Non-verbal communication is a key part of any discussion, yet it can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or missed. The following paper will discuss three major points on this subject and my views and experiences with them. Distance between two speakers and its effects on the conversation, in particular on the participants, the use of hands and gestures to include handshakes are illustrated to evaluate its hidden meanings, and lastly, a smiling face and its effects on the attitude of the ensuing conversation and participants. Though there are plenty of other forms of this type of communication, these three are of distinct interest and applicability to my life and experiences.
Whether you realize it or not, you open a line of communication to someone before you ever open your mouth. Non-verbal communication is your pivotal first line of communication and can do many things, such as display your status or set the mood for the following conversation. From where and how you stand, to the way your appearance, to how you shake someone’s hand, to whether you smile or not, you say almost as much without uttering a word as you do when speaking. Three types of communication that interest me are distance when speaking, using gestures and hand position, and smiling and its effects.
Personal space is a type of non-verbal communication, not many people take into account. Many people have different comfort levels with their personal spaces; some are okay with quite a bit of distance, and others become very uncomfortable. One thing is certain, when a person crosses the other’s personal space, especially without permission, it quickly becomes a very uncomfortable conversation. I have noticed I have a slightly larger personal space than many others; I quickly become uncomfortable if someone is talking too close or even looks at something over my shoulder. I work with many people from all over the United States, but I also encounter many from other cultures. I have encountered several Arabs who will stand very close to me; I also notice they stand much closer to others than Americans normally converse. This fact is due to their culture; the Arab like to speak very close and look at the whites of their eyes. They’ll often even hold their arm when speaking. Another interesting finding is that many with damage to the amygdala have a notably smaller sense of personal space. In one instance, they can feel utterly comfortable nose-to-nose with someone looking into their eyes and conversing. In this study, the observers conducted several experiments with an individual with amygdala damage. Notably, although the subject did not feel uncomfortable, many of the experimenters conversing with her felt very uneasy (Kennedy, Glascher, Tyszka, & Adolphs, 2009).
Another intriguing non-verbal communication is hand gestures and shakes. The shake starts a conversation in many American conversations, especially in business. I have become very familiar with this; it is used frequently in the military, especially as a congratulation. I found myself thinking about the handshakes I received. When the person was outranking me, even as a woman, the handshake was firm with a slight wrist, and my hand tilted down. This type of handshake shows the dominance of the person outranking me, especially with the tilt of their hand on top (Mokhtari 2013). When it was a friend, I noticed it usually reflected their personality, the friendlier and meeker disposition of the friend, the softer the handshake, the friends with a more outgoing and domineering personality had a firm and strong shake, though both are vertical and of equal dominance. With the handshake starting, the hands can develop the conversation more. The position of the hands can convey many different meanings as the conversation progresses. The position of the hands can reveal quite a bit of what someone is feeling. One position I am all too familiar with is the hands behind the person’s back, something used often in the military. I’m afraid I have to disagree with Mokhtari (2013), who states this position is used to show confidence. ItIny own experience, subordinates use this when conversing with someone of a higher rank; I find this position submissive; it reminds me of being arrested. Arms being crossed over the chest is another fascinating position. I have seen many people in this position, and as Mokhtari (2013) asserts, it usually happens when the person disagrees. One coco-worker uses this very often, and I infer that she disagrees with some things, and when she stands like this, she hardly takes in any information. Hands appear to have their language from the beginning to the end of the conversation, but they are not the only means.
My favorite form of non-verbal communication is the smile. I use this form very often, usually whenever I walk past anyone. This form can be contagious due to the mirror effect. When person A smiles, person B typically replicates it, even when B does not like it. Once person B smiles, they will typically feel better. Mokhtari summarizes the points of Professor Richardson, stating that a smile can turn on the happy zone in the brain (2013). I like to smile at people no matter what, even when I don’t feel very happy. When I smile at people in a bad mood, I slowly feel happier. It is also interesting to note that when women see a smiling face, they find it more trustworthy than men (Krys et al. 2015). These findings are quite interesting, as Mokhtari states in Eckman’s work, “Liars avoid smiling because they believe that smiling is positively correlated to lying” (2013). These two studies paint an intriguing picture of how women are led to believe a smiling face is trustworthy, how liars often smile while lying, and their relationship. I agree more with the study by Krys et al., as I have had experience with this. I trust many smiling faces and do not regularly associate them with lying unless it is a fake smile. People fake smiles often for many reasons, from social situations to lying and deceiving. Fake smiling should not immediately be seen as negative because it’s not just false. A social event or conversation might be acceptable to smile in to bring a positive feeling and trust in you, even if you don’t feel like smiling. But if it could signal lying and deceit, I am less inclined to trust the individual. Smiling is more complicated than it seems, but it is worth knowing about.
Whether it is a smile, a handshake, or the distance you stand, you affect the conversation with more than just words. Communication is simple and very complex, yet we do it daily. Non-verbal communication is a key part of an interaction. If we want just “shoot the breeze” or negotiate an important deal, we must earn about this part of a discussion counteract more effectively. We need to know how to communicate; if we don’t understand the art, we can never understand each other.
Kennedy, D. P., Gläscher, J., Tyszka, J. M., & Adolphs, R. (2009). Personal space regulation by the human amygdala. Nature Neuroscience, 12(10), 1226-7. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.apus.edu/10.1038/nn.2381
Krys, K., Xing C., Espinosa, A. D., Szarota, P., & Morales, M. F. (2015). It is better to smile at women: Gender modifies the perception of honesty of smiling across cultures. International Journal Of Psychology, 50(2), 150-154.
Mokhtari, M. (2013). The Puzzle of nonverbal communication. Towards a new aspect of leadership. Linnaeus University. Retrieved from https://edge.apus.edu/access/content/group/managementcommon/Management/MGMT100/Non_Verbal_Article.pdf
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Take a look at the videos and article presented that are linked below. Pay particular attention to the video and article; as you watch/read, note some topics that interest you. This is a summary,
Article: The Puzzle of Non-Verbal Communication
Requirements for this assignment:
You should utilize the appropriate course material covered in non-verbal communication.
Ensure you address the following topics.
Pick three areas of interest from the article or video and discuss why you find it interesting if you have seen any personal examples (i.e., someone who covers their mouth while talking, specific gender non-verbals, cultural differences).
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