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Non-verbal communication II

The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said, Peter F. Drucker.

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. According to Mehrabian, just 7% of any message is verbal communication, i.e., it is conveyed through words; the pitch, volume, intonation, etc. account for 38%, and body language, such as facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, etc., for the remaining 55%.

Non-verbal communication is the first communication we receive from and give to another person. It gives us insights into the thoughts and feelings of a person, a more accurate information that can be used to interpret messages and meanings embedded in them.More specifically, it can emphasize, complement, substitute, or contradict verbal messages.

Some examples of non-verbal communication are:

However, excessive and prolonged eye contact without blinking is usually counter-productive because it can bring discomfort and uneasy for the receiver. This may be considered disrespectful, rude, and even hostile.

Blinking rate is also important. It usually increases when people are thinking hard, feeling stressed, anxious, or angry. Besides, dilated pupils show a favourable response, people are interested, paying attention, and willing to interact.

  1. Public distance. It is considered to be at least 12 feet (three and a half metres) between a teacher or lecturer and his/her audience. It is reserved for strangers and large audiences, such as speeches, lectures, and theatre. Public distance

    Public distance

  2. Social distance. It is observed amongst formal acquaintances, working colleagues, business associates, consumers and shop assistants, and strangers and casual friends in the workplace, doctor’s office, shopping mall or school. It goes from 4 to 12 feet (1.2 to 3.6 metres). Social distance

    Social distance

  3. Personal distance. It ranges from about 1.5 feet (0.45 metres) to around 4 feet (1.2 metres). It is used for talking and interacting with family and close friends. Personal distance

    Personal distance

  4. Intimate distance. This is our private space, it is typically used for very confidential and close communication. It is reserved for good friends and romantic partners. Making love, hugging, kissing, shaking hands, etc. are all performed at this close distance. Intimate distance

    Intimate distance

A closer distance shows more confidence, friendship, and intimacy. Be careful to be in the right place and never to invade personal space, because by doing so people will feel uncomfortable, uneasy, defensive, vulnerable and even angry - this situation will take the focus away from the conversation. If you need to invade this private space, for example in an elevator, be very cautious: avoid looking at other people, try not to move, keep an expressionless face, etc.

Although “the habit does not make the monk”, many believe that outward appearances reflect inward reality. They affect almost every aspect of our lives, how we are perceived and judged daily, how we feel about ourselves, etc. People make negative assumptions based on a disheveled appearance.

Appearances impact first impressions, and thus, the effectiveness of subsequent communication relies heavily upon them. For example, attractive people are more effective sellers and more persuasive communicators than less attractive people. A sexy outfit can signal promiscuity and sexual availability. Appearance matters a great deal because you can often tell a lot about people by looking at how they present themselves, Daniel Handler

Appearance matters a great deal because you can often tell a lot about people by looking at how they present themselves, Daniel Handler

For instance, punks reject the dominant culture and “seek to outrage others with the highly theatrical use of clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, tattoos, jewellery and body modification (Wikipedia, Punk subculture).

Try not to talk in a monotone voice, but speak clearly, use a natural pace, and vary the pitch and speed of your voice for emphasis and effect as you talk.

  1. Emblematic gestures are culturally specific, unambiguous, and easily recognisable. They usually have a clear and precise meaning. They include a beckoning first finger to mean “come here,” a waving hand for “hello” or “goodbye,” the ‘OK’ sign with the thumb and index finger forming a circle or the “thumbs-up” gesture to signify a job well done. To give someone the finger is one of the most universal obscene hand gestures, it is a very rude and offensive insult. Never raise your hand menacingly, but only in a friendly gesture!

    Never raise your hand menacingly, but only in a friendly gesture!

  2. Illustrator gestures are used to enhance, clarify, emphasize, or illustrate what is being said verbally. Examples of illustrators are: pointing to the direction being described, using hands to show an object’s size or shape, etc. Why do people always gesture with their hands when they talk on the phone? Jonathan Carroll

    Why do people always gesture with their hands when they talk on the phone? Jonathan Carroll

  3. Affect displays express our emotions, how we feel at a given moment. For example, we cover our eyes with our hands when we feel ashamed. They include facial expressions, such as smiling, laughing, crying, smirking, or frowning. But feelings can't be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem, Anne Frank

    But feelings can't be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem, Anne Frank

  4. Regulators are gestures that synchronize, adjust, or control the flow of speech. They are culture-specific. For example, we shake our heads in order to encourage others to keep talking. We raise our hand to show others that we want to speak and/or reply. We yawn and look at our mobile phones when we are bored and not interested in the conversation. A yawn may not be polite, but at least it's an honest opinion

    A yawn may not be polite, but at least it's an honest opinion

  5. Adapters are personal and unconscious gestures that are used to satisfy some personal needs. They are used to release tension, to feel better or to perform a specific physical function. For instance, scratching an itch, shifting position while sitting, adjusting spectacles in a tense situation, playing with a ring or pen, smoking, etc.
Unconscious gestures are sometimes more unambiguous and meaningful than conscious ones.

Unconscious gestures are sometimes more unambiguous and meaningful than conscious ones.

Some examples include: giving something to someone without expecting anything in return, letting the other person talk first, greeting everyone with a smile, giving way to others, picking up the phone and calling someone who has suffered a loss, visiting someone in the hospital, etc.

The silent treatment or the cold shoulder is something to be avoided at all costs. People stop talking for long periods of time while growing increasingly distant and indifferent.

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