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Verbal and Non-verbal Communication:

Verbal and Non-verbal Communication Course Director Dr. Ashwin Shetty

Types Of Communication :

Types Of Communication Broadly , communication may be divided into two areas – -Verbal communication -Non-verbal communication. Verbal communication , or communication through words , provides the opportunity for personal contact and two-way flow of information. A large part of our communication, whether at work or outside, is verbal in nature. Verbal communication in turn, may be divided into two areas – -Oral communication - Written communication.

Verbal Communications:

Verbal Communications Oral communication may be defined as a process whereby a speaker interacts verbally with one or more listeners , in order to influence the latter's behavior in some way or the other. Example – In a hospital, the nursing head doing a monthly meeting for the nursing staff. Written communication is a process whereby a writer interacts verbally with a receiver , in order to influence the latter's behavior. Example – The hospital administration sending a letter for a formal meeting to the nursing staff.

Non-Verbal Communication:

Non-Verbal Communication Non-verbal communication , on the other hand may be defined as communication without words. It refers to any way of conveying meanings without the use of verbal language. The game of "dumb charades" is a perfect example. Non-verbal communication is generally unintentional, unlike verbal communication. All of us tend to communicate silently and unknowingly send signals and messages by what we do, apart from what we say. Gestures, facial expressions, posture and the way we dress, are all part of non-verbal communication.

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Non-verbal communication can have a greater impact than verbal communication, since "how you say something" is sometimes more important than "what you say." Although non-verbal communication can affect both our personal and business relationships, it is particularly important in the workplace . Example-Your lecturer has asked you to prepare a presentation with ideas of improvement in hospital nursing service. You come prepared with the presentation. While presenting your lecturer starts looking at the time, looks out of the window, begins to frown. Before you finish ,you are cut short. In the above example , the lecturer, through his non-verbal behavior, conveys a message beyond the spoken word – that he is not happy with your presentation and ideas.

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Miscommunication through verbal messages could be avoided by following a few simple guidelines : Avoid Words with Multiple Meanings : Words sometimes tend to have different meanings in different cultures. Therefore, when communicating in a cross-cultural context, it is particularly important to avoid literal translation of words, since they might have a negative meaning in another culture . Example : If I ask you "What kind of shape are you in?", you might understand it to mean what kind of financial position you are in, whereas the intended meaning might have been "What kind of mental or physical shape are you in?". Therefore , when communicating verbally, it is important to use words that are precise, unambiguous and have a single accepted meaning.

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Ensure Clarity through Highly Specific Statements – Instead of describing an object or idea in general terms or in abstract language, use highly specific language to avoid a variety of interpretations. Example – If you are calling the IT support staff in your organization to fix a problem with your computer, instead of saying "My computer doesn't work", it is better to state in more precise terms that " I get a message saying that my computer is not responding."

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Avoid overuse of Jargon : Jargon refers to technical terms or specialized vocabulary. Every profession has its own jargon which only experts in that field can understand. Example -IT experts use terms like "computer architecture" which the layperson may not understand. The use of jargon depends on the audience with whom you are communicating. A certain amount of jargon may be permissible when writing a technical report for example, but should be avoided when communicating with a general audience, since the terms may not be understood. Above all, never use jargon just to impress your audience.

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Avoid Biased Language and Offensive Words Language has the power to arouse negative feelings, if it is not used with care. This can happen when the words used seem to be objective, but actually contain an intentional or unintentional bias. Example , referring to a co-worker as " wishy washy" if he is not quick in making a decision, could lead to misunderstanding and conflict.

Characteristics of Non-Verbal Communication:

Characteristics of Non-Verbal Communication Non-verbal Communication Cannot Be Avoided – While one can avoid verbal communication by refusing to speak or write, it is not possible to do the same with non-verbal communication. That is because non-verbal communication is not always intentional, unlike verbal messages, as pointed out earlier. Sometimes, silence itself may convey a lot of meaning . Example – A speaker making a presentation may find that the audience is not very interactive. Instead he notices people yawning during his presentation. At the end of the session, when he asks for some feedback, there is total silence. The message conveyed in the above example is that the audience is bored with the session. The silence indicates that they have not listened to the session and that the feedback is negative.

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Non-verbal Communication is Powerful – Non-verbal communication helps us to form first impressions and make judgments of others. First impressions generally tend to be lasting impressions . Example, Let us say you go for a job interview fifteen minutes late dressed in informal attire. When asked some questions, you avoid eye contact. This immediately reflects your attitude and the impression formed of you is that of a person who takes things casually, is insecure and lacks knowledge.

