Вісник ЛНУ імені Тараса Шевченка № 16 (179), 2009. Cc.
The article highlights the peculiarities
and role of nonverbal communication. The main Channels and
Functions of Nonverbal Communication are described and
В статье автор анализирует основные функции
невербальной комуникации как одного из основных способов передачи
информации в жизни человека. На основе примеров, автор описывает и
рассматривает различные каналы, через которые осуществляется
невербальная коммуникация. Автор сосредотачивает внимание на
культурных особенностях, которые должны учитываться во время
невербальных коммуникативных актов.
Nonverbal communication is communication without words.
People communicate nonverbally when they gesture, smile or
frown, widen eyes, wear jewelry, touch someone, raise vocal
volume, or even they say nothing. In face-to-face
communication people blend verbal and nonverbal messages to
best convey their messages. There are five ways in which
nonverbal messages are used with verbal ones .
Nonverbal communication is often used to accent or emphasize
some part of a verbal message. A person can raise the voice
to underscore a particular word or phrase, bang his fist on
the desk to stress commitment, or look longingly into
someone’s eyes when saying the words of love.
Nonverbal communication may complement or add nuances of
meaning not communicating by verbal message. Thus, a person
might smile when telling a story (to suggest that he finds
it humorous) or frown and shake the head when recounting
someone’s deceit (to suggest disapproval). A person may
deliberately contradict verbal messages with nonverbal
movements – for example, by crossing the fingers or winking
to indicate that someone is lying.
Movements may be used to regulate,
control, or indicate a desire to control, the flow of verbal
messages, as when a person purse the lips, lean forward, or
make hand gestures to indicate that he/she wants to speak. A
person may also vocalize the pauses (for example, with “um”
or “ah”) to indicate that he/she has not finished and is not
ready to relinquish the floor to the next speaker.
People may also use nonverbal communication to substitute or
take the place of verbal messages. For instance, he/she can
signal “OK” with a hand gesture. A communicator can nod his
head to indicate “yes” or shake it to indicate “no”, or
glance at the watch to communicate his concern with time.
The goal of the article is to describe channels and analyze
the functions of nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal communication is probably most easily explained in
terms of the various channels through which messages pass.
They are: body, face, eyes, space, artifactual, touch,
paralanguage, silence, time and smell. Nonverbal researches
identify five major types of body movements: emblems,
illustrators, affect displays, regulators and adaptors .
Emblems are gestures that directly translate into words or
phrases, for example, The “OK” sign, the thumbs-up for “good
job” and “V” for victory. People use these consciously and
purposely to communicate the same meanings as the words. But
emblems are culture specific.
Illustrators enhance the verbal messages they accompany. For
example, when referring to something to the left, a person
may gesture toward the left. A person can also use
illustrators to communicate the shape or size of objects.
Affect displays include movements of the face (smiling or
frowning) as well as the hands and general body (body
tension or relaxation) that communicate emotional meaning.
Regulators are behaviors that monitor, control, coordinate,
or maintain the speaking of another individual.
Adaptors are gestures that satisfy some personal need. Self-
adaptors are self-touching movements (rubbing a nose, moving
hair out of the eyes). Alteradaptors are movements directed
at the person with whom a person is speaking (removing lint
from somebody’s jacket, straightening a person’s tie).
Object-adaptors are gestures focused on objects (doodling on
or shredding a Styrofoam coffee cup).
Throughout interpersonal interactions, our face communicates
many things, especially our emotions. Some researchers in
nonverbal communication claim that facial movements may
express at least the following eight emotions: happiness,
surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, contempt, and
interest. Others propose that in addition, facial movements
may also communicate bewilderment and determination .
Research on communication via the eyes shows that these
messages vary depending on the duration, direction, and
quality of the eye behavior. In every culture there are
strict, though unstated, rules for the proper duration for
eye contact. With eye contact person send a variety of
messages. One such message is a request for feedback. In
talking with someone, we look at her or him intently, as if
to say, “Well, what do you think?”
Another type of message informs the other person that the
channel of communication is open and that he or she should
now speak. We see this regularly in conversation when one
person asks a question or finishes a thought and then looks
Eye contact may also send messages about the nature of
relationship. For example, if we engage in prolonged eye
contact coupled with a smile, we will signal a positive
relationship. If we stare or glare at the person while
frowning, we will signal a negative relationship.
Our use of space to communicate – an area of study known
technically as proxemics. Edward Hall distinguishes four
distances that define the type of relationship between
people and the type of communication in which they are
likely to engage:
1. Intimate distance, ranging from actual touching to 18
inches, the presence of the other individual is
unmistakable. Each person experiences the sound, smell, and
feel of the other’s breath. We use intimate distance for
lovemaking, comforting, and protecting. This distance is so
short that most people do not consider it proper in public.
2. Personal distance defines our personal space, ranging
from 18inches to 4 feet. At this distance we conduct much of
our interpersonal interaction; for example, talking with
friends and family.
