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Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but Words…: The Power of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Introduction

Society and civilization exist solely due to human communication which is simultaneously the cause, product, and foundation of the civilized human world known today. Without the ability to exchange information – ideas, thoughts, and emotions – no progress of delineation from the basic biological system of animal species would have been attainable by humans. While the area of physical power is limited to the natural constraints of one’s body, communication stands as a much more versatile medium where it is the individual’s responsibility to be educated on the matter. People engage in the exchange of information constantly throughout their lives, and this phenomenon is independent of one’s personality, will, education, or ethnicity, thus rendering communication a relevant subject for any human being. Mastery and proper understanding of verbal and nonverbal communication is the key to successful coexistence with other people.

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Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the most basic type of communication, commonly thought of by people as the primary source of information exchange. Verbal communication refers to the use of language, both written and spoken, to achieve numerous potential goals, most prevalent of which is communication itself (Rocci & de Saussure, 2016). This concept encapsulates all semantic units of a language used in speech: words, sentences, and texts. These bearers of information contain solidified meaning, a set of definitions determining the conclusion a listener may infer based on the speaker’s act of verbal communication. However, certain nuances, circumstances, principles, and factors may alter one’s perception of an individual’s speech.

Subjectiveness

Subjectiveness persists in the essence of human communication, but this trait does not hinder the progress of discourse. Despite the static nature of the present language semantics, it is to be clarified that the assignment of any meaning to the majority of the words is arbitrary and symbolic (Wood, 2020). This signifies that to achieve proper communication, it is important to understand the variability in interpreting one’s speech. The meaning encoded by the speaker within their speech and intended to be decoded by the recipient is frequently misinterpreted due to the reasons of cultural, regional, educational, and personal differences of individuals within the same language (Wood, 2020). Therefore, to succeed in transferring a message in this regard, one must strive to use only the words lacking double meaning and ambiguous connotations that are common to confuse interpretation.

Cultural Imprint

The matter of cultural impact on human communication is a crucial issue in the analysis of any form of communication. As Fuchs (2020) states, the national values of any given culture are gradually ingrained in the language of that culture and, more importantly, within the linguistic consciousness of its speakers. The conclusion that this notion implies is that in the multicultural world, representatives of various ethnical backgrounds transfer the mindsets they’ve inherited from their mother tongue to the foreign language that they speak. For example, values of unflappable time management are characteristic of the Mexican culture, family union and intimacy are an outlook of the African society, and modesty is cherished in Japan (Wood, 2020). These cultural features must be considered when addressing an individual of any foreign culture, because the arbitrariness of the language combined with the differences present in the national conscience, and linguistic filter of an individual may form an obstacle in conveying one’s thoughts.

The focus of the Speech

Various features of the communication act participants may gain attention as the conversation progresses. Perception shaping is a concept of verbal communication that denotes prioritizing certain features of an individual when addressing or describing them and neglecting other traits, contorting one’s perception of a person’s personality (Wood, 2020). It must be noted that focusing on a certain group of features is not in itself a form of mistreatment, but rather a naturally occurring part of communication. Due to varying personal differences in perception, facets of an individual’s social status, culture, and personality are more distinguishable to some people than the rest. Instead of creating biases, this phenomenon promotes relationship development through curiosity and observation. For example, numerous occasions of one of the speakers mentioning the software engineering background of another individual may invite the third party interested in the field to engage in a mutually beneficial conversation regarding the topic. Consequently, appropriate use and detection of perception shaping allow one to connect with others through the cues of verbal communication and establish a vital relationship.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication presents a vast, separate medium of communication as opposed to its verbal counterpart. It may potentially be misperceived as a less significant part of discourse, but its importance becomes evident through closer inspection. As stated by Wood (2020), nonverbal communication signifies all aspects of information exchange besides words. This includes certain traits of uttered speech, such as tone, inflection, pitch, and volume. Other components of nonverbal speech are kinesics, haptics, physical appearance.

Characteristic Traits of Nonverbal Communication

Unique features of nonverbal communication help further outline and highlight its independence in the framework of communication. Nonverbal communication is perceived to be more credible and sincere which is a crucial feature to note (Wood, 2020). This fact predisposes manipulative individuals to imitate signs and symbols of nonverbal communication with the intention of deception and malevolent flattery. In return, a trend of this sort forces most members of society to be wary of excessive body gestures, posture changes, and mimics in an attempt to avert these manipulative acts. One must carefully review their behavior in nonverbal communication to ensure that none of the signals sent by their acts of communication are misinterpreted as flattering, mischievous, insidious, or inappropriate. Nonetheless, it is also vital not to overanalyze the nonverbal signs shown by others, as unintentionality is another trait of nonverbal communication. Forcing superfluous meaning into minor body movements of a person and attempting to definitively determine one’s intentions will not lead to a successful act of information exchange because nonverbal communication is arbitrary and, thus, ambiguous.

