With dark red lipstick, a tight lipped lady storms into the office and takes her seat, pushing her bag to the corner she glares at her computer. Her co-workers stand up to inquire, but receive a blunt “I am fine” reply. This contradiction between her nonverbal and verbal language leaves a confusing message for all. Such confusion definitely gives more value to the nonverbal message being communicated to others. Similarly, while giving a presentation in a conference room having the top management of an organization, talking on the subject of downsizing, let suppose a female presenter formally dressed stands up to speak. With normal sized glasses and a neat hair-do, the presenter maintains a stern look on her face. She starts off with a very firm and a loud tone. Moreover, after every comment or question she receives from the audience, she rolls her eyes, takes a pause and without seriously replying, she continues with her own prepared speech. With such an attitude and a gesture, the presenter leaves a very negative impression on the audience which may be attributed to her style of non-verbal communication. In a similar way, if there is a panel interview going on for a managerial position at a bank, and one of the panelists adopts a similar serious and a stern look throughout the interview, the candidate will for sure feel intimidated.
Research suggests when the verbal and nonverbal messages are incongruent; the receiver usually tends to comprehend the dominant nonverbal message. For this reason, the way a thing is said is of more importance as compared to what is being said. Studies therefore suggest that as compared to the message being vocal, the nonverbal method of communication carries a greater impact of almost 60 to 90% as compared to verbal communication. This is mainly because of the emotions and attitudes attached to nonverbal communication (I accessed this information on Forbes website on 12th March 2014).
Therefore, non-verbal communication plays an important role in almost every aspect of life, where meanings change from one facet to the other. Non-verbal communication is a phenomenon encompassing visual cues, the use of body language including voice, touch, appearance and distance. In other words, it is all about communicating without words. Nonverbal cues refer to the communication which does not include any verbal translation. These include appearance with respect to dress, gestures, facial expression, and tone of voice, body movements, space and time.
According to the famous saying, “actions speak louder than words”, non-verbal communication explains this saying in detail. Where words are a method of communication and expression, non-verbal communication play an important role in the way a message is sent and comprehended. In consideration to the importance attached to nonverbal communication, it plays a highly significant role in workplace. This is due to the fact that the success of employees depends on the way they are perceived. Mainly for this reason, several smart minds are misjudged, labelled and mistreated because of their ineffective nonverbal communication patterns. As a matter of fact, nonverbal cues are linked to the emotional brain which reveals the truth behind the messages more efficiently. For this reason, these cues help people analyze business and understand strategies with a greater depth and richness which could not be delivered through spoken or printed text. Furthermore, the professionals who can well comprehend the nonverbal cue can easily understand their clients, coworkers and employees and can therefore have a better idea when it comes to meeting their needs. Also, through nonverbal communication, employers can clearly assess he performance of their subordinates especially when they are dealing with clients and customers in order to know how correct or inappropriate behavior do they practice. On the contrary, nonverbal cues also help employees understand the mood and expectations of their bosses so that they can adjust and adapt accordingly. In such power-differential relationships, understanding nonverbal cues play an immense role in excelling at the workplace. The subtle messages being passed by the boss helps the employee comprehend the desired behavior from him. On the other hand, it is a key way to make subordinates comfortable in order to get the desired results. Nonverbal communication therefore is also essential for career advancement because the top traits which professionals look for while hiring a candidate, involves confidence, rigor, enthusiasm and energy which are all part of nonverbal cues (I accessed this information on Forbes website on 13th March 2014).
Nonverbal behavior helps distinguish employee roles and develops relationships at workplace. For instance, while a tea boy would be seen busy in the kitchen, serving tea to the management by keeping a steady down to earth approach, a manager would certainly be found in an upright, vigilant position. Apart from employee roles, bosses often rely on nonverbal language, as mentioned earlier. For this reason, instead of shouting and embarrassing others, they adhere to strict facial expressions, body posture and hand gesture which explicitly explain the need and the command they want to present. In contrast, other roles such as that of the front-line officers do not really need to practice or get influenced by the nonverbal cues because of the nature of their job.
