Enhancing Nonverbal Skills
Nonverbal communication is usually understood as the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) cues between people. Messages can be communicated through gestures and touch, by body language or posture, by facial expression and eye contact. Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage that includes voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, and speaking style, as well prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation, and stress.
Likewise, written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words, or the physical layout of a page. However, much of the study of nonverbal communication has focused on face-to-face interaction, where it can be classified into three principal areas: environmental conditions, where communication takes place; physical characteristics of the communicators; and behaviors of communicators during interaction (Figure 1).
Nonverbal communication can portray a message both verbally and with the correct body signals. Body language contains numerous elements that include physical features, both changeable and unchangeable; gestures and signals (both conscious and unconscious); and spatial relations.
The wrong message can be established if the body language conveyed does not match a verbal message. Nonverbal communication strengthens a first impression in common situations like attracting a partner or in a business interview.
A study revealed that students who rated a professor as highly likeable from only a two-second first impression found the class much more enjoyable throughout the semester versus the students who did not.
Posture or a person's bodily stance communicates a variety of messages. Posture can be used to determine: a participant’s degree of attention or involvement; the difference in status between communicators; and the level of fondness a person has for the other communicator, depending on body openness. Studies investigating the impact of posture on interpersonal relationships suggest that mirror-image congruent postures, where one person’s left side is parallel to the other person’s right side, leads to favorable perception of communicators and positive speech. A person who displays a forward lean or decreases a backward lean also signifies positive sentiment during communication.
There are many different types of posture. Some of these postures include: slouching, towering, legs spread, jaw thrust, shoulders forward, and arm crossing. These nonverbal behaviors can indicate feelings and attitudes toward another person.
Clothing is one of the most common forms of non-verbal communication. For instance, the study of clothing and other objects as a means of non-verbal communication is known as artifact or object. The types of clothing an individual wears conveys nonverbal clues about personality, background and financial status, and how others will respond. An individual’s clothing style can demonstrate the following:
Some examples of a person’s clothing type in which a negative message is being conveyed could include a person with a sloppy appearance, messy hair, and wrinkled clothes sends the message: I don't care. By showing the positive aspects of his or her self through dress attire and grooming, one can inspire confidence in his or her abilities.
Gestures may be made with the hands, arms or body, and also include movements of the head, face, and eyes, such as winking, nodding, or rolling one's eyes. Although the study of gesture is still in its infancy, some broad categories of gestures have been identified by researchers. The most familiar are the so-called emblems or quotable gestures. These are conventional, culture-specific gestures that can be used as replacement for words, such as the hand wave used in western cultures for hello and goodbye.