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Types of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is further manifested by specific, independent forms of communication, each possessing a set of unique traits. Kinesics covers body motions and position, as well as facial expressions (Wood, 2020). Various emotions and statements are expressed through the body and facial motions, such as confidence, resentment, cowardice, anger, happiness, confusion, and this expression is more vivid than that of verbal communication. Hand gestures often direct the flow of the dialogue, help transfer ideas more efficiently, and serve as a way of presenting one’s personality (Sternberg & Kostić, 2020). Thus, it is evident that nonverbal communication actively enhances the effectiveness and quality of verbal communication, turning it into an imperative asset of any communication act.

Kinesics is additionally supplemented by haptics, a separate type of nonverbal communication close in nature. Haptics refers to all body movements within the act of communication that involve touching another person (Wood, 2020). As it is presumable, haptics also supplements any act of verbal communication, and it is an important goal to involve the sense of touch in conversations. This serves to enhance or modify the meaning presented through speech, as well as introduce new meaning. When establishing a friendly relationship, the use of body touches and hugging in conversation is an instrument that aids in expressing trust and intimacy.

Physical appearance is an equal part of the system of nonverbal communication, as one’s clothes, facial and body features, and personal hygiene affect the opinion others form regarding their personality, intentions, as well as messages they communicate. Clean clothes, a fit body, proper hygiene, and a tasteful haircut alongside general tidiness make the foundation of the appeal that could be derived through nonverbal communication of physical appearance. The peculiarity of the physical appearance aspect lies within the fact that deteriorating one’s appearance never serves any positive purpose or helps demonstrate signs in one’s favor. Therefore, balance and positiveness must be maintained in the physical appearance to increase the chances of successful verbal communication and ensure the desired outcome of the interactions with people.

Governing Rules and Principles of Nonverbal Communication

To establish a successful and clear act of nonverbal communication and create an opportunity for both parties to achieve mutual understanding’s messages, it is essential to follow a system of guidelines. Nonverbal communication monitoring is the practice of analyzing and arranging one’s behavior in nonverbal communication (Wood, 2020). It is performed following the principle of clarity and concision and allows for straightforward, definitive nonverbal communication, decreasing the chances of miscommunication and misinterpretation. By adjusting the frequency and fashion of one’s body movements, posture, and facial expressions, as well as one’s goals and circumstances of the communication act, it is possible to achieve successful communication.

Some key principles assist in organizing the process of nonverbal communication. One of the principles of nonverbal communication is personal qualifications, which is the basic feature that restates the arbitrariness of nonverbal communication and its ambiguity of interpretation (Wood, 2020). As it is clear that most observations regarding the signals posed through nonverbal communication are merely comprehensive estimates of their meanings, it must be acknowledged that personal cases vary greatly. Upbringing, family wellbeing, ethnic background, education, and personal traits modify and shape the language of nonverbal communication to a substantial extent, frequently disproving the perceived meanings of many signs. What one might perceive as a sigh of burden may prove to simply be the body’s reaction to lack of oxygen and an attempt to recover it. Constant yawning should not be misunderstood as a display of boredom and disrespect, as it is merely a theorization given that a clear medical explanation of its nature is yet to be made (Sternberg & Kostić 2020). As a result, these ideas form the conclusion that, before assuming the meaning of a nonverbal communication signal, one must attentively observe the circumstances of the situation, analyze the individual’s personality features and the nature of their relationship, and only then assume the meaning of the signal.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it must be restated that verbal and nonverbal communication forms the foundation of society and civilization. The two types of communication consist of various aspects, principles, and guidelines, learning which is a priority if one aims to establish and maintain successful communication with other people. Inspecting the peculiarities of verbal communication, exploring the possible ambiguity, as well as becoming aware of the arbitrary nature and personal variety of nonverbal communication is the key to proper information exchange. Directing and controlling one’s signals by using clear language combined with learning the rules of perception of other people’s behavior is the key to successful coexistence with other people.

References

Fuchs, C. (2020). Communication and capitalism: A critical theory. University of Westminster Press.

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Rocci, A. & de Saussure, L. (2016). Verbal communication. Walter de Gruyter.

Sternberg, R. & Kostić, A. (Eds.). (2020). Social intelligence and nonverbal communication. Palgrave Macmillan

Wood, J. (2020). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but Words…: The Power of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication." April 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/sticks-and-stones-can-break-my-bones-but-words-the-power-of-verbal-and-nonverbal-communication/.

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