In this article we will discuss about the effective methods of communication used in business. The methods are: 1. Verbal Communication 2. Non-Verbal Communication. Also learn about:- 1. Effective Communication Methods 2. Communication Methods in the Workplace 3. Types of Business Communication Methods and 4. Ways of Communication Today.
Methods of Communication in Business: Verbal Communication and Non-Verbal Communication
Communication Method # 1. Verbal Communication:
The term ‘verbal’ denotes the use of words. When words are used in communication -spoken or written – we call it verbal communication. The thoughts in words can be conveyed either orally or by writing.
i. Oral Communication:
Oral communication is the communication by way of uttering words, i.e., speaking. Speaking is the fastest, most direct type of communication. Every time we speak, our voice reveals our gender, age, geographic background, and level of education, native birth, emotional state, and our relationship with the person spoken to.
All these clues (and many more) are contained in even small fragments of speech, and other people can “read” our voices with remarkable accuracy. When we speak, we “encode” important information about ourselves; when we listen to others, we can “decode” important information about them.
Oral communication comes in many forms in an organisation. It includes formal staff meetings, planned conferences, and mass meetings. Here voice and delivery are important. Informal talks are suitable for day-to-day liaison, directions, exchange or information, progress reviews, and the maintenance of effective interpersonal relations. Telephone calls are used for quick checkups and for imparting or receiving information.
Advantages of Oral Communication:
Once you make contact with your audience, there is no time lag between the transmission and reception of message. This is especially valuable when time is of essence; if you need to have the funds in an account released now, putting your request in a letter or memo won’t be much help.
2. Speaker is Able to Get Personal Attention of the Listener:
You might spend hours drafting a memo, letter or report only to have recipient scan it superficially or not read it at all. In a personal contact, however, you have much more command over the receiver’s attention.
3. It Allows Instantaneous Feedback:
When you speak directly to one or more listeners, you can respond to questions as soon as they arise. You can rephrase or elaborate when your listeners seem confused, and you can speed up if details are not necessary. You can revise quickly if you see you have used the wrong word and offended or confused your audience.
4. Personal Quality:
When a personal meeting goes well, the relationship that communicators develop can help solve problems that might have been more difficult when handled at a distance. Personal meetings are especially important in some cultures, where failure to visit someone in person is an insult.
Since oral communication does not create any records that can be seen by the persons for whom they are not intended, it helps in maintaining confidentiality of the matters.
6. Supplemented By Non-Verbal Clues:
The person receiving oral communication can combine it with the expressions and other non-verbal clues around the speaker, the message can be better understood.
Limitations of Oral Communication:
Although it has many advantages, oral communication is not always the best approach.
It suffers from the following disadvantages:
1. No Evidence:
There is no documentary proof of oral communication and as such the impact of oral communication is purely temporary.
2. Not Suitable in Certain Cases:
When the message to be delivered is too lengthy or complex, oral communication may not be suitable.
3. Expensive and Time Consuming when the Persons Involved are at Distant Locations:
The biggest drawback of personal contact is the difficulty in arranging the communicators. When the people who need to meet are separated by longer distance, personal contact is expensive and time consuming. Even a cross-town trip for a half-hour meeting can take most of the morning or afternoon, depending upon traffic or weather.
4. Not Appropriate when the Matter is Controversial:
A personal contact might also be unproductive if the contact antagonizes one or more of the participants. If the personalities or the subject is likely to make someone angry or defensive, then less confrontational forms of communication might be better.
5. Serious Deliberation is not Possible:
Serious thought is not possible on the subject because the receiver has to take an immediate decision in response to the communication received.
6. More Prone to Physical Noise:
An oral message has more probability of getting distorted because of physical noise like inaudibility of speech, somebody interfering in between, and likewise.
ii. Written Communication:
Written communications are a powerful medium in all walks of life. Even if we could handle all our social and business communications on a face-to-face basis, we would still need to prepare written messages.
The reason may be one of the many, like we may need a permanent record of what we said, to whom, by whom, and on what date, or the matter may be so complex that it needs a written representation, or the matter is so sensitive that it should be planned carefully before communicating, or the oral communication is not feasible because of distance between the persons communicating.
There are many types of written business communications. From fax messages to letters, memorandums, notices, forms, and reports – each document type is used for different purposes in different circumstances in business. Some of these ‘documents’ require more ‘composing’ than others, i.e., a letter versus fax message.
To be effective, written communication must be clear, complete, correct and understandable.
