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Body language at the workplace

by Anna Nieland (Author) Bärbel Popp (Author)

Term Paper 2006 24 Pages

Communications - Language

Excerpt

Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Definition of body language

III. Criteria of selective notice
Posture
Mimic
1. Personal habits
2. Emotions
3. Interaction signs
Gesture
Distance
Intimate zone (15 – 46 cm)
Personal zone (46cm – 1,2m)
Social zone (1,2 – 3,6m)
Public zone (over 3,6m)
Sound of voice
1. Clothing
2. Emblems and jewellery
3. Hairstyle
4. Face and skin
5. Physique

IV. Importance of nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication is omnipresent
Nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding as well as understanding:
Nonverbal communication has interaction primacy
Nonverbal communication can express what verbal communication can’t or shouldn’t:
Nonverbal communication is trusted:

V. Relationship between nonverbal and verbal communication
1. Repeat what is said verbally
2. Substitute for portions of the verbal message
3. Complement or clarify the verbal message
4. Contradict the verbal statement
5. Emphasize the words

VI. Cultural differences
Facial expressions:
Physical contact:
Gaze:

VII. Body language at the workplace
1. The career interview
1. First meeting
2. Tune your body posture
3. What to do with your hands/arms
4. Movements: A dynamic interview?
5. Furthermore
2. Occupational body language
3. The effective use of meetings
1. What to do with your eyes?
2. What do your facial expressions indicate?
3. Positioning and movement of your body and limbs
4. Hand gestures
4. Attitudes to workmates
5. Lying: Revealing and concealing information
1. Stress signals
2. Less conscious of feet and legs
3. Posture is more honestly
4. Expensive gestures decline
5. Shifty gazes

VIII. Manipulation of body language
1. Definition
2. Politics

IX. Conclusion

X. Bibliography and further reading

I. Introduction

In the following written assignment we are going to discuss the topic “Body language at the workplace”. To be able to understand what body language is about, there will be a definition which will afterwards lead to a description of the criteria of selective notice.

Body language is also known as nonverbal communication and that is why the importance of nonverbal communication plays a crucial role in our everyday life we cannot control. At this point of the written assignment there should be a better knowledge of body language and therefore the relationship between the spoken and the unspoken words are analysed. This is very important because nonverbal and verbal communication always go hand in hand.

As we already experienced and will experience in our career there are many different cultures and with that many different cultural meanings of body language, especially in mimic and gesture. Because of the internationality in the world and the everyday contact to other cultural groups we have to understand the meaning of their body language. We will underscore this with some examples chosen.

Our actual topic “Body language at the workplace” is divided into four chapters beginning with the career interview in which the most important behaviours – we have to pay attention to - are explained. The occupational body language deals with the kind of body language you automatically use according to your job and workplace. Because of our field of studies we will go into the effective use of meetings which might be seen as a little guide to the future. To ensure a good work climate, attitudes to workmates play an important role because in regard to your behaviour you will be either respected or disrespected. And because it is important for business people to know if their opposite is lying we figured out the main aspects to expose the liar.

With our last point we are trying to show how easy it is to manipulate your own body language which makes it even harder for others to understand the meaning of it.

II. Definition of body language

“Body Language is the unspoken communication that goes on in every Face-to-Face encounter with another human being. “[1] By looking at the body language of your opposite you are instinctively able to read his or her feelings and meanings with the spoken words and understand his or her gestures. This is of course also understood the other way around.

“Every time we talk to someone else the body supplements what we say with dozens of small gestures, eye movement, changes in posture and facial expressions.”[2]

Although everybody knows how to use this kind of language, there will always be a learning process to use it more effectively.

III. Criteria of selective notice

There are five types to express yourself nonverbally.[3]

Posture:

By this is meant the posture a person is doing right now as well as a movement which change or influence the body posture, e.g. crossed legs.

“There are three main kinds of posture: standing, sitting (with which may also be included squatting and kneeling) and lying down.”[4]

From our own experiences we can say that we are able to recognize people from a greater distance the way they are walking or standing. There are particular essential rules in regard to your posture such as which kind of gesture in a culture or certain situation is appropriate. In relation to rituals they also might have a symbolic meaning.

Mimic:

Mimic deals with all kinds of appearances we can investigate in a person’s face, including psychosomatic processes like for example blushing. From the expressions on people’s faces we get a lot of information about their emotional state. You can distinguish the facial expression into three different types:[5]

1. Personal habits

give you an idea about structural attributes in the face and its typical appearance.

2. Emotions

are shown through slowly developing skills.

3. Interaction signs

and signs which are connected to the verbal communication are sent through quite fast movements of parts of the face, for example rising an eyebrow.

