Non-Verbal Communication Strategies: Efficacies and Implications for Effective Verbal Communication
*Md. Jahirul Islam
Communication is an integral part of human beings’ life. It is also thesuccessful accomplishment of communication that can bring the expected output. From the dawn of civilization, there was always apersistent effort on the part of human beings to find the convenient means of communication. Two dominant ways of communication, consequentially,have becomeindispensable, namely verbal and non-verbal communication. Between the two communication modes, the former is made either orally or in a written form, whereas the latter is carried out non-verbally, that is through the body language like gesture, posture and other means such as voice, space and time. There is a notion prevalent among some communication specialists that is non-verbal communication makes the major segment of the conveyed message when compared to its counterpart – verbal communication. And this very notion has gathered momentum from an empirical investigation by Doctor Albert Mehrabian. This paper will take that notion into the consideration to study the efficacy and importance of non-verbal communication in terms its facility for effective verbal communication.
Verbal and non-verbal Communication
Beforeentering into detail, an overview of verbal and non-verbal communication and of their communication conceptsis worth exploring.First of all, verbal communication (VC)means something which is verbalized either through utterance or writing to its target audience.Since inception, it has always been thriving and developing as a unique communication system. On the contrary, according to anthropologists, it is the non-verbal communication system which is considered to be in use even hundreds of years before human beings eventuallystarted using verbal communication. Non-verbal communication was right there since primitive agewhen human beings did not have a developed linguistic system; they used to communicate with each other through some sign systems and body language. To put thatsimply, non-verbal communication entails expressions other than verbalized words, ranging from hand gestures to facial expressions to body posture (Ford, 2001).
Pros and cons of non-verbal communication (NVC)
In its very nature and mode of operation in the communication system, non-verbal communication when compared to verbal communication is more abstract and creates more challenges on the cognitive faculty of a user. Hence, it is worthwhile to have a more specific look at non-verbal communication and its different dimensions. First of all, the Kinesics which is also alternatively known as the body language encompasses one’s outlook, facial expressions, eye contact, movement, gesture and posture. Secondly, it is the Paralinguistics which is also known as the language of voice is carried through the varying usages of the vocals namely quality, volume, pace, pitch, pronunciation and pauses. Then, the language of space that is Proxemics is another NVC which is basically different degreesof space, namely intimate, personal, social and public, where two or more people are talking among themselves for a variety of purposes. Last but not least, the Chronemics, it is the language of time which also plays a pivotal role in business communication where ‘Time is money’ in its most practical sense. All these means of non-verbal communication are sometimes overtly emphasized by some people, whereas the others are not ready or willing to give even due attention to them. Hence, a balanced approach is needed.
Efficacy of NVC for effective VC
Other than a few good speakers, every day across the globe, an overwhelming number of people struggle even to communicate their message effectively to their target audience. And, frequently, this incompetency in communication skills brings their failure to the arena where they do not have any options but to succeed. Those unsuccessful individuals might not be able to do something which they are supposed to do, but what about those very few successful speakers who are able to convey their message efficiently to their audience? It is often saidthat good speakers and successful deal makers,while speaking, use their body language to their advantage to facilitate their verbal language. For example, the Spanish word ‘Pa’lante’ which means to go forward is better explained and understood if its meaning is facilitated by using one’s hands stretched forward on the bent knee. Non-verbal communication strategies are not merely confined to some body postures or hand gestures. Rather, it has many unique means in its repertoire to complement a verbal speech. Maintaining a healthy eye-contact along with a pertinent distance while speaking can significantly contribute to good engagement of one’s audience and up-keeping the norms of speech.A proper beginning andending of a presentation or formal talk in the business arena will certainly be helpful to create a positive vibe about that very presenter in the mind of his/her audience. Hence, the efficacy of non-verbal language in terms of facilitating the verbal communication is apparent.NVC should beapplied properly while establishing communication for different purposes.
Implications of NVC for effective VC
The implications of NVC for effective VC were always there despite the inevitability of the latter in the daily life communication. It is not possible for the common people to have the gift of the gab like some of the best speakers, namely Adolf Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, etc., but they can use the NVC strategies to make their uttered words more meaningful and comprehensible to their audience. Furthermore, in order to keep pace with the changing needs and realities of the modern world, one should know how to use NVC to their utmost advantage. There are also instances that a person who is a good orator and can communicate their message successfully certainly uses the non-verbal means of communication from their repertoire with a degree of ease and accuracy. They use their hands to make a gesture, make different expressions on their face and vary their voice to give more stress to produce different effects for the uttered words. They also sometimes raise their voice and lower it when required. A good speaker also knows his/her audience hence maintains the space and time to show respect for the others. In a diversified arena like business, education, electronic media, society, etc. there are still great implications for the NVC to facilitate VC, and all the tools of NVC can be used in these areas to produce the desired result, of course, not to the exclusion of verbal communication. Hence, it can be said that without conflicting each other, both VC and NVC can intermingle to produce effective communication. At this stage, it is worthwhile to discuss the implications of NVC within a classroom which is one of the abovementioned dimensions where NVC can be really effective and successful if promoted.
Implications of NVC for Classroom
Within the four walls of a classroom, NVC, namely gesture, posture, mime and body language can be promoted to prevent communication breakdown to facilitate verbal communication between the teachers and students, and students to students. Teachers can use NVC to make the meaning of a new word or phraseclear to the students. For example, he can teach the meaning of phrasal verb ‘lean against’ by showing them he is standing with the support from a wall and can ask them later to guess the meaning of that phrase.It is expected that with the help that body language, they will be able to understand the meaning of that phrasal verb. And in this way, students will also be able to retain that new word or phrase for a long period of time in their brain and the same strategy can also be applied for teachingother thousands ofwords. The students, on the other hand, can get the benefit of using NVC in many areas of their academic life. For giving a good presentation or speech, they must learn the art of using their body language to facilitate their speech to their target audience. Furthermore, students can also resort to NVC when they feel their repertoire of verbal communication is not sufficient enough to continue the conversation. Hence, in these ways and the like, both the teachers and students can take clear advantage of NVC to facilitate verbal communication in the teaching and learning discourse.
To conclude, it can be said that the figure regarding the message conveyed by verbal (7%) and non-verbal elements (93%) proposed by Dr. Albert’s empirical investigationmay still be attracting controversial discussions and misleading conclusions. However, there might be no denying that non-verbal communication strategies to a significant extent complement the intendedcommunication intents and reinforce verbal communication to make it more effective. And it is also high time to think seriously regarding the issue of‘Are we yet to take the offered advantages of NVC to facilitate VC and if we are to do so, then why are we?’It is time for you to reflect on this question and for me to stop the writing!
(*JI Rono holds an M.A in English Literature from National University and M.A in ELT from the East West University. Mr. Rono is a Language Instructor of Biman Airlines Training Center and BimanFlight Catering Center. He is a life time member of Bangladesh English Language Teaching Association (BELTA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Ford, J. K. (2001). Implications for Non-Verbal Communication and Conducting Gesture. The Choral Journal, 42(1), 17-23. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.