Business communication

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THE BASIC FORMS OF COMMUNICATION

As David Glass is well aware, effective communicators have many tools at their disposal when they want to get across a message. Whether writing or speaking, they know how to put together the words that will convey their meaning. They reinforce their words with gestures and actions. They look you in the eye, listen to what you have to say, and think about your feelings and needs. At the same time, they study your reactions, picking up the nuances of your response by watching your face and body, listening to your tone of voice, and evaluating your words. They absorb information just as efficiently as they transmit it, relying on both non-verbal and verbal cues.

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

The most basic form of communication is non-verbal. Anthropologists theorize that long before human beings used words to talk things over, our ancestors communicated with one another by using their bodies. They gritted their teeth to show anger; they smiled and touched one another to indicate affection. Although we have come a long way since those primitive times, we still use non-verbal cues to express superiority, dependence, dislike, respect, love, and other feelings.

Non-verbal communication differs from verbal communication in fundamental ways. For one thing, it is less structured, which makes it more difficult to study. A person cannot pick up a book on non-verbal language and master the vocabulary of gestures, expressions, and inflections that are common in our culture. We don't really know how people learn non-verbal behaviour. No one teaches a baby to cry or smile, yet these forms of self-expression are almost universal. Other types of non-verbal communication, such as the meaning of colors and certain gestures, vary from culture to culture.

Non-verbal communication also differs from verbal communication in terms of intent and spontaneity. We generally plan our words. When we say "please open the door," we have a conscious purpose. We think about the message, if only for a moment. But when we communicate non-verbally, we sometimes do so unconsciously. We don't mean to raise an eyebrow or blush. Those actions come naturally. Without our consent, our emotions are written all over our faces.

Why non-verbal communication is important

Although non-verbal communication is often unplanned, it has more impact than verbal communication. Non-verbal cues are especially important in conveying feelings; accounting for 93 percent of the emotional meaning that is exchanged in any interaction.

One advantage of non-verbal communication is its reliability. Most people can deceive us much more easily with their words than they can with their bodies. Words are relatively easy to control; body language, facial expressions, and vocal characteristics are not. By paying attention to these non-verbal cues, we can detect deception or affirm a speaker's honesty. Not surprisingly, we have more faith in non-verbal cues than we do in verbal messages. If a person says one thing but transmits a conflicting message non-verbally, we almost invariably believe the non-verbal signal. To a great degree, then, an individual's credibility as a communicator depends on non-verbal messages.

Non-verbal communication is important for another reason as well: It can be efficient from both the sender's and the receiver's standpoint. You can transmit a non-verbal message without even thinking about it, and your audience can register the meaning unconsciously. By the same token, when you have a conscious purpose, you can often achieve it more economically with a gesture than you can with words. A wave of the hand, a pat on the back, a winkall are streamlined expressions of thought.

The functions of non-verbal communication

Although non-verbal communication can stand alone, it frequently works with speech. Our words carry part of the message, and non-verbal signals carry the rest. Together, the two modes of expression make a powerful team, augmenting, reinforcing, and clarifying each other.

: 20/02/2007