3. At social distance, ranging from 4 to 12 feet, we lose
the visual detail we have at personal distance. We conduct
impersonal business and interact at a social gathering at
this social distance. The more distance we maintain in our
interactions, the more formal they appear.
4. Public distance, from 12 to more than 25 feet, protects
us. At this distance we could take defensive action if
threatened. At this distance we lose fine details of the
face and eyes, we are still close enough to see what is
happening . Members of different cultures treat space
differently. For example, those from northern European
countries and many Americans stand fairly far apart when
conversing; those from southern European and Middle Eastern
cultures tend to stand much closer.
Artifactual messages are those made by human hands. Thus,
color, clothing, jewelry, and decoration of space would be
considered artifactual. Color communication also influences
perceptions and behaviors.
People’s acceptance of a product can be largely determined
by its packaging, especially its color. Even our acceptance
of a person may depend on the colors worn. Our socioeconomic
class, our seriousness and attitudes (whether we are
conservative or liberal), our sense of style, and even our
creativity will be judged in part by the way we dress. The
way we decorate our private spaces speaks about our
personality. Touch communication, or tactile communication,
is perhaps the most primitive form of communication. Touch
develops before the other senses. Researchers in the field
of haptics – the study of touch – have identified the major
meanings of touch:
Positive emotion. Touch may communicate such positive
feelings as support, appreciation, inclusion, sexual
interest or intent, and affection.
Playfulness. Touch often communicates our intention to play,
either affectionately or aggressively.
Control. Touch may direct the behaviors, attitudes, or
feelings of the other person.
Ritual. Ritualistic touching centers on greetings and
departures; for a example, shaking hands to say hello or
goodbye or hugging, kissing, or putting our arm around
another’s shoulder when greeting or saying farewell.
Task-relatedness. Task-related touching occurs while we are
performing some function, such as removing a speck of dust
from another person’s face or helping someone out of a car
. The term paralanguage refers to the vocal but nonverbal
dimensions of speech. It refers to how we say something, not
what we say. Significant differences in meaning are easily
communicated depending on where the speaker places the
In addition to stress and pitch (highness or lowness),
paralanguage includes such voice qualities or vocal
characteristics as rate (speed), volume (Loudness), and
rhythm as well as the vocalization we make in crying,
whispering, moaning, belching, yawning, and yelling.
Paralanguage cues are often used as a basis for judgments
about people; for a example, evaluations of their emotional
state or even their personality. A listener can accurately
judge the emotional state of a speaker from vocal expression
alone, if both speaker and listener speak the same language.
Paralanguage cues are not so accurate when used to
communicate emotions to those who speak a different
Like words and gestures, silence, too, communicates
important meanings and serves important functions .
Silence allows the speaker time to think, time to formulate
and organize his or her verbal communication. Some people
use silence as a weapon to hurt others. We often speak of
giving someone “the silent treatment”. After a conflict, for
a example, one or both individuals may remain silent as a
kind of punishment. Sometimes silence is used as a response
to personal anxiety, shyness, or threats. We may feel
anxious or shy among new people and prefer to remain silent.
The study of temporal communication, known technically as
chronemics, concerns the use of time – how we organize it,
react to it, and communicate messages through it. The time
orientation we develop depends on our socioeconomic class
and personal experience.
Different time perspectives also account for much
intercultural misunderstanding, as different cultures often
teach their members drastically different time orientation.
For example, people from some Latin cultures would rather be
late for an appointment than end a conversation abruptly or
before it has come to a natural end. So the Latin may see
lateness as a result of politeness. But others may see this
as impoliteness to the person with whom he or she had the
Smell communication, or olfactory communication, is
extremely important in a wide variety of situations and is
now big business today. The most important messages scent
seems to communicate are:
Attraction messages. Humans use perfumes, colognes,
aftershave lotions, and the like to enhance their
attractiveness to others and to themselves. When the smells
are pleasant, we feel better about ourselves.
Taste messages. Without smell, taste would be severely
impaired. For example, without smell it would be difficult
to taste the difference between a raw potato and an apple.
Memory messages. Smell is a powerful memory aid; we often
recall situations from months and even years ago when we
happen upon a similar smell.
Identification messages. Smell is often used to create an
image or an identity for a product. Much attention is paid
to this aspect in advertising and manufacturing. There is
also evidence that we can identify specific significant
others by smell .
To sum up, nonverbal communication is very important in
people’s life and can be either effective or not. It has its
special functions and channels through which we can send and
exchange different messages. What is more, it is heavily
influenced by culture. Cultural variations in nonverbal
communication are great. Different cultures assign different
meanings to facial expressions and to colors, have different
spatial rules, and treat time very differently.
Because culture permeates all forms of communication, it’s
necessary to understand its influence, how interpersonal
communication works and master interpersonal nonverbal
communication skills. The principals for communicating
information and for changing listeners’ attitudes will vary
from one culture to another. If we are to understand
nonverbal communication, we need to know its principles vary
and how the principles must be qualified and adjusted on the
basis of cultural differences. And of course people need
cultural understanding in order to communicate effectively
in a wide variety of intercultural situations.
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