In this essay I hope to explain the many ways a Construction graduate will have to employ non-verbal communication techniques in their roles at work.
I will also outline how they can develop and employ these skills with the use of examples.
Non-Verbal communication is made up of a number of items. The two main sections are Body Language and Para-linguistics.
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, consisting of body pose, gestures, and eye movements. It is often said that human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves. Body language can provide clues to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, besides many other cues. Body language can be carried out from a number of areas of the body including:
- Head Movement
- Gestures (Hands, Arms)
- Dress Code
The main area for giving away signs is the face. A lot can be read from the way a persons face moves when they are speaking.
A lot can be read from a persons eyes as well. Someone could be trying to lie and subconsciously their eyes give it away that they are lying.
The rest of the body will also tell a lot about a person, such as head movements, hand movement and leg/feet movements. Posture can be a major indicator as to if someone is interested or bored in what is occurring.
Dress code will also be considered as body language. For instance, if a new graduate is attending a job interview for a construction company, and they turn up in jeans and a t-shirt, this would usually convey that they are not that interested in getting the job, as usually most people would dress smartly in a suit etc.
Examples of Body Language:
- Hands on knees - indicates readiness.
- Hands on hips - indicates impatience or possiblly the person is angry
- Lock your hands behind your back - indicates self-control.
- Locked hands behind head - states confidence.
- Sitting with a leg over the arm of the chair - suggests indifference.
- Legs and feet pointed in a particular direction - the direction where more interest is felt.
- Crossed arms - indicates submissiveness.
Another area of body language is Proxemics. Proxemics is the study of how people use and perceive the physical space around them. The space between the sender and the receiver of a message influences the way the message is interpreted. The perception and use of space varies significantly across cultures and different settings within cultures. Space in nonverbal communication may be divided into four main categories: intimate, social, personal, and public space.
The term territoriality is still used in the study of proxemics to explain human behavior regarding personal space.
"Hargie & Dickson (2004, p.69)" identify 4 such territories:
- "Primary territory: this refers to an area that is associated with someone who has exclusive use of it. For example, a house that others cannot enter without the owner's permission.
- Secondary territory: unlike the previous type, there is no "right" to occupancy, but people may still feel some degree of ownership of a particular space. For example, someone may sit in the same seat on train every day and feel aggrieved if someone else sits there.
- Public territory: this refers to an area that is available to all, but only for a set period, such as a parking space or a seat in a library. Although people have only a limited claim over that space, they often exceed that claim. For example, it was found that people take longer to leave a parking space when someone is waiting to take that space.
- Interaction territory: this is space created by others when they are interacting. For example, when a group is talking to each other on a footpath, others will walk around the group rather than disturb it."
Paralinguistic communication is the study of voice and how words are said. When we open our mouths we reveal all kinds of things about ourselves that have nothing at all to do with the words we are uttering and manipulating the nonverbal elements of our message can completely change its meaning.
Paralinguistic cues refer to everything having to do with speech for the words we actually utter. These may be a bit subtler other forms of nonverbal behaviours in communicating our intent. Certainly a booming, yelling voice is not subtle. However, a firm that conveys conviction is more effective than a pointing finger, big gestures, or the invasion of one's personal space.
Vocal cues include:
How many words per minute?
In the United States, people from the north-east speak at a faster rate than Southerners, and generally men speak faster than women. Rapid rates of speech have been correlated with composure and self-assurance.
How loud or soft is the voice?
Researchers have found that confidence, assertiveness, and boldness are reflected in louder speech.
Is the voice high or low in pitch?
A high-pitched voice can sound squeaky and childlike. We associate lower pitches with greater credibility. More men are born with low-baritone or bass-pitched voices. They rarely use the highest level of pitch that women use.
Inflection refers to variations in pitch. How song-like does someone sound? For example we would expect inflection in a voice such as a storyteller reading a book to children. Too much inflection however, in other contexts such as the business world, can undermine credibility. In contrast, we are put to sleep by speakers who employ a monotonic voice, and they are perceived as less charismatic.
Quality generally refers to those vocal characteristics that allow you to differentiate one voice from another. Is the voice - small, feminine, or timid; thin, throaty, or fronted; tense, flat, grating, nasal, harsh, or shrill?
All of these represent different combinations of rate, pitch, and volume.
How emphatic are the statements?
For example, "I really want you to do it now!" The intensity can be a direct indicator of the speaker's passion and commitment or lack of it!
Silence can speak Volumes. It can provide thinking time, hurt another person, isolate oneself, prevent communication, convey feelings, create personal distance, signal respect and reverence, provide greater opportunity for increasing awareness of the self and others, accent or emphasize certain messages, say nothing, allow the speaker to explore his or her own thoughts and feelings, or create interpersonal distance. The Amish call this "shunning." Pausing is a form of silence that can be motivated by anxiety. It also impacts the rhythm and cadence or flow of the speech.
