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  1. #1
    Phase-shifted beam Coriolis's Avatar
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    Default Nonverbal communication: how significant is it?

    I was going to post this in the Aziz Ansari thread, in a reply to Amargith and Julius on the topic of nonverbal communication, but realized that would just perpetuate the derail, so here is a new thread for this topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amargith View Post
    Sigh. Funny how coaching, consulting, marketing and translator/interpretor courses all include that research as a vital part of the training you receive.
    Quote Originally Posted by Julius_Van_Der_Beak View Post
    I've heard this in corporate training session, too, although I don't know the source of the data.
    At one time, everyone was taught that the earth was flat, people who could float were witches, smoking was cool, cold weather makes you sick, or African Americans were not intelligent or capable enough to be pilots or hold other demanding jobs since research had clearly demonstrated as much. Scientific validity is not determined through a popularity contest, and at times the majority - a very large majority - has indeed been wrong.

    Now for Amargith's reference, which she in fact posted on my visitor wall, not in the Ansari thread, but I will link and quote from it. Let's start by pointing out what I am NOT claiming, namely that nonverbal cues don't exist or carry no meaning. I just don't see how they can convey a large majority of our meaning except in very specialized cases (e.g. people unable to talk, or doing pantomime, or trying to get at least something across a large language barrier). Next we note that humans are highly subjective, variable, and diverse in our responses. It is well known that any experiments involving human or even other animal subjects need a much larger sample size than in most physical systems to achieve the same level of confidence in the conclusions drawn. To their credit, the authors of this article seem to acknowledge this, implicitly at least, in the strongly qualified way they present their claims.

    For example:

    The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.
    We are starting off on shaky ground. Science rests on repeatable evidence, not belief.

    The famous (at least in nonverbal communication circles!) researcher Albert Mehrabian is responsible for this percentage breakdown detailing the importance of nonverbal communication channels compared to verbal channels. Actually, it was two research studies (Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967 and Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) combined that resulted in the 55/38/7 formula.
    The numbers originate from one main source, likely quoted throughout "nonverbal communication circles" repeatedly. This is how one data set, or conclusion based on it, can gain widespread acceptance without having truly earned it through validation by other research studies over time.

    The Mehrabian and Ferris study actually consists of a predecessor formula to the 55/38/7 formula: 60/40. The 60/40 formula they created represents the comparison of importance between facial (60%) and vocal (40%) components in regards to a person's attitude.
    This suggests the breakdown refers specifically to information about a person's attitude, which narrows the scope considerably and makes the numbers more plausible. Most of us convey far more information throughout an average day than our attitude, though.

    The problem with this, as with the general study of nonverbal communication, is that it is inaccurate to claim that a formula is absolute and applies to every situation.
    Acknowledgment of one limitation of the notion.

    The formula was created for a specific context- when the nonverbal channel and the verbal channel are incongruent (not matching). From his book Nonverbal Communication (page 108):

    "When there are inconsistencies between attitudes communicated verbally and posturally, the postural component should dominate in determining the total attitude that is inferred."
    And another.

    Well, when I mention the 55/38/7 numbers, I clearly state this applies to certain situations and, more importantly, should not be used as a deciding factor to try and understand the situation. A proper analysis needs to occur to fully grasp what the person's current emotions are at that moment.
    OK, so now this formula applies to emotions. I guess it doesn't apply to the information you share with someone on how to get to Peoria, or why Star Trek is better than Star Wars, or or what you would like do and see on your upcoming vacation.

    Looking for nonverbal communication gestures in clusters prevents us from allowing a single gesture or movement to be definitive in determining a person's state of mind or emotion. Sure, crossing your arms at your chest can be a sign of being resistant and close-minded, however, if the person's shoulders are raised and their teeth are chattering, they might just be cold!
    And another limitation, specifically that these "cues" are subjective; one gesture can mean very different things to different people, especially across different cultures, making it quite easy to misinterpret. In comparison, "I'm not feeling well right now" or "I want to do this and not that" is extraordinarily clear.

    Finally, congruence we already discussed above in regards to the formula. Do the spoken words match the tone and the body language? After someone falls, and they verbally state they are fine, however their face is grimacing and their voice is shaky, you might want to probe a little deeper.
    Finally, an example. All I can say is that, were I on the receiving end of that deeper probing, I would feel the other person was being pushy or intrusive. When I say "I'm fine", I mean it. Sure, I might be shaky and grimacing, but I am essentially unhurt, don't need any help/attention, will be over it momentarily, and can we please get on with what we were doing?

    The 55/38/7 percentage and the 3 C's of Nonverbal Communication remind us that, when trying to understand others, a single gesture or comment does not necessarily mean something. Instead, these theories allow us to take note and observe more to get a better understanding of what is going on.
    Take note and observe, indeed. We might start with what the other person is actually saying.
    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. ~ Buddha

  2. #2
    Its time. Cassandra's Avatar
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    The way you say that ‘im fine’ will tell a person not to probe, coz your aggrevation will be written on your face. Someone who says it timidly and tries to smile is trying not to be a burden, but isnt fine and should get more support.

    In fact, that was my entire point. As was yours, it seemed. This thing was a red herring anyway, as, from what i recall, you said a mealy mouthed no was not enough communication. Only a firm one with walking out was clear enough. Id say thats about as non verbal as it gets. All i argued is that a hesitating no, and avoidance behavior in general also holds communication that is significant - and yes, is a style preferred by some. Ironically, i could argue the point now that im purely looking at the verbal component and you re the one who is usingnon verbal components to value its worth, but then i dont agree with that stance either, so i wont.

    Anyways, im kinda done with this derail and the general topic, coz this is definitely not the kind of discussion i enjoy having.
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  3. #3
    Complex paradigm Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.

    I facepalm every time I see this, since for me this isn't communication but a guessing game. Which is basically useless since the ratios are completely wrong for exchanging the actual information.
    If I see that the person profoundly thinks like this I generally lose interest to be around such person. Plus this is also why I find "charismatic" people to be terrible communicators in my book.


    For years I have tried to keep my cards hidden but I have concuded that I am fundamentally uncompatible with this mindset and I don't want to live like this.

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    Complex paradigm Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    From the other thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amargith View Post
    Sigh. Funny how coaching, consulting, marketing and translator/interpretor courses all include that research as a vital part of the training you receive.

    In my opinion this is so shortsighted that I am going to call you out on this.


    You may be right in how most people communicate but for me that isn't the real issue, for me the real issue is about incouraging worldviews that are build on this approach to living. People may apprach the life as you claim but that is probably mostly because someone thought them to be like this. What you have just described is basically the foundation of corporate ideology and modern con artist methodolgies. Few years ago I was in the class where you had balkan people (mostly guys) and western female teacher (probably ENFJ). So to tell you the truth we all thought she is incompetent to teach (and solve issues) and she though we have no manners. What got to the point that school management had to step in. Therefore from this it is evident that this is heavily a matter of upbringing and that there isn't absolute answer.


    But that still has very serious social and geopolitical issues.
    Why are we flooded with useless political campaigns and vote for the guy with the better joke ? Why is this planet being polluted into another mass extinction ? Is it because lawers and PR experts have invented their pseudo reality through new communiation techniques? Why is half of the western civilization on meds all the time ? Why is my part of the world rising totalitarian ideologies ? Is is because people are tired of endless BS that is covering up crime/corruption and incompetence while at the same time the social pressure is that you can't call spade a spade? Which is exactly why you will probably have anti liberal people in offices through out the world eventually. Because people like you have convinced themselves that you can't be wrong with your smoothering logic even if that may have horrible social consequences.


    The truth is that the factual public debates have been basically killed off completely by CEOs and mainstream politicians that only care about their image (and people like you created them or prepared the terrain for them). In a way that is exactly how we got Trump, since he was the only guy that showed some signs of straight forward approach to life. Not to mention that this entire emotional/soft approach is exactly why the west is in general economic decline. Since this emotional ideology of marketing and social skills has undermined greatly the ability of the people to do concrete/technical manufacturing jobs that require skills that are more than just talk and people skills. Since you brainwashed people with dreams, products and people skills ... but forgot the basics. For which you need direct factual communication that nothing can replace. What as the outcome allowed the dictatorships at the east to take the spotlight, since most westeners aren't even able to maintain their own infrastructure. This is why western Europe likes labour from the Eastern Europe, since we are still somewhat able to do the concrete physical stuff. Which is generally paid pretty badly because these aren't jobs based on image, which became holy grail over the decades. The less BSing smaller the income ... and that is the consequnce of ideology that is based on twisting the foundations of the communication.



    But judging from your general posting style you just don't see that you are on the wrong side. (and I know that I am being brutal here)

  5. #5
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    To be honest, I think there are general guidelines for a majority of people but with each individual, there are unique baselines and subtleties and it can take a little while to get the big picture.

    I am skeptical of those who rely mainly on nonverbal cues.

    I know that I tend to run into many issues with those who claim to be good at picking up on nonverbal cues because they can pick up on the changes in nonverbal cues but I often feel like I have to defend myself as to why I am acting a certain way because they are relying way too heavily on "nonverbal cues" and dismiss what I am saying like they know me better than myself.

    Example: Not answering something.

    For person 1, they could be absent-minded. For person 2, they could be passive aggressive. For person 3, something could be upsetting them irrelevant to the situation. For person 4, they didn't perceive it as important/don't understand.

  6. #6

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    Can't speak for others but for myself, nonverbal communications are significant in my judging process. It's how I tell people are lying in meatspace.
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  7. #7
    I'm too sad for pants. Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bechimo View Post
    It's how I tell people are lying in meatspace.
    Yeah. There are studies to back this up, but I'm rubbish at finding such data when I need it.
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

    INFJ 5w4 sx/sp Johari / Nohari -or- disagree with my type?
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Z Buck McFate View Post
    Yeah. There are studies to back this up, but I'm rubbish at finding such data when I need it.
    Paul Ekman might help. He is a prominent researcher in micro-expressions and deception.

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    Non verbal provides the context for verbal.
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  10. #10
    Phase-shifted beam Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amargith View Post
    The way you say that ‘im fine’ will tell a person not to probe, coz your aggrevation will be written on your face. Someone who says it timidly and tries to smile is trying not to be a burden, but isnt fine and should get more support.

    In fact, that was my entire point. As was yours, it seemed. This thing was a red herring anyway, as, from what i recall, you said a mealy mouthed no was not enough communication. Only a firm one with walking out was clear enough. Id say thats about as non verbal as it gets. All i argued is that a hesitating no, and avoidance behavior in general also holds communication that is significant - and yes, is a style preferred by some. Ironically, i could argue the point now that im purely looking at the verbal component and you re the one who is usingnon verbal components to value its worth, but then i dont agree with that stance either, so i wont.

    Anyways, im kinda done with this derail and the general topic, coz this is definitely not the kind of discussion i enjoy having.
    It is a matter of effectiveness. Ideally the other person would respect the mealy-mouthed "no", and if the speaker really meant something else and was then disappointed, oh, well - lesson learned for next time. If the weak "no" doesn't work, it needs to be repeated, and followed through not with more words, said in any tone of voice, but with action - leaving. I suppose that is the ultimate nonverbal communication: voting with your feet.
    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. ~ Buddha

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