Written messages have a different set of advantages than their spoken counterparts have:
1. Unlike speech, written communication is permanent:
Once your words are down on paper, they are saved for future reference. While people may have trouble accurately recalling what you said a few hours ago, they can refer to your written remarks years later. In fact, policy matters, service conditions, confidential orders and instructions, and many other communications can be effectively and satisfactorily communicated only through written communication, as they are necessary for future reference.
2. Written communication can be easier to understand than speech:
Readers can study complex messages, as many times as necessary, a luxury they do not have when the same message is delivered orally.
3. It can be composed in advance:
You can take as much time as necessary to shape a message just as you want it.
4. Written messages are less prone to errors:
Even the best-rehearsed oral presentation can go awry. When you communicate in writing, you have time to choose exactly the right words.
5. Written communication works best as evidence:
A written record is the best evidence of the state of affairs, and can be used to fix responsibility of the concerned persons in the case of need.
6. It can address more number of persons at a time:
Written communication- like an advertisement in the newspaper, can address a vast population at a time. However, with TV media, it has become possible to address large population by oral communication also, but the written media is much cheaper and has much wider coverage.
7. Written communication leaves more lasting impact in the mind of the reader:
Visual representation leaves more lasting impression in the mind of the reader in comparison to the oral representation.
8. Probability of physical noise is comparatively low in written communication:
In oral communication, there is a possibility that voice is not heard properly, or the mind of the listener drifts away, or the language used is ambiguous. These probabilities lower down in the case of written communication.
However, written communication suffers from many limitations also:
1. Time consuming – It is very time consuming both in terms of preparing the message and also in terms of understanding it.
2. Certain messages can’t be put into writing – They are better understood when delivered orally or non-verbally.
3. Different persons may interpret message differently – Sometimes words used in written communication may have different meanings and may be interpreted differently by different persons. If not carefully worded, written communication may give rise to legal battles.
4. Immediate feedback and clarification is not possible in written communication.
5. Reader is not able to see the non-verbal clues – Since the reader is not able to see the facial expressions and other non-verbal clues around the sender, he may not be able to guess the real intention behind the message.
6. Lack of confidentiality – Confidentiality may be lost when written message passes through several hands.
7. Capability to cause greater damage- A haphazardly written note can do much more damage to a business relationship than a careless remark. Thus a written communication has to be planned very carefully.
After going through the relative merits and demerits of written and oral communication, we may conclude that depending solely on one mode may not be useful. The two modes are supplementary and should be used depending upon the situation.
Written communication is more useful where the subject matter is complex and a final decision requires deliberations from the persons concerned, or the messages need to be preserved for future reference or have legal implications. Oral communications should be relied upon in routine and day-to-day matters or where the message is of confidential nature.
Communication Method # 2. Non-Verbal Communication:
The man used to communicate even before he developed language. No doubt that the use of words provided him with a very versatile tool to express himself, but the fact that communication takes place without the words also leads us to explore the nonverbal modes of communication.
By non-verbal communication, we mean all communication that involves neither written nor spoken words but occurs without the use of words – According to one authority, 7 per cent of the meaning in a face-to-face situation is derived from word symbols, 38 per cent from voice tone and inflection, and 55 per cent from bodily movements (particularly facial) and gestures. In all, 93 per cent of the meaning in face- to-face communication is transferred through non-verbal symbols.
Consider the following illustrations:
1. Your boss has told the staff that he welcomes any suggestions/ideas about how to improve the working of the organization. You grab this opportunity and fix an appointment with him to discuss some ideas you have had. As you begin to outline your proposed changes, he focuses his gaze directly on you, clenches his jaw muscles and begins to frown. At the end of your remarks, he abruptly rises from his chair and says “Thank you for your ideas” and gives you a curt handshake.
2. You are on a committee for interviewing applicants for the job of public relation officer. You notice one bio-data that seems to be attractive grade wise and university wise. During the interview, you notice that he rarely looks into your eyes.
Note that the non-verbal behaviour of your boss, and of the job applicant is contradicting their verbal communications. The boss does not actually seems to be interested in listening your ideas, and the job applicant does not seems to be confident at all to handle his job despite his impressive particulars. This type of situations keeps arising in routine where we make important judgments from observing the non-verbal clues about the other person.
Thus study of non-verbal behaviours become all the more important for the following reasons:
1. We can learn about the affective and emotional states of other people through non-verbal behaviours.
2. Many first impressions are formed through non-verbal clues.
3. Non-verbal communication has value in human interaction because much of our non-verbal actions are not easily controlled consciously.
