DEFINITION OF NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Posted by Emmanuel Mgina on 08:58 with No comments
There are scores of definitions that researchers and scholars use to define non-verbal communication. Among the definitions we have studied, we chose and developed the points that seemed essential to us with respect to the frame of interpretation that is given for this essay.
Non-verbal communication consists of all the messages other than words that are used in communication. In oral communication, these symbolic messages are transferred by means of intonation, tone of voice, vocally produced noises, body posture, body gestures, facial expressions or pauses 
When individuals speak, they normally do not confine themselves to the mere emission of words. A great deal of meaning is conveyed by non-verbal means which always accompany oral discourse – intended or not. In other words, a spoken message is always sent on two levels simultaneously, verbal and non-verbal.
Non-verbal behaviour predates verbal communication because individuals, since birth, rely first on non-verbal means to express themselves. This innate character of non-verbal behaviour is important in communication. Even before a sentence is uttered, the hearer observes the body gestures and facial expressions of the speaker, trying to make sense of these symbolic messages. They seem to be trustable because they are mostly unconscious and part of every-day behaviour. People assume that non-verbal actions do not lie and therefore they tend to believe the non-verbal message when a verbal message contradicts it. This was proven in tests in which subjects were asked to react to sentences that appeared friendly and inviting when reading them but were spoken angrily. In short, people try to make sense of the non-verbal behaviour of others by attaching meaning to what they observe them doing. Consequently, these symbolic messages help the hearer to interpret the speaker’s intention and this indicates the importance of non-verbal communication in the field of interpretation. In daily conversations it often happens that we do not understand what the other person wants to say. Thus we ask questions such as “What do you mean by this” so that the speaker clarifies his message. The interpreter is deprived of this possibility and therefore has to fall back on other means allowing him to understand the speaker. This is the moment when non-verbal communication comes in, giving him subtle hints on how the message is to be understood.
From the speaker’s point of view, however, there are numerous functions of non-verbal behaviour – even if he or she is not aware of them. Human beings use non-verbal means to persuade or to control others, to clarify or embellish things, to stress, complement, regulate and repeat verbal expressions. They can also be used to substitute verbal expression, as this is the case with several body gestures . Non-verbal communication is emotionally expressive and so any discourse appealing to the receiver’s emotions has a persuasive impact.
Although many non-verbal means are innate and universal, (i.e. people in different cultures have a common understanding of these cues), the contribution of non-verbal communication to the total meaning of a discourse can be culturally determined and differ in different countries