Hence, nonverbal behavior is a very strong mode of communication because when there is a mismatch between the words and the behavior of people, confusion mounts and nonverbal cues dominate. This however varies from one society to the other and from one environment to another. Due to the power attached to nonverbal cues, it is essential to have the basic know how about it in order to adapt to a new culture and to adjust behavior. With respect to a work environment, it is highly essential to understand these cues as they play a vital role in employee performance as well as the overall success of the organization.
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Upon meeting a person who speaks Swahili, the need for an interpreter strikes. In contrast, seeing a man speak in English makes the other person happy. But in real, things are not that simple because the words being spoken only say a part of the story. Nonverbal cues therefore differ across cultures mainly because of the norms of different societies. For example there are distinguishing features when it comes to the communication pattern of African Americans and Whites. The incessant use of gestures and abrupt aggression expressed through words used by African Americans tend to scare their European American colleagues. Although they might not deliberately express anger, they are often seen to use excessive body language which is often misinterpreted by people of different cultures. For this reason, these people face a number of difficulties at the workplace where their nonverbal communication practices often become a reason for their dismissal. Similarly, smiling at a German lady who responds in a cold manner leaves the person at the other end confused as to whether the lady is lost in her thoughts, bored or actually angry. For this reason, it is essential to understand nonverbal cues apart from some of the universal gestures such as that of fear and disgust. With respect to a workplace environment, it is highly essential to understand the nonverbal cues because of its necessity. For this reason, it is essential to have an insight about some of the basic nonverbal cues which are typical for every culture (This information was taken from the textbook 21st Century Communication by Guerrero, Laura and Lisa).
Personal space is an example of nonverbal cues which is directly linked to the level of comfort. In other words, if the distance between two or more people is too much, the communication becomes unfriendly. On the contrary, if the distance is too less, the person who is approaching appears to be rude and intrusive. For this reason, it is important to give attention to this feature of nonverbal cue where personal space is influenced by gender, closeness in a relationship, status and culture. People belonging to crowded societies such as New York and India would be used to smaller personal spaces as compared to people coming from empty areas such as Mongolia (This information was taken from the textbook 21st Century Communication by Guerrero, Laura and Lisa).
Eye contact is another essential aspect while talking about nonverbal communication. For instance, as compared to the Americans, Arabs maintain a more direct eye contact to members of the same sex. In contrast, the Latino culture considers avoiding direct eye contact to authority as a measure of respect. Same follows for a work environment where it is better for the subordinate to limit a direct eye contact with the person of higher status (This information was taken from the textbook 21st Century Communication by Guerrero, Laura and Lisa).
The tone and the volume of the voice also impact the message being delivered to others as it communicates anger, frustration, shyness and other such messages. This again varies according to different cultures as for White Americans; raised voices denote anger as compared to a reason for an exciting conversation, in the case of non-White Americans (This information was taken from the textbook 21st Century Communication by Guerrero, Laura and Lisa).
Other nonverbal cues include touch which is again a sensitive yet vital aspect because of its associated content of harassment which is typical for a work environment. While Americans limit their touch, Latin Americans and people of the Middle East display a greater frequency of touch. Other nonverbal cues such as smiling, silence, facial control and time also vary according to different cultures which may be interpreted in a number of ways (This information was taken from the textbook 21st Century Communication by Guerrero, Laura and Lisa).
Guerrero, Laura K., and Lisa Farinelli. "The Interplay of Verbal and Nonverbal Codes." 21st Century Communication: A Reference Handbook. Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009. 237-49. SAGE Reference Online. Web. 29 Jun. 2012.
Perkins, Pamela. “The impact of nonverbal communication.” Forbes. Web. 30 Sept. 2008. 12 Mar. 2014
Smith, Jacquelyn. “10 nonverbal cues that convey confidence at work.” Forbes. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. 13 Mar. 2014