Characteristics of Non-Verbal Communication:
Now that we have defined non-verbal communication and discussed its importance, we need to take a look at some of its characteristics. Non-verbal communication resembles verbal communication in some ways and is quite different in others.
1. Non-verbal behaviour always has a communicative value:
You may not always intend to send non-verbal messages, but everything about your appearance, every movement, every facial expression, and every nuance of your voice has the potential to convey the meaning.
2. Non-verbal communication is powerful:
We form impressions of others mostly from non-verbal observations – about physical appearances and behaviour. In fact when non-verbal behaviour seems to contradict a verbal message, the spoken words carry less weight than the non-verbal clues.
3. Non-verbal communication primarily expresses attitudes:
Non-verbal behaviour implies how the other person feels about the state of things – like his general interest, liking, disagreement, amusement, and so on.
4. Much non-verbal behaviour is culture bound:
Certain types of non-verbal behaviours are universal – like expressions of happiness, fear, surprise, anger, distrust or contempt. Many non-verbal behaviours do vary from culture to culture. For example- the ‘nod’ means ‘yes’ in some cultures, and ‘no’ in some other cultures.
5. Non-verbal behaviour is ambiguous:
Compared with verbal language, non-verbal behaviour is highly ambiguous. Does a customer’s yawn signal boredom or fatigue? Are your co-workers laughing with or at you? Is a subordinate trembling with nervousness or cold? Most non-verbal behaviours have a multitude of possible meanings, and it is difficult to assume what is the true meaning in the given case.
Types of Non-Verbal Communication:
The field of non-verbal communication is quite inclusive. To make its study meaningful to us, therefore, we must break it down by category.
Thus, we will explore the various subparts of non-word communication as follows:
1. Body language
2. Sign language
4. Circumstantial language – space, surroundings and time
1. Body Language (Kinesics):
Body language (Kinesics) is the way body communicates by its physical movements. When we study body language, we specifically look for inner states of emotion as expressed through different parts of the body and their physical movements. Watzlawick and his associates indicate, “You can’t not communicate” – you communicate just by being.
By nodding your head, blinking your eyes, shrugging your shoulders, waving your hands, and making other such physical movements; you send messages to others. We will examine each of these body parts for more specific symbols of body language.
a. Facial Expressions:
The face is where we look for most expressions of what is going inside us. For example- consider the facial expressions of your associate – Is the mouth open wide or closed, the eyelid raised or lowered, the nose wrinkled or relaxed, the cheeks drawn up or back, the forehead lowered or raised? All of the facial parts combined tell you something about what is happening to create the expressions you see.
Thus the facial expressions can divulge hidden emotions – anger, annoyance confusions, enthusiasm, fear, hatred, joy, love, interest, sorrow, surprise, uncertainty and others. They can also contradict verbal statements- A new employee may answer “yes” hesitatingly, ashamed or embarrassed to tell the truth when asked if he understands the supervisor’s oral instructions. Yet from the red face of the employee and bewildered expression in his eyes, a prompt supervisor should consider restating the instructions more clearly.
However, facial expressions, like other non-verbal signals, may be ambiguous at times (a worker’s frown could come from a bad headache rather than the timing of your request). Nonetheless the researchers have found that accurate judgments of facial expressions can be made.
b. Eye Contact:
Within the facial area, the eyes tell us much more than other facial features. The eyes, along with the eyebrows, upper and lower eyelids, and size of pupils, convey certain inner body states. Eyebrows with upper and lower eyelids raised combined with dilated pupils – a wide eye effect- tells us that the person is excited, surprised or frightened.
The opposite effect – eyebrows with upper and lower eyelids closed combined with contracted pupils – a beady eye look – tells us that the person is angry, intense, or in pain. When these eye features are put together with other facial parts, we infer about the person’s inner going on.
In fact, eye contact may be the best indicator of how involved a person is in the situation. The person whose eyes droops or shift away from the listener is thought to be shy or perhaps dishonest and untrustworthy. A job applicant who never looks at the interviewer seems to be purposely remaining detached or nervous or to be falsifying his or her own credentials.
However, we must be careful and must not over generalize because people differ and there are exceptions on individual non-verbal clues. A person’s eyes may be red and misty because he or she has been ill, or raying, laughing, drinking healthy, smoking, sleeping, suffering from infection, swimming or working near harmful vapors.
