Communication is a vital aspect to everyday interactions with friends, family and co-workers; however, what we say is only one aspect of how we communicate. Nonverbal communication, through our body language, facial expressions and how we say the message, conveys as much or more meaning than what has been said. Nonverbal research topics may cover any number of components that make up nonverbal communication.
According to research completed by Albert H Mehrabian in the 1960s and 1970s body language accounts for 55 percent of the message being conveyed. Body language includes posture when delivering a message, the gestures used and even direct replacement of words such as American Sign Language. Other nonverbal body language clues include personal distance and the angle of the body when delivering a message. For example, a boss with crossed arms across a conference room will not be a positive image. If the boss gets close and pats you on the back while giving a compliment, you get an entirely different impression.
Facial expressions are the result of the muscle movements and angle of the face. When provided pictures of different facial expressions, we can name the emotion that is being conveyed such as glee, sadness, anger or fear. Facial expressions can also represent "masks," hiding our real emotions. For example, the salesman who is smiling at you may not be happy at all but irritated the sale has not been completed. Facial expressions can be combined with body language to convey even more complex emotions and messages.
Cross Cultural Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication differs from culture to culture. It is the culture that defines what body language, facial expressions and gestures mean. Since each culture is distinctive, it can making reading nonverbal communication clues difficult. For example, a woman from Japan may smile when discussing the death of a loved one. It is common in Japanese culture for a woman not to show pain so as not to bother others with grieving. In the United States this woman may seem cold because of her smile while discussing the death.
The Human Voice
The human voice conveys much more than just the words being said. The tone of the voice also revels the meaning of the words. A sarcastic tone of voice conveys the opposite meaning to what is being said. The voice can also give other nonverbal clues called paralanguage, which give other important clues to the listener. Paralanguage includes pronunciation, accents, fluency and whether the language being spoke is a native tongue. For example, we may be able to tell if a person is from New York City or North Carolina by the accent of the speaker.