Communication in general is a process of sending and receiving messages that enables humans to share knowledge, attitudes and skills. Although we usually identify communication with speech, communication is composed of two dimensions: verbal and nonverbal.
Nonverbal communication has been defined as communication without words. It includes apparent behaviors such as facial expressions, eyes, touching, and tone of voice, as well as less obvious messages such as dress, posture and spatial distance between two or more people.
Commonly, nonverbal communication is learned shortly after birth and practiced and refined throughout a person’s lifetime. Children first learn nonverbal expressions by watching and imitating .
Humans use nonverbal communication because:
Words have limitations: there are numerous areas where nonverbal communication is more effective than verbal (when explaining the shape, directions and personalities are expressed nonverbally.
Nonverbal signals are powerful: nonverbal cues primary express inner feelings (verbal messages deal basically with the outside world).
Nonverbal messages are likely to be more genuine: because nonverbal behaviors cannot be controlled as easily as spoken words.
Nonverbal signals can express feelings inappropriate to state: social etiquette limits what can be said, but nonverbal cues can communicate thoughts.
A separate communication channel is necessary to help send complex messages: a speaker can add enormously to the complexity of the verbal message through simple nonverbal signals.
Researches in communication suggest that many more feelings and intentions are sent and received nonverbally than verbally. Only 7% of message is sent through words, with remaining 93% sent nonverbal expressions.
Cognitively, gestures operate to clarify, contradict, or replace verbal messages. Gestures also serve an important function with regard to regulating the flow of conversation. For example, if a student is talking in class, single nods of the head from the teacher will likely cause that student to continue and perhaps elaborate.
The saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ well describes the meaning of facial expression. Facial appearance – including wrinkles, muscle tone, skin coloration, and eye color offers enduring cues that reveal information about age, sex, race, ethnic origin, and status.
A less permanent second set of facial cues-including length of hair, hairstyle, cleanliness, and facial hair relate to an individuals idea of beauty.
A third group of facial markers are momentary expressions that signal that cause changes in the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, cheeks, nose, lips, and chin such as raising the eyebrows, wrinkling the brow, curling the lip.
The most dominant and reliable features of the face, the eyes, provide a constant channel of communication. They can be shifty and evasive; convey hate, fear, and guilt; or express confidence, love, and support.
Except for extremely shy individuals, most people look for social acceptance by studying the eyes of others.
Eyes also can accurately indicate a positive or a negative relationship. People tend to look longer and more often at those, whom they trust, respect and care about than at those whom they doubt or dislike.
Researches show that a speaker who looks at an audience is perceived as much more:
Intimate distance: from actual touching to eighteen inches. This zone is reserved for those with whom one is intimate.
Personal distance: from eighteen inches to four feet. This is the distance of interaction of good friends.
Social distance: exists from four to twelve feet. It seems to been an appropriate distance for casual friends and acquaintances to interact.
Public distance: outward from twelve feet a speaker becomes formal.
The vertical distance between communicators is often indicative of the degree of dominance a sub ordinance in the relationship. People are affected by literally looking up at or looking down on another person.
Even a handshake tells much about an individuals character. The human skin has hundreds of thousands of submicroscopic nerve endings, serving as tactual receptors and detecting pressure, temperature, texture, pain, stroking, tickling.
Parents transmit feelings to an infant physically, not verbally.
In most human relationships, touching can give encouragement, express tenderness, and show emotional support.
In general, the meaning of touching depends of the situation, culture, sex, and age.
Body type communicates a variety of meanings, particularly as it relates to physical attractiveness. Three general types, each capable of arousing several stereotypes about personality, can be identified:
The ectomorph: ectomorphs are tall, thin, and fragile looking and are thought of as being tense, anxious, reticent, and self-conscious.
Mesomorphs are bony, muscular, and athletic and are thought of as being dominant, energetic, and talkative.
Endomorphs are described as soft, round, and fat and are thought of as complacent, warm, and sociable.
Whether these adjectives are accurate is irrelevant; they represent and arouse the real stereotypes.