of language seem to be limited, when discussing the peculiarities of verbal communication in corrections. The expression of content is exact; however, words mostly serve not to maintain social relations, but to express social roles of participants of an interaction process.

On the other hand, the four maxims of conversation are present: quantity (employees do not speak much); quality (employees do not say unnecessary things); relevance (employees speak about relevant matters); manner (employees are brief).

When speaking about nonverbal communication in relation to corrections, it is necessary to point out that misinterpretation of some nonverbal cues, including face expressions, certain gestures, etc. can lead to harm. That is why the officers are to rely on nonverbal behavior rather carefully. On the other hand, inmates can also interact with each other using nonverbal cues. For this reason, the employees of corrections must be also familiar with the diversity of kinds of nonverbal communication.

The importance of verbal/nonverbal communication in juvenile facilities

One more issue, which is to be discussed, is communication in juvenile facilities. First of all, there is a need to say that the psychology of verbal/nonverbal communication in relation to teenagers is also unique. Generally, one is to keep in mind that teenagers’ nonverbal behavior is considered to be more important as compared with verbal interaction. However, both kinds of communication create a system of certain thoughts and emotions.

Facial expressions play important role in teenagers’ interaction. Thus, a pressed set of lips and crossed arms are recognized to be defensive signs a teenager demonstrates. It is necessary to understand that knowing various communication styles gives an opportunity to succeed in getting to the essence of a certain issue.

Sometimes, teenagers can use passive communication (in most cases, they speak in weak voice). The kind of interaction is also recognized to be a defensive sign. It should be noted that those teens, who prefer passive communication, are easily manipulated by others. For this reason, when speaking with anyone who communicates passively, an officer is to use verbal communication only.

Aggressive teens try to intimidate others using both nonverbal cues and verbal communication. When speaking with such teenagers, it is necessary to use the same techniques. It is a right way to manage an aggressive individual.

Passive-aggressive behavior, in its turn, is also regarded as a defensive technique, as using the type of an interaction a teenager tries to avoid certain risks. Such a teenager does not want to reveal his or her true intentions and thoughts. On the other hand, when teenagers are afraid of being incriminated, they also use the kind of behavior. In this case, verbal communication is the best way to manage an individual.

Assertive communication teenagers can rely on requires the same behavior of an officer. There is a need to avoid aggressive techniques, in order to instill confidence in a teenager.

The conclusion

Finally, it should be stated that both verbal and nonverbal communication are extremely important in everyday life. Human communication is a necessary step of evolution. It is impossible to define the most appropriate way of interaction. Both kinds create a complicated matrix of emotions, action, and ideas.


Barnhart, T. (2009). Understanding Communications in Corrections. Corrections.com. Web.

Brown, A. (2005). The Open University. Web.

Krauss, R. (2002). . Columbia University. Web.

Krauss, R., Chen, Y., & Chawla. : What Do Conversational Hand Gestures Tell Us? Columbia University. Web.

Lyons, M. (1989). The Expert Witness: Courtroom Communications. Cbdiai.org. Web.

. (1993). Rpi.edu. Web.

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