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Reﬂection Paper #8 Liz Horgan December 1, 2009 COMM 612 Leanne Pupchek
Larson shocked me with the following quote from our textbook, “non-verbal
communication accounts for over 80 percent of the meaning transferred between people” (p. 258). He went on to outline the various forms and methods of non-verbal communication: facial expression and eye contact and movement; body language and physical communication; proxemics and the use of personal space; physical appearance, which includes dress, personal features, grooming and accessories; artifacts -- the things you surround/arm yourself with; voice issues and the use of silence; tactile communication, or touch between people and the haptics/touch of things; body placement, movement and subtle signaling; dialect, time, and gender. Non-verbal communication highlights, modiﬁes, clariﬁes and enhances and helps create verbal meaning. The way we are communicating is changing in our 24/7 world. Lengthy
face-to-face conversations are being replaced by more focused, succinct forms of technologically enabled communication, such as: texting, email, Tweets and Facebook chats. Shorter messages inherently provide less context. How does our technologically assisted communication work when the non-verbal cues are not present? How do we understand and make sense? Some people use emoticons when emailing as a way to enhance or clarify meaning. A sentence “I hate how Jenny brings up Sam in every conversation” can sound harsh and
judgmental, yet the same sentence ending with a ;-) can show the author is merely annoyed or is just venting from a recent chat with Jenny. Others use “haha” to soften tones, or “JK” (just kidding) to temper a sarcastic remark. Punctuation is also used to add context to content on line. For example, “…” can indicate a further train of thought that tends to soften the preceding commentary, even though what would have been said, the …, is not identiﬁed or spelled out. The use of ALL CAPS adds emphasis and can convey some of the same things that non-verbal communications cues do: I AM MAD suggests that the writer is really mad; HAHA could be used to signal that a comment is either really funny or that the writer is kidding; and “I TOLD YOU SO” in lieu of “I told you so” can have very different meanings, with all caps indicating anger or shouting. How do we now know that we’re getting it right? That we’re
communicating and understanding effectively? We can’t gauge a listeners interest by watching their eye movements, by seeing their crossed arms and reading their body language, or by looking at their facial expression. We rely on other information, visuals (emoticons) and written cues (all caps, special words or abbreviations) to add to the message. It seems to me that it places a greater burden on each person involved in the communication -- it requires them to take action if they feel they do not understand. Deliberate questioning or follow-up is needed to clarify and make meaning in an on-line or
technological setting, whereas in personal discourse much more than half of the sense-making in conversation comes from non-verbal sources. It takes more energy to use the central processing route of the ELM model (questioning the meaning of a text message, to use the example above) than the peripheral route (the channel typically used for the non-verbal communication cues which are subtly used to enhance and enlighten). Non-verbal cues are communication short-cuts processed along the
peripheral route, they are used to supplement face-to-face verbal communication. Non-verbal communication comes into play because people have so much to process, it helps reduce the clutter and streamline information. On-line communication is different. With technologically directed written communication, we begin with distilled communication and have to work backwards, adding complexity and creating verbal and new nonverbal cues to clarify messages to make shared meaning. Much of the technological communications, texting and on-line communication, begin as short-cuts. Sometimes you can short-cut a short-cut, but mostly I’ve found that sense-making comes from a balance between communication quantity and quality.