Gesture:

All movements of the arms, the ‘language of the hands’, as well as many actions, like for example the opening of a door. These kinds of movements are reflecting what we are thinking but actually in a completely different manner than the language itself.[6]

It is not completely clear why and when persons are using gestures to demonstrate their purpose. Probably they are then used when the gesture is easier to bring up than the appropriate words, for example the description of forms or shopping in a foreign country.[7]

Distance:

By this is meant the distance you have to others as well as sudden movements which have a change of distance as an aim, e.g. taking a step back. We are dividing the space surrounding us into four zones. These are called intimate, personal, social and public zone.

Intimate zone (15 – 46 cm):

In general there are cultural differences; this means in some cultures the intimate zone is half an arm length while in other nations it is a whole arm length from the body. It is the most important zone and only those who are close to that person are allowed to ‘enter’ it.

Personal zone (46cm – 1,2m):

The personal zone begins where the intimate zone ends. In our personal zone we let people in we like to communicate with but still we will not let them into out intimate zone, like good friends or family members.

Social zone (1,2 – 3,6m):

This is the area which is reserved for superficially social contacts, e.g. colleagues and bosses and people whom we do not know very well.

Public zone (over 3,6m):

When we talk about the public zone we mean every distance that is larger than the personal zone, like a teacher in front of his class, a boss in front of the members of a conference.[8],[9]

Sound of voice:

This includes all appearances taking over whilst speaking, as long as our analysis is not concentrating on the content of what is being said, like the sound and melody of the voice, pausing from speaking, volume, rhythm, etc.

We also add sounds without any verbal content, like moaning….

Outward appearance can be seen as a part of nonverbal communication as well. Clothes, emblems and jewellery are totally under the control of the bearer, physique, hair and skin only partly.[10]

“The size and shape of our bodies and the way we cover those bodies with clothing of various kinds exerts a considerable influence over how other people perceive us and over how much attention they pay to us.”[11]

There are different aspects of outward appearance:[12]

1. Clothing

In all societies the clothes are information medium about personality, status and group membership. Personality criteria will be signalized through the style of clothes, for example the amount of jewellery and the colours of clothes.

2. Emblems and jewellery

Emblems are only additions to what your clothes are actually saying. Jewellery shall enlarge the beauty of the person concerned but also wealth and sexual attraction.

3. Hairstyle

Each hairstyle gets its own social meaning, for example men with long hair has been seen in some times as masculine but in others as feminine.

4. Face and skin

In primitive societies, for example some Australian tribes, the face is often decorated through deep scars. You can also embellish the face with tattoos or paintings. It can be damaged as well, like piercing the ears or the nose. Today’s women use make-up or even plastic surgeries. This trend can even be found by men. A person’s personality is especially associated with the face and so its appearance is manipulated to arbitrate something about the person. Looking at the eyes is more common than the other parts of the face.

5. Physique

You can divide the description of physique into three dimensions:

1. Thin and bony
2. Fat
3. Muscular

Thin and bony people can be seen as calm and keen; the fat as warm hearted, enjoyable and dependent; the muscular as audacious and self-confident. Different party of the body are defined as more beautiful when they are bigger, smaller or in a special form.

IV. Importance of nonverbal communication

For a successful treatment within the society it is necessary that you are able to use body language and to understand the non verbal cues of others. There are several reasons why the nonverbal communication is a very important part of conversation.

Nonverbal communication is omnipresent:

“Every communicative act carries with it nonverbal components.”[13]

We are using a lot of nonverbal communication during face-to-face conversations; this includes the criteria of selective notice which we already mentioned in the chapter before. Furthermore, we still pay attention to the attractiveness and dress and even the undivided attention of our opposite.

Nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding as well as understanding:

“Although nonverbal signals can help us make sense of the world, they can also cause misunderstanding.”[14]

In almost every situation we use nonverbal communication which might be interpreted in a different way by the person we are talking to and not in the actual meaning.

Example: Someone is scratching his/her nose because it is itching and another person interprets this action as lying.

Nonverbal communication has interaction primacy:

“Before people open their mouths, their nonverbal behaviors are supplying a wealth of information to onlookers.”[15] It depends on the way you dress, your hairstyle, your posture - all the things you can observe from a distance. Some politicians are using certain cues to underscore their appearance, for example the symbol of their party or the national flag in the background.

Nonverbal communication can express what verbal communication can’t or shouldn’t:

“There are many occasions when to verbalize our thoughts and feelings would be risky, rude, or inappropriate, so we use nonverbal channels instead.”[16]

Example: If a man likes a woman and wants to show his feelings to her, he will probably not go directly to this person and tell her his true feelings. Instead, he would use nonverbal actions like glancing at her, being very kind, always try to be close to her and waiting for a nonverbal answer from her to be sure if she feels the same way.