Paralinguistic communication will be a major factor for graduates in the workplace. This aspect of communication will help them to earn respect from more senior members in the company. I believe that it will be a big factor early on in a graduates career, as it will help either show that they are confident about the topic they are explaining, or it will show that they do not know what they talking about as they are not confident in talking about it.
Tips for successful nonverbal communication:
Take a time out if you're feeling overwhelmed by stress. Stress compromises your ability to communicate. When you're stressed, you're more likely to misread other people, send off confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals. Take a moment to calm down before you jump back into a conversation. Once you've regained your emotional equilibrium, you'll be better equipped to deal with the situation in a positive way.
Pay attention to inconsistencies. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said. If you get the feeling that someone isn't being honest or that something is "off," you may be picking up on a mismatch between verbal and nonverbal cues. Is the person is saying one thing, and their body language something else? For example, are they telling you "yes" while shaking their head no?
Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don't read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you are sending and receiving, from eye contact to tone of voice and body language.
Nonverbal communication and body language: Common mistakes
You're not subtle.
Be objective about your own observations to make sure you aren't offending others by broadly mimicking their speech or behaviour. Most people instinctively send and interpret nonverbal signals all the time, don't assume you're the only one who's aware of nonverbal undercurrents.
Thinking you can bluff by deliberately altering your body language can do more harm than good. Unless you're a proficient actor, it will be hard to overcome your body's inability to lie. There will always be mixed messages, signs that your channels of communication are not congruent. It's a prime example of leakage, and something others will detect, one way or another.
You rush to accuse based on body language alone. Incorrect accusations based on erroneous observations can be embarrassing and damaging and take a long time to overcome. Always verify your interpretation with another communications channel before rushing in. You could say something like, "I get the feeling you're uncomfortable with this course of action. Would you like to add something to the discussion?" This should draw out the real message and force the individual to come clean or to adjust his or her body language.
"From the - BNET Business Network"
Improving your nonverbal communication skills
Before you can improve your nonverbal communication skills, you need to figure out what you're doing right and where there is room for improvement. The most effective method is to observe yourself in action:
Video camera - Videotape a conversation between you and a partner. Set the camera to record both of you at the same time, so you can observe the nonverbal back-and-forth. When you watch the recording, focus on any discrepancies between your verbal and nonverbal communication.
Digital camera - Ask someone to take a series of photos of you while you're talking to someone else. As you look through the photos, focus on you and the other person's body language, facial expressions, and gestures.
Audio recorder - Record a conversation between you and a friend or family member. As you listen to the recording afterwards, concentrate on the way things are said, rather than the words. Pay attention to tone, timing, pace, and other sounds.
Evaluating your nonverbal communication skills
As you watch or listen to the recordings, ask yourself the following questions:
Is this source of connection missing, too intense, or just right in yourself or in the person you are looking at?
What is your face showing? Is it mask-like and unexpressive, or emotionally present and filled with interest? What do you see as you look into the faces of others?
Tone of voice
Does your voice project warmth, confidence, and delight, or is it strained and blocked? What do you hear as you listen to other people?
Posture and gesture
Does your body look still and immobile, or relaxed? Sensing the degree of tension in your shoulders and jaw answers this question. What do you observe about the degree of tension or relaxation in the body of the person you are speaking to?
Remember, what feels good is relative. How do you like to be touched? Who do you like to have touching you? Is the difference between what you like and what the other person likes obvious to you?
Do you or the person you are communicating with seem flat, cool, and disinterested, or over-the-top and melodramatic? Again, this has as much to do with what feels good to the other person as it does with what you personally prefer.
Timing and pace
What happens when you or someone you care about makes an important statement? Does a responsenot necessarily verbalcome too quickly or too slowly? Is there an easy flow of information back and forth?
Do you use sounds to indicate that you are attending to the other person? Do you pick up on sounds from others that indicate their caring or concern for you?
From carrying out this essay I can relate to my time on placement and how I can use this information when I graduate myself. I can now see certain aspects where I could have improved my body language and paralinguistics when I was at site meetings. I believe that if I did improve these aspects I would have been taken more seriously sooner, rather than having to take time to earn respect.
When I go out into the construction industry as a graduate I will evaluate my non-verbal skills and work on improving these. I believe that, if I can successfully do this, I can improve my presence at site meetings, and also could use these techniques to gain promotion.
- Class Notes.
- Management Processes and Functions - Michael Armstrong - 1990 (Chapter 13 - Communicating skills)
- BNET Business Network - www.bnet.com
- The Language of Emotional Intelligence, by Jeanne Segal
- Non-verbal communication / edited by R.A. Hinde - Hinde, Robert A. (Robert Aubrey), 1923
- Body language / by Julius Fast - Fast, Julius
- Communication skills for effective management - Owen Hargie, David Dickson