Eastern New Mexico University
As communicators we often don't think about how other people perceive us, what we look like, what we wear, what we project. We really don't necessarily think about how we will interact with our surroundings and how they will affect our communication.
Communication is a process, and often our verbal and our nonverbal communication is contradictory (so there is a malfunction in our communication system). We often put the responsibility for misunderstandings on our communication partners rather than looking internally for ways we can improve our communication. We have a difficult time admitting to ourselves that we could change some things that could lead to improved communication.
We often need to change things that we can do, but we can't change other people.
What is nonverbal communication? It's far more than facial expressions and hand gestures. How you sit, and so many other things we do that we don't realize. Nervous habits that we don't recognize we have. These habits send messages we may not intend. But, we need to think about our audience and make sure we can make some attempt to tailor our actions to fit the audience.
We are able to know and understand most nonverbal communication signals by age 12. Media has had a significant influence on how nonverbal cues are picked up and emulated by younger people. For example, LC had to teach a class of college-age girls that you can't flop into a chair with your legs spread at a job interview. This was an amazing revelation that they wouldn't already know that, and that the teaching of that concept would take one full class period.
What is nonverbal communication? Messages that are sent with intent and used regularly among members of a social community, are interpreted as intentional, and have consensually recognizable interpretations. Key components: Intent, interpretation, social context.
Communication behaviors are different from nonverbal communication. Nonverbal behaviors often make nonverbal communication difficult. Behaviors can make complicate communication because they are often spontaneous, biologically based and nonsymbolic. This is the key factor in miscommunication — the interpretation of behaviors as communication when in fact, they are simply just behaviors (such as yawning).
Our work relationships are important to think about as well. We spend a lot of time at work, and not much time thinking about how to develop these communication relationships.
Here is a list of nonverbal communication elements that we often overlook: physical appearance, gestures and movements, face and eye behavior, voice behavior, space, touch, environment, time. It's so easy for one or more of these elements that will contradict each other.
Our office space speaks much to how we communicate. We need to think about what our use of our professional space communicates to those around us.
So why is nonverbal communication so complicated? We assign meaning to nonverbal cues, even those that are sent unintentionally. Often message interpretation gets mixed up. Messages are misinterpreted and sometimes we have different understandings of nonverbal communication functions than those we are trying to communicate with. This may be because of social contexts such as culture, sex, socially understood and accepted meanings.
So how can we become better communicators? We need to be aware of our nonverbal communications and behaviors. We also need to stay aware of our own understanding and knowing how our nonverbal communication functions in communicative situations. We can learn better the impact on nonverbal behaviors and nonverbal communication.
So here's what we can do to help ourselves:
- Remember that not everyone has similar understandings on nonverbal communication
- We cannot control another's communication, but we can improve our own.