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Analysing Nonverbal Communication
Seven different aspects
Theoretical writings and research classify nonverbal communication into seven main areas:
1. Body movement (kinesics behaviour)
2. Physical characteristics
3. Touching behaviour
4. Vocal qualities (paralanguage)
5. Space (proximity)
Body movement, or kinesics behaviour, includes movement of the hands, head, feet and legs,
posture, eye movements and facial expressions all these affect the message.
Body posture the way a person stands, leans forward, pointing and shaking a finger at someone, is
seen as trying to dominate the other person. The way this is received by others, and the type of
feedback given, determines how the communication will flow.
Physical characteristics such as body shape, general attractiveness, body and breathe odours, weight,
hair and skin colour are important parts of nonverbal communication.
Because people react and respond to these factors, they all determine their responses in
interpersonal encounters. First impressions and images of others can be associated unconsciously
with past experiences of people with similar physical characteristics.
Paralanguage (Vocal Qualities)
Paralanguage is that part of language associated with but not involving the word system. It consists
of the voice qualities and vocalizations that affect how something is said rather than what is said.
Voice qualities include:
Proximity (Use of Space)
Proximity means nearness, in terms of physical space. How people use their personal space and
that of others communicates a message. This response to spatial relationships in formal, informal
and intimate setting indicates how that person perceives and feels in that space.
People also use their height and weight to convey a message. If you tower over other people in a
way that intrudes on their personal space you may cause their discomfort and withdrawal.
Personal space varies according to:
Research has shown that Australians speaking to acquaintances or work colleagues leave about an
arms length of space between themselves and the other person. People speaking to friends and
family leave about half an arm or an elbows length between themselves and others. People in
intimate relationships allow direct and close contact when speaking to each other. The use of space
reflects the way people feel about others.
Artifacts are objects used to convey nonverbal messages about self-concept, image, mood, feeling
or style. For example, perfume, clothes, lipstick, glasses and hairpieces project the style or mood of
the wearer. Many artifacts are common to the group but we also use artifacts, particularly clothing,
as an individual form of communication.
Appearance and cloth are important and highly visible parts of nonverbal communication. Consider
the different between the clothes you wear to the beach and the clothes you wear to a job interview.
The choice of clothes reflects your mood and your attitude to the occasion. Other people note and
place their own interpretation on your dress.
Even if you decide you will not bother about personal appearance or clothes, others will read this
message as part of your nonverbal communication.
The environment can influence the outcome of communication. For this reason, organization gives
careful consideration to office space, factory layout, the sales area and conference venues. The
environment should put people at ease and match their expectations; an unsuitable environment
can produce noise that causes communication barriers and interferes with the communication
Certain instincts, such as desire for privacy, familiarity and security, need to be satisfied. Careful
design of the workplace can meet these needs and in so doing improve communication,
productivity and morale. Natural and artificial light, colour, temperature, tables, chairs, desks,
lounges, plants, sound, artwork, magazines, and floor and wall coverings all have an impact on
peoples perception of an organization.
In the workplace, attention to punctuality or a disregard for it can make a strong nonverbal impact.
A disregard for punctuality may, like a sloppy appearance, merely reflect a casual attitude. However,
a deliberate decision to keep a contact waiting may be a way to communicate a negative message.
While punctuality is a matter of courtesy, attitudes towards its important vary between cultures. To
be kept waiting for a business appointment on a tropical island will not have the same significance
as a delay in some European counties where punctuality is highly regard.
The above discussion of the seven aspects of nonverbal communication provides a theoretical
analysis. However, to consider each aspect in isolation is artificial. In practice, what is sent as a total
message is a cluster of nonverbal cues in association with the spoken words
Touching is a nearly universal nonverbal aspect of social exchange between people. Almost everyone touches others when communicating face to face, though the type and meaning of touching interpersonal relations is highly variable. The touching that occurs as part of a greeting between two people, for example, will differ in type and meaning from the touching that occurs alongside prolonged interaction. Additionally, touching in social situations can take on many forms, for instance it can be short like an arm tap (a quick touch and release) or be a touch and hold, such as hand holding or an arm-around type touch. This study was concerned with the differences in the touching behaviors characteristic of short (two minutes or less) interactions in dyads: male-female, malemale and female-female on a college campus.
Third set of theorists add more dimensions to our understanding of the communication process:
communication is not linear, but circular; not just sending a message to be received, but producing
a response; not static, but dynamic.
Rhetorical theorists provide an important addition to a communication model for business
Many people caught up in the accuracy forget third crucial variable, producing the desired response
form their audience.
This model is circular, not linear.
In fact, perhaps the most important difference between business communication and other forms
of communication is this circular quality: your business communication effectiveness depends on
the result you achieve.
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