Moreover the rules for eye contact differ from one culture to another. In Japan, audience who may appear to be sleeping, with eyes closed and heads nodding may well be paying the speaker a compliment, indicating intense concentration.
Posture is the way we carry ourselves. Like we may choose to stand or sit erect, or lean forward or backward, or slouch haphazardly. Postures non-verbally convey impressions of self-confidence, status and interest. Confident executives may have a relaxed posture and yet stand more erect than a timid subordinate.
Interested persons normally lean forward towards the speaker, while those who are bored or annoyed may slump as well yawn and repeatedly glance at their watches. The way you sit at your desk when you are working can express something about your attitude towards your job or how hard you are working to anyone who cares to look.
The posture tells whether a person is tensed or relaxed. Body tension or relaxation is a strong indicator of who has the power in one to one relationships. As a rule, the more relaxed person in a given situation has the greater status. This is most obvious in job interviews and high stake situation in which subordinates meet with their superiors – requesting a raise or describing a particular problem.
The person in control can afford to relax, while the applicant must be watchful and on guard. While excessive tension may not do any good, total relaxation can be inappropriate for a subordinate. A job candidate who copies his interviewers’ casual attitude would create a bad impression.
Good communicators pick such clues and adjust their behaviour accordingly. They will notice a forward leaning position as an indication that their remarks are being well taken and capitalize upon the point that led to this reaction. When a remark results in pulling back, a smart communicator will try to undo the damage and remedy the situation.
Knowledge of such subtle messages can make the difference between success and failure in a variety of business settings- Interviews, presentations, group meetings and one to one interactions.
Gestures are the physical movements of arms, legs, hands, torso and head. When you are speaking, some gestures have standard meanings – for example- touching and tapping your forefinger to the top of your head means you are thinking, a slight variation with a single rapid tap means you have an idea. Likewise, fidgeting hands might betray your nervousness; tapping foot show impatience; and clenched fists restrained anger.
An extended arm can have variety of meanings, merely depending on what position the hand is in and how it is moving. The symbols for “come here” and “go away” are very similar, the difference is just in the way your hands faces.
People communicate through gestures; while people may give reasonable attention to their facial expression, they are less aware of their hands, legs and foot motions. However, at times people make deliberate use of their gestures like – gestures commonly used to discourage visitors at the working place are – shuffling papers, making notes, keeping pen or pencil poised, continuing taking on phone while visitor waits all communicate an aversion to engage in conversation.
e. Body Shape:
The physical shapes of our body also communicate to others. Behaviourists have studied the shapes of our bodies and have identified three types – The ectomorph is thin, youthful and tall; the mesomorph is strong, athletic, and muscular; and endomorph is fat, round and soft. The fact is that our physical structures do communicate. Like tallness usually equates with dominance.
We cannot do much about the shape of our body, but by adopting right kind of postures and dressing style, we can improve the impact of our physical appearance. For example- standing up tall can help appear more authoritative, whereas a slumped posture or slouched shoulders create an appearance of submissive or passive demeanor.
f. Smell and Touch:
Various odors and artificial fragrances on human beings can sometimes convey emotions and feelings better than words. Similarly, touching people in different ways can silently communicate friendship, love, approval, hatred, anger or other motives and feelings. A pat on the shoulder, or a slap on the back is prompted by various attitudes and emotions.
Silence can be a positive or negative influence in the communication process. It can provide a link between messages or sever relationships. It can create tension and uneasiness or create a peaceful situation. Silence can also be judgmental by indicating favour or disfavour – agreement or disagreement.
For example- suppose a manager finds a couple of his staff members resting. If he believes these staff members are basically lazy, the idleness conveys to him that they are; and should be given additional assignments. If he believes these staff members are self-motivated and good workers, the idleness conveys to him that they are taking a well-deserved break. If he is personally insecure, the idleness conveys to him that they are threatening his authority.
2. Sign Language – Symbols:
The most basic element of communication is the sign. A sign is a symbol. A symbol is something that stands for something else. Everything in our world that we can visualize or sense has symbolic meaning and can be used in communication. For example- a map is a symbol that represents an actual physical geographic territory, and the 21-gun salute is a symbol of respect. The symbols can broadly be categorized as visual symbols and audio symbols.
a. Visual Symbols:
These are the symbols like pictures, cartoons, paintings, maps, etc., which have a visual impact on the mind of the looker.
See what the following symbol communicates-
It’s saying – Look here. Go to this direction.
Perhaps the most concise and accurate set of symbols comes from the highly codified and agreed mathematical symbols-
< > > ≅ < Φ ⇒ π – do these symbols denote some meaning to you?
Like above symbols, there are some symbols having standard meaning throughout the world – like traffic signals, mathematical symbols, ‘no smoking’ sign, ‘white flag’ as a peace keeping intention. Some symbols have varied meaning according to the culture of the respective societies – like symbol of OK in USA denotes that the things are all right while it is considered a sign of obscenity in some African countries.
Further, some symbols are prevalent with the commonly accepted meanings – like symbol of ‘Namaste’ in India denotes a respectful welcome, while some are unique and need interpretation by the individual seeing it.
Organizations very often make use of such symbols. You must have seen the ‘old man’ symbol of the ‘Times of India’, ‘welcoming Maharaja’ symbol of ‘Indian Airlines’, ‘a strong man showing his biceps’ symbol of ‘MRF Tyres’. What all these symbols communicate. First, their mark represents the organization; second they are communicating something about the product of organization.
Like ‘old man of Times of India’ is representing the common Indian newspaper reader, the ‘Maharaja of Indian Airlines’ communicates a royal welcome, and ‘Man with the strong biceps of MRF tyres’ communicates about the strength of tyres. As an exercise, you may try to observe the various symbols used around and interpret what impression they leave on your mind.
Note that colors are very often used to make the symbolic language rich. For example- red color may be used to mean – blood, violence, death, stop sign, anger, hot; green color may be used to mean – money, ecology, oxygen, life, envy; white color may be used to mean- calmness, peace; likewise different colors may be used to give variety of meanings, but notice how they tend to be active and powerful.
For example- red color bulb lighting outside the room of boss may be used to indicate that the boss is busy and not supposed to be disturbed, a white color flag may represent the intentions of peace and agreement, a black band on the hands of employees may represent their resentment. Using appropriate color combination for making the symbolic message more effective is a skillful task.
Well may they say a picture saves a thousand words-visual symbols communicate much in short space and time, and get registered in the mind faster than the words. That is one of the reasons that in presentations, use of graphic slides is very common. Now days, visual symbols are frequently used in advertising since they can be made very attractive by using colors and imaginations.
However, it needs a great deal of skill to make selective and effective use of visual symbols. Since it has got its own limitations – like it does not provide a scope for interaction, its interpretation largely depends upon the mindset of the person who is perceiving it, the person choosing symbols for communication must have a fair idea of the people for whom it is meant and must have a good understanding of their possible reaction to it.
b. Audio Symbols:
What do all these audio symbols communicate to us – Morning alarm – get up, its time you wanted to wake up in the morning, Bell in the school/college start, change, or end of the study period, Siren sound – there is an ambulance, or police, or a fire extinguishing services van which needs a clear road to move fast, Horn sound- you need to give way to the vehicle behind you, a Sound of ‘Namaj’ in a nearby ‘Masjid’ – it is time to read the ‘Namaj’, and so on.
These are the standard meanings represented by those sounds. In fact these meanings have been acquired by usage, and we are conditioned to assign them the given meanings by the natural learning process. At times, the sound is used without any prior meaning assigned to it.
For example- when you want to attract attention of somebody, you may choose to make a sound- it may range from dropping something on the floor to making a coughing sound in a meeting, depending upon the kind of surroundings, and the state of mind of the communicator.
These meaning rich symbols are some of the most powerful communication tools we have. Organizations use them frequently. Now days fire alarms are fitted in most of the offices, sirens are generally used to convey lunch breaks in mills, bells are used by executives to call assistants, and so on. Can you think of replacing any other form of communication in place of a fire alarm, or a lunch break bell, or a bell to call assistant?
If you think of conveying everybody by words that fire has broken out – probably by the time message would be conveyed, the fire would destroy everything, or may be nothing could be conveyed at all, or if you fix the time of lunch break in a mill and would expect everybody to adhere to that time himself, you would be having a marathon task to follow this up, and if you will have to call the assistant every time on phone or personally, you would be wasting a hell lot of your time and energy.
Note that the sound symbols make the communication much faster and economical and easy to organize it. However, these signals have a limited use, and can be used to communicate the simple and standard messages only.
Still another type of non-verbal communication is known as paralanguage or paralinguistic. Of all the non-verbal types, it is the closest to the actual communication. ‘Para’ means ‘like’; thus paralanguage literally means ‘like language’. