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Non-Verbal Communication

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Week 5 Assignment

Noah Granow

Seattle Central College

Question #1

One of the most compelling principles of non-verbal communication is that that nonverbal communication is much more involuntary than verbal. Charles Darwin was one of the first to first to suggest that expressions of emotions were universal, and thus of an instinctive means of communication (Darwin 1872). Due to the biological brain functions of nonverbal communication, these types of reactions are much more difficult to control by our conscious minds. In fact, non-verbal communication has the ability to leak out underlying feelings or thoughts about the things. This is compelling because it shows that great communicators are able to have a better understanding of their non-verbal cues. More importantly, they have developed skills to mask the unconscious feelings and emotions from projecting into their communication. This requires a highly competent and emotionally intelligent individual to be able to control these emotions. Furthermore, this principle brings to light that we could be betrayed by our own feelings if not aware of the impact of our non-verbal cues.

A personal anecdote of this in action would be an interaction between a new employee on my team at work and myself. I work in an accounting role, and the last week of the fiscal year is an extraordinary stressful period that requires over 70 hours. The new employee was helping facilitate a few tasks that needed to completed by Year’s End, but when reviewing the next day, I discovered she had made quite a few mistakes that would take a great deal of time to correct. While, I strive to be patient and understanding in the workplace, I was legitimately nervous that these mistakes would hamper our ability to get everything done.  When I went to the new employee to explain the situation, I picked my words carefully to try to convey a sense of calm, and to not let on how big of a setback this could be. However, I could feel the anxiety forcing my body language, facial expressions and paralanguage to betray me. The new employee could easily see how rattled I was, and felt terrible about the mistakes she had made. I knew it was not her fault, as she had not been trained properly, but to her it may have seemed as though I blamed her for the issues. My instinctive emotional reaction to the situation showed clearly through my vocal tone and face. After reading about the principles of nonverbal communication, I realize that simply changing word choice was not enough to mask my anxiety in the moment. My body language clearly betrayed me and the message I was trying to send.

Another example of the instinctive nature of nonverbal behavior, would be when I was recently playing poker with a few friends. I am not the best at cards, but feel that I am able to read people quite well. My friends are not seasoned card players either, so they had not really developed ‘poker faces’. During the game, there was a hand with a lot of money in the pot. My hand was decent, but not great and I was deciding whether to keep betting or fold. Looking around the table, I noticed my friend Connor’s eyes light up as he subtly tried to suppress a smile. This made me think that he had a great hand so I folded. It turned out he had a Royal Flush, which is one of the best hands in Poker. Unfortunately, he lost out on a lot of money because his expressions were visible and communicating a message, he was trying to suppress.

Another principle of Nonverbal communication that is extremely important to understand is one that most humans already know intuitively, however they may be completely un aware: Nonverbal communication conveys important interpersonal and emotional messages. As Darwin explains, “the force of language is much aided by the expressive movements of the face and body" (Darwin 1872). This means that when communicating, it is important to think of nonverbal messages as a supplement to the lingual message being sent. These nonverbal cues serve a metacommunicative function by help clarify the message being sent (Buck 1980). Studies show that approximately 65% of meaning in conversations are derived from reading nonverbal cues. These include paralanguage, or vocal cues, and body language such as gestures.



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