Nonverbal communication is trusted:

“The naïve belief exists that nonverbal behaviors are spontaneous and uncontrolled, that they are ‘windows to the soul’.”[17]

In fact, this statement is not always true because there are possibilities to manipulate your body language. Politicians are a good example because in many cases they get a special training to ‘control’ their body language.

But there will always be a bigger belief in nonverbal behaviours than in what is being said.

We will go into this topic deeper in chapter VIII.

V. Relationship between nonverbal and verbal communication

“Between 60-80% of our message is communicated through our Body Language, only 7-10% is attributable to the actual words of a conversation.”[18] Verbal and nonverbal communications are always linked to each other and you cannot not communicate. The question is, if people rely more on verbal cues than on nonverbal. Investigators found out that adults rely more on nonverbal whereas children rely more on the verbal cues.[19]

The reason for this is that children can not really interpret the nonverbal cues and have to learn it during their growing process.

The two American psychologists Paul Ekman and W.V. Friesen established five basic functions of nonverbal behaviour with which you can analyse verbal communication in regard to nonverbal.[20]

1. Repeat what is said verbally

In conversations we often automatically use nonverbal aspects to support the verbal message, for example nodding the head while saying “yes”.

2. Substitute for portions of the verbal message

By this is meant that certain symbols can take the place of words, for example a smile can exchange the necessity to say “yes”.

3. Complement or clarify the verbal message

This means that you are showing signals for escaping out of a conflict which you are having with another person, for example turning your body to the door.

4. Contradict the verbal statement

Contradiction of your actual spoken words may be shown in the way you are using your sound of voice. You can emphasize things you say by using sarcasm or irony to show that you do not mean it the way you said it, for example telling someone what nice shoes he/she has got but underline your meaning with irony so the person knows you do not actually mean it.

5. Emphasize the words

Highlight your spoken words with nonverbal actions, like pounding a table or pointing at someone.[21]

You should always be aware of what your words are saying and how your body language reflects it. There might be situations in which you have to take care of your body language, especially when you are with foreign people. Unlike your friends, they do not understand your body language properly and might interpret it differently. Going abroad you should know that some nonverbal behaviours can vary and so it is important to inform yourself before using the body language you are normally accustomed to. We are going to exemplify some of these differences in the following chapter.

VI. Cultural differences

“Body language, as you should be aware by now, is complex enough when you are dealing with people from your own culture, but when you encounter those from other cultures it becomes fraught with difficulties.”[22]

[...]


[1] www.bodylanguagetraining.com (4.07.2006)

[2] Wainright, G.R.: Body language, TEACH YOURSELF BOOKS/London 1999, p.1

[3] Birkenbihl, V.F.: Signale des Körpers – Körpersprache verstehen, mvgVerlag/Frankfurt a. M. 2002, p. 44

[4] Wainright, G.R.: Body Language, TEACH YOURSELF BOOKS/London 1999, p.58

[5] cp. Argyle, M.: Körpersprache & Kommunikation, Junfermann Verlag/Paderborn 1996, p. 202

[6] cp. Beattie, G.: Visbible thought – The New Psychology of Body Language, Routledge/London and NY 2004, p.1

[7] cp. Argyle, M.: Körpersprache & Kommunikation, Junfermann Verlag/Paderborn 1996, p. 243 ff

[8] cp. Birkenbihl, V.F.: Signale des Körpers – Körpersprache verstehen, mvgVerlag/Frankfurt a. M. 2002, p. 142 ff

[9] cp. Pease, A.: Body Language – How to read others’ thoughts by their gestures, Sheldon Press/London 1991, p. 21

[10] cp. Argyle, M.: Körpersprache & Kommunikation, Junfermann Verlag/Paderborn 1996, p.303

[11] Wainright, G.R.: Body Language, TEACH YOURSELF BOOKS/London 1999, p.97

[12] cp. Argyle, M.: Körpersprache & Kommunikation, Junfermann Verlag/Paderborn 1996, p.304

[13] Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.4

[14] Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.5

[15] Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.6

[16] Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.7

[17] Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.7 f

[18] http://www.bodylanguagetraining.com/ (11.07.2006)

[19] cp. Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.136 f

[20] cp. Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal communication – The unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.158

[21] cp. Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D.B., Woodall, W.G.: Nonverbal Communication – The Unspoken dialogue, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc./USA 1996, p.158

[22] Wainright, G.R.: Body Language, TEACH YOURSELF BOOKS/London 1999, p.133

Details

Pages
24
Year
2006
ISBN (eBook)
9783638681520
File size
581 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v74383
Institution / College
niversity of Applied Sciences Oldenburg/Ostfriesland/Wilhelmshaven; Oldenburg
Grade
1,7
Tags
Body Communication Presentation

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Title: Body language at the workplace