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In Interpersonal Communication, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

In interpersonal communication, non verbal cues are usually more important than the words an individual speaks. In fact, in most cultures, greater attention is given to the non verbal cues when attempting to understand a message. Meanings to the spoken word, and their implications can often be expressed through eye contact, gaze, touch, gestures, slight variations in tone and facial expressions. Most of the time, people deduce meanings during interpersonal communication from the non verbal cues that accompany the verbal message. In some instances it is even possible for the non verbal behaviors to send a message that is contrary to the verbal one. Most people depend upon non verbal messages to confirm, accentuate and complement any verbal messages that might have been given. Therefore, it is plausible to argue that non verbal communication is more important and believable in a situation where the two contradict each other.

Non verbal communication is usually more believable due to the fact that while verbal communication is mostly a voluntary and conscious activity, the non-verbal behavior that may accompany such communication is often involuntary. While the former does allow for the deduction of the more obvious explicit meaning to any given message, the latter allows the message recipient to figure out the implicit meaning of the message. For example, when an individual is lying, they often avoid eye contact, the recipient of the message can therefore, simply reject the validity of the whole message on the basis that the sender refused to maintain eye contact. An individual’s body language can involuntarily display discomfort, and if the recipient of a message is keen, they would be able to notice such discomfort during interpersonal communication. Without the expected non-verbal behaviors to accompany the verbal message provided, the recipient often doubts the message itself. In situations in which communication is interpersonal, a receiver tends to base their interpretation of the message on non verbal cues that are involuntarily given by the sender, rather than on their spoken word (Krizan, Merrier, Logan, & Williams, 2011).

Wang (2009) argues that non verbal communication plays an integral role in interpersonal communication, and outlines a number of aspects of human behavior that fall under non verbal communication. These include: body behavior in terms of dress and general appearance, body posture and movement. Further, Wang (2009) also describes how an individual’s use of space and distance, silence and signs and symbols, constitute non verbal communication. Considering all these aspects, it can be argued that non verbal communication essentially sets the stage for verbal communication, in cases where the stage is not well set, verbal communication becomes less effective and fails to communicate the desired message. For example, the posture assumed by a soldier, is usually meant to convey respect, especially in cases where the soldier is facing a superior. Their respectful speech is only authenticated by the posture they assume, without the respectful posture, they are deemed to have disrespected their superior, regardless of what they speak. Non verbal messages or behaviors are, therefore, very important when it comes to confirming verbal messages already provided. The absence of such confirmatory behavior brings the message itself into question, especially if the non verbal behavior contradicts the message emanating from the sender.

The importance of non verbal communication is also quite evident in some cultures, especially in Asian cultures, in which the message is inferred based on the sender’s non verbal communication. The non verbal behavior of an individual essentially determines or at times even conveys the attitudes they have towards a given subject or person. Most people are likely to form an opinion of another individual based on their non verbal behaviors, this then shapes how they react to the verbal messages that arise from the individual in question. In fact, the recipient usually makes inferences regarding the character and trustworthiness of a message, based on the non verbal cues that precede or accompany the message.

The study by Ambady and Rosenthal (1993), offers insight into the key role non verbal behaviors play in attitude formation. The researchers evaluate the possibility of positive teacher evaluations simply on the basis of their non verbal behaviors and physical attractiveness, implying that the students were more receptive and appreciative of the teachers’ approaches to teaching simply based on how they behaved, or presented themselves. The attitude formed, then determines how effective the interpersonal communication that occurs between the individuals concerned will be. Non-verbal behaviors therefore accentuate and shape the effectiveness of the verbal message. If the verbal behavior results in a negative impression, the recipient is unlikely to consider the verbal message. Because of this, non verbal messages are more important than verbal ones, and in cases where they contradict, the recipient is more likely to accept the former as the true message. For example, if an individual approached a bereaved family laughing, they are likely to question and disbelieve his or her condolence message, regardless of how heartfelt it sounds.

The fact that non-verbal cues are always present in any form of interpersonal communication means that they serve to both supplement or complement verbal communication. This provides a reliable constant especially for individuals who are familiar with each other, as they are already aware of the other individual’s common non-verbal behaviors. A deviation from the normal, or a message minus the usually accompanying non verbal cue, raises questions over the authenticity of the message itself. Even in cases where the non verbal cue is usually voluntary, its absence denotes an incomplete message. Because non verbal cues are always present, one may find themselves conveying a message that contradicts itself, more so through involuntary non-verbal cues. In such cases, the non verbal cue rather than supplement or complement the message, contradicts it. For example, an individual may find themselves passing on what should be good news, but are seemingly not doing so in the right demeanor. The sad demeanor, brings into question the validity of the news conveyed.

Although it is possible to convey contradicting verbal and non verbal messages, people are more likely to believe the non verbal message. This therefore means that actions do indeed speak louder than words, as the involuntary message conveyed by non verbal cues is usually the true meaning of a message. A recipient is more likely to believe the involuntary cues because unlike verbal messages, they are out of our control and much more difficult to manipulate. Furthermore, most people in an interpersonal communication, rely on non verbal behaviors to ascertain the authenticity of the verbal communication, without which the message itself is cast in doubt. The non verbal elements of communication are, therefore, more important, especially for the recipient.

References

Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a Minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(3), 431-441.

Krizan, A., Merrier, P., Logan, P., & Williams, K. (2011). Business communication. Australia: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Wang, H. (2009). Nonverbal communication and the effect on interpersonal communication. Asian Social Science 5(11), 155-159.

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