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Non-verbal Communication is Ambiguous – While precise words can be used in verbal communication to ensure that that the message is clearly understood, non-verbal communication is not always clear and easy to understand. Example , sitting back in a relaxed posture may be a signal of boredom or fatigue. Similarly, avoiding eye contact with your audience could mean that you either are nervous or guilty of something! Therefore it is not possible to accurately understand the messages conveyed by non-verbal behavior.

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Non-verbal Communication Cannot Express All Messages Non-verbal behavior can only express a person's feelings, attitudes, level of interest, liking or dislike for something. Certain messages about ideas or concepts can only be expressed through the spoken or written word. Example- A sales manager wanting to report that sales for the current year has exceeded targets, can only do so through a written report or oral presentation. If he is making an oral presentation, his non-verbal behavior can only indicate how pleased he is about the increase in sales.

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Non-verbal Communication Varies Across Cultures – While certain types of non-verbal behavior are universal, others may be different in different cultures. Examples – There are different rules regarding the appropriateness of the handshake in oriental and western cultures. Generally, in oriental cultures , any form of physical contact is not common and is interpreted as being intimate, while it is an accepted thing in western countries. Similarly, a nod of the head means yes in some cultures and no in other cultures.

Types of Non-Verbal Communication:

Types of Non-Verbal Communication 1. Kinesics – This is the most often studied and important area of non-verbal communication and refers to body movements of any kind . Different body movements can express inner states of emotion . Facial Expressions can convey feelings of surprise, happiness, anger and sadness. If you meet a long lost friend and say " I'm very happy to meet you again", but with a sad facial expression, it conveys the exact opposite meaning . Head Movements like nodding the head can convey interest, appreciation, agreement or understanding.

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Eye Movements, such as wide open pupils express feelings of surprise, excitement or even fear. The importance of eye contact with one's audience was pointed out earlier. Direct eye contact is an indication of intensity and interest, while lack of it can convey feelings of nervousness and guilt. Gestures, such as movement of the hands while giving a lecture or presentation indicates a high level of involvement in what you are saying. On the other hand, shuffling of the feet is a sign of nervousness and speaking with one's hands in one's pockets is considered to be casual or even rude.

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Body Shape and Posture – Body shape is not within one's control but can be stereotyped to convey certain meanings. For example, someone who is strong and muscular is generally thought to be athletic, as opposed to a person who is short and fat! Posture on the other hand is within our control. In formal settings such as job interviews or classroom settings, it is essential that you maintain an erect posture to convey that you are attentive, since slouching or a relaxed posture conveys a casual attitude. Physical Appearance – Our outward appearance, including the way we dress and the jewelry and make-up that we wear can convey an impression of formality or informality. Going to a job interview dressed in blue jeans or not sticking to a stipulated dress code at the workplace can convey that you are a rebel, non-conformist or a very casual person.

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2 . Proxemics – Proxemics is derived from the word "proximity" or closeness and is the communication term for personal space and distance. The space and distance which we choose to keep from people is also part of non-verbal communication. Each of us has our own inner and outer circles, which differ for different people. Our inner most circle is an "intimate space", into which we generally admit only select people such as family and close friends. Next comes a "personal space" which might include other friends and colleagues or coworkers. These two spaces involve communication of an informal nature. Most of us also have a "social and public" space , which includes official or workplace relationships, where the communication is of a more formal nature.

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3 . Time Language – This refers to the meaning or importance attached to time and varies between different people. One person may value time more than another. Similarly, time language also varies across cultures. In most western cultures for example, punctuality is considered to be important. Arriving late for a business meeting is inexcusable. In other cultures, it is more relaxed and time is not given that much importance. We convey messages to others through the time we spend on a work related activity or by the importance that we give to time. Arriving early at work or for a job interview shows interest, involvement and seriousness. Spending time with an employee and giving him suggestions on how to improve his performance shows interest and involvement in his career growth.

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4.Paralanguage – Para means "like" or "similar to", therefore paralanguage means "like language". Of all the forms of non-verbal communication, paralanguage is closest to verbal communication. It refers to the tone of voice with which something is said. In other words, it is "how" something is said, and not "what" is said. The tone of voice includes the pitch (high or low pitch), the pace (slow or fast) the emphasis on words and the volume (soft or loud) and can convey different moods and emotions, as mentioned earlier in this unit. Example : The statement "I practice good nursing communication " can be understood in different ways, depending on the emphasis on certain words. Saying " I practice good nursing communication" means that I alone practice it above anyone else. On the other hand, saying "I practice good nursing communication" could be interpreted to mean that you communicate particularly well in a nursing context, rather than in a general context . The important point to keep in mind regarding tone of voice is to avoid mixed signals – that is, making sure that what you say is consistent with how you say it.

