I believe that nonverbal communication is just as critical as word choice. The language our body conveys can easily enhance or conflict with the things we say. With our eyes, we can show disdain for the person we are talking to, even when saying something pleasant or cheerful. We can also look lovingly into someone’s eyes while remaining uninterested in their actual words. Crossing our arms can display that we are upset while speaking to a coworker or loved one. A smile can be either sincere and convey joy or deceitful and show false joy. Even close proximity or distance will reveal if we feel comfortable or not with another person or group. One of the most difficult tasks in encoding a message is what the nonverbal cues are saying. “Although people often explain and reveal emotions verbally, nonverbal signals communicate a great part of their emotional experience” (Devito, 2013). The emotional aspect of conversation is crucially important because it reveals the unsaid portion of the message. I think that it’s difficult, but very possible, to correctly interpret the nonverbal gestures in communication. One sociologist suggests to “listen to your gut. It's your way of taking in and interpreting everything you see and hear from your coworker's body language, movement, the tone of voice, words, and whether all of these components of communication match” (Williams, 2006). Although, many times we can utilize our gut instinct and be wrong about reading a person correctly. This leads me to believe that this skill can be developed, and once developed, it can help make our gut a more accurate assessor. Hindsight is always 20/20, so as we look back and reflect on the totality of someone’s message, both verbal and nonverbal, we learn a great deal about everything they were communicating. Thus, one of the best ways to sharpen this skill is practicing through repetition. Intentionally trying to match the body language with the actual words in a conversation can be graded upon retrospect. Self evaluation, as well as second opinions, can help increase the ability to correctly interpret nonverbal behavior. The better we become at understanding nonverbal communication accurately the more effective we will be in the communication process.
Devito, J. A. (2013). Essentials of Human Communication (8th Edition). Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions.