pertains to the course of communication that involves the transfer and receipt of messages that are not related to the use of words (Knapp and Hall, 2007). The messages transferred to the listener are generally associated with body language, as well as gestures, posture, external appearance or clothing, facial manifestations and even hairstyles. Nonverbal communication is thus strongly influenced by visual messages which symbolize particular meanings to the listener. Other paralanguage forms of nonverbal communication include the quality of the speaker’s voice and his style of speaking. It should be noted that any features related to stress and rhythm of the speaker’s voice may also influence how a listener receives a speaker’s message.
In the workplace, nonverbal communications play an important role in the interactions among co-workers, as well as the interrelationship between supervisor and his subordinate. It is well known that the employees at a workplace need to work together and cooperate in order to achieve the status of a productive company. Cooperation and harmony are thus closely related to the trust and confidence of each employee to himself and to his co-workers and these factors are often influenced by both verbal and nonverbal communications among individuals in the workplace (Ottenheimer, 2007).
It should be understood that even if the right phrases and words were expressed by an individual, the actual message of the spoken words and sentences are often changed by the accompanying nonverbal signals that the speaker is showing to the listener. These nonverbal signs may or may not be consciously being shown yet it is a fact that these nonverbal signs often modify the message that is sent out to the listener.
a) In a meeting at my workplace, our supervisor was suggesting some changes to the organization and functioning of our small company. Changes in our company are not a common occurrence, hence there was some shock among the members of the workplace as soon as the supervisor mentioned about the plan of modifying particular functions of specific members of the office. I noticed that our supervisor was a bit uptight while he was proceeding to describe the changes that he would implement at the workplace.
His voice was a bit hard and had a lower tone, which I usually do not hear during regular peaceful workdays. In addition, the supervisor was sweating in his forehead hence this gave me two impressions. Firstly, he was nervous, possibly because he knew that the topic he was discussing with the members of the workforce was not the best topic to talk about. Secondly, I felt that our supervisor was not sure about his plan and he just wants to try out this new plan in order to determine whether this plan is indeed the right action to perform in order to solve the problem. On the other hand, my co-workers were quiet while listening to our supervisor and there was not a single smile or voice from my co-workers.
b) When our supervisor finished explaining his plan of changing specific functions of particular individuals in our workplace, there were contradictions that came from some members of the office. One co-worker asked why our supervisor came up with this plan.
However, I also noticed that this particular co-worker gave out his question with a low voice, too, just the same as our supervisor and this low voice made me feel that our co-worker was not pleased and was actually upset over the changes that the supervisor was planning to implement. At this point, the supervisor tried to explain his side of the plan with a normal pitched voice and this made our co-worker listen and understand why such changes would be implemented in our workplace, and that is to increase the sales of the company.
c) Nonverbal communications strongly influence the success or failure of communications because it provides additional senses and emotions to the messages that are being exchanged between individuals, including the sense of sight and even sound (Hargie and Dickson, 2004). For example, it is easier to talk to a person who speaks in a soft voice than deal with a person who speaks with a very loud voice.
d) The use words in communication often involves meanings hence individuals should be careful with their choice of words because there a certain words that are linked to denotations or connotations. For example, if a co-worker calls a female co-worker a queen, this may either mean that she is very productive and knowledgeable at work, or this may mean that she is only good for bossing people around. Hence the use of words may be tricky and an individual should be cautious when describing specific individuals and issues at the workplace.
e) An effective listening technique that may be employed by a manager is to carry an attentive facial expression while hearing out a subordinate’s message. In addition, a manager may also try to nod to the employee every now and then, in order to let the employee feel that he is welcome to express his ideas and concerns to his supervisor. The nodding of the manager does not mean that he agrees to everything that the subordinate says, but it means that he is listening to what the subordinate is saying.
Conclusion: Nonverbal communication is generally associated with body language, gestures and posture as well as paralanguage forms that influence the success or failure of exchanges between individuals because it provides additional senses and emotions to the messages that are being sent out to other individuals. Nonverbal communications play an important role in the interactions among co-workers, as well as the interrelationship between supervisor and his subordinate because it positive communications promote cooperation and harmony between individuals.
Hargie O and Dickson D (2004): Skilled interpersonal communication: Research, theory and practice. Hove: Routledge Publishers.
Knapp ML and Hall JA (2007): Nonverbal communication in human interaction, 5th ed. Wadsworth: Thomas Learning.
Ottenheimer HJ (2007): The anthropology of language: An introduction to linguistic anthropology, Kansas State: Thomson Wadsworth.