chapter  3
Nonverbal communication
Pages 39

THIS CHAPTER is CONCERNED with those forms and functions of face-to-face interaction that do not rely primarily on the content of what we say. Here we are concerned with how we make ourselves known through, for example, a look, gesture, postural shift or trembling voice. At the very outset, however, it should be stressed that distinguishing between verbal and nonverbal communication is not as conceptually straightforward as it might at first seem. Neither are the two operationally discrete (Bull, 2001a). For the most part in our everyday social contact verbal and nonverbal codes are complexly intertwined, each to varying degrees defining the other in the overall process of carrying meaning. That said, it is undoubtedly the case that, were we to step back from what we do when communicating, sufficient to bring the process into sharper focus, we would concentrate on those things said. As Benjamin Disraeli mused, ‘With words we govern man’. The look on our faces as those words are uttered, the glint in our eyes, dismissive gestures of the hand, the tension in our bodies, and such like, will most probably be overlooked. It is unlikely though that our listeners neglect these nonverbal nuances. Often nonverbal communication (NVC) proves decisive in conveying information and making judgements about others. Relating successfully to others demands the ability to display appropriate nonverbal behaviour but also to be sensitive to the nonverbal messages of others.