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5 . Physical Context – This refers to the physical environment or surroundings within which we communicate and includes two aspects; 1 ) Color and Layout and 2) Design. Colors are known for their symbolic meaning and have associations with different feelings. For example, colors like black and grey are associated with death, mourning and negative feelings. Yellow and green are associated with more positive feelings. Of course, these can also vary across cultures . Layout in a work environment refers to the size of an office, or the arrangement of furniture. Design refers to the type of chairs, desks or carpeting. All these can convey status, formality or informality.

Channels of Communication:

Channels of Communication In the basic communication process, a sender puts a message in words and transmits it to a receiver who interprets the message. The medium the sender chooses to transmit the message is called the communication channel. Appropriate choice of communication channel helps senders communicate clearly and the message is received accurately by the receiver.

Communication Channels:

Communication Channels Communication channels could be classified based on three criteria – 1) whether the communication is oral, written or non-verbal, 2) the level of feedback and 3) the personal nature of the communication 1 . Two-way, face-to-face channels Here the communication is oral and non-verbal, immediate feedback is possible and the communication is of a highly personalized nature. This type of channel could take the form of one-to-one meetings ( a superior doing a performance appraisal with an employee), meetings involving small groups of people ( board meetings) or large gatherings ( a speaker making a presentation to a large audience ).

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The advantage of using this channel is that non-verbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice can be used to make the communication more effective. A second advantage is that immediate feedback is possible in the form of questions, clarifications or suggestions. Yet another advantage is the personal quality of the communication. This is especially true of one-to-one meetings, where problems and conflicts can be easily resolved. The disadvantage of this type of channel is the difficulty in getting people together and arranging face-to-face meetings. Personal meetings are also expensive and time-consuming, especially when people are separated by distances.

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2. Two way, but not face-to-face channels With the advent of new technologies, communication can now be two way, without being face to face, when distance makes such meetings impractical. Teleconferencing, telephone and email communication are all examples of this type of channel. In this case, the communication is purely oral, since non-verbal cues cannot be used to enhance the communication , in the absence of face-to-face contact. Immediate feedback is however , possible , as with the face-to-face channel, since the receiver can react immediately to the sender's telephone or email message. This type of communication is of an impersonal nature, due to lack of face-to-face contact.

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Teleconferencing is almost as good as face-to-face communication, since it enables two parties in different locations to see ( if there is video-conferencing facility) and speak to each other. Today, many large organizations make use of this technology. While teleconferencing has the advantage of saving time and costs involved in travel, it cannot replace face-to-face meetings completely. Some types of interaction such as brainstorming, negotiation, persuasion and problem solving can be conducted better through face-to-face meetings

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Telephone communication has the advantage of being able to contact people who would be impossible to reach in person. It is also relatively inexpensive, compared to face-to-face communication. The disadvantage is that it is hard to hold the listener's attention for too long. Email is another two-way, but not face-to-face channel that allows senders and receivers to send and respond to one another's messages almost instantaneously. Within an office, email is used as an alternative to telephone communication and personal meetings and is called the " intranet ." Email has the advantage of low cost, speed and the ability to send messages to several people anywhere in the world. The disadvantages are its impersonal nature and the lack of confidentiality, since the messages can be stored or passed on to others.

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One-way , not face-to-face channels – All forms of written communication mentioned earlier – letters, reports, memos, notices, etc. may be classified under this type of channel. Written communication is largely one-way communication, since there is usually no instantaneous feedback between the sender and the receiver. It is also purely verbal, since non-verbal communication is not possible, in the absence of face-to-face contact. It lacks the personal quality of face-to-face communication, although it could be personalized to an extent in some forms such as letters. For example, a sales letter addressed to a customer could be made highly personal, by addressing the customer by name and customizing a product to his needs.

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Communication channels should be selected with care, keeping in mind the requirement of the situation at hand, as well the inherent advantages and disadvantages of each channel. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a combination of channels, in order to make sure that the message reaches the sender. For example, providing a written research report along with a presentation on findings of a study, or making a follow-up phone call after sending an email message is bound to have more impact and to ensure that the message is well understood.

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