Non-verbal ‘speech’ expresses volumesThursday, April 07, 2011 By Megan Quick
“You say it best, when you say nothing at all.”—Alison Krauss Statistics show this is more than just a song lyric. According to slideshare.net, 50 percent of communication is body language, while 40 percent is tone of voice and only 10 percent is based on the actual words spoken. Every day, almost every second of every day, we’re sending messages to people. Whether we realize it or not, our body is doing the talking. “We send so many messages unintentionally; it’s important to have awareness of them,” Communications teacher Emma Hantelmann says. There are seven ways to categorize nonverbal communication, according to the Communications text used here. Appearance, facial expression, eye contact, posture, gestures, space and voice are the components that make up the world of silent messages. “Your eyes are a really important one,” Hantelmann said. “You can’t fake that and you’re eyes tell so much.” We may be more aware of some cues more than others, like appearance for instance. Psychology.about.com says that choices we make about color, clothing and hairstyle alter people’s reactions and judgments towards us. “I think a lot of people don’t consider their appearance as much as they should. We all think we’re not being judged, but we are,” Hantelmann said. Even if we don’t want to admit it, we all judge people based on a first impression. If we haven’t heard that person talk, we form a perception of what they’re like based on what we can see, which is how they’re dressed and their appearance. “When I walk into a room, I always tend to sit by people who have the same style as me,” senior Kennedy Wolf says. We do have the power to control certain forms of nonverbal messages, but only to a certain extent. “You can control your facial expressions better than tone of voice,” psychology teacher Matt Parker says. “That’s how you can tell if someone’s lying, listen to their tone of voice.” Without these forms of communication, things we say would be dull and meaningless. As a parent lectures her child, it would be completely ineffective without strict tone of voice, stern facial expressions and harsh gestures. The importance of nonverbal cues are extreme. “The cliché ‘actions speak louder than words’ is definitely true,” Hantelmann says. While all of these cues express some sort of emotion, they can also uncover physical attraction toward someone. When people encounter someone they are attracted to physically, the rate of blinking increases and pupils dilate, according to psychology.about.com. Another way people show attraction is through a smile. A smile is a universal way of showing acceptance and happiness. Essortment.com says that when a smile reaches your eyes then it is genuine and says “you’re welcome to come closer.” The website goes on to say that when we’re in a conversation with someone we like, we unconsciously turn our bodies to face them. If we can’t face them directly, we will at least angle our body toward them as best we can. Another thing that often goes consciously unnoticed is open and upright palms, meaning the person is open to you. If you notice someone doing this, it’s a good sign. On the note of good signs, usually girls, sometimes guys, will lick their lips briefly and bite their lower lips if they’re interested. Along with that comes brief quick touching on the shoulder or back and tilting the head to the side when listening to conversation. “We send unintentional messages all the time and that creates problems in conversations and in relationships,” Hantelmann said. “It becomes a major problem. If you’re talking to someone and they sigh, you see them as being bored, but really they could just be tired.” Teachers are especially sensitive to kids and their body language. They’re the ones who see the things students don’t even realize that they’re doing. “Teachers see body language all the time, especially the bored look. All teachers know that one,” Parker said. In addition to the bored look, Parker also commonly sees sleeping, sneers, guilty faces and up-to-no-good sounds and expressions. “It’s an outward reflection about what’s going on inside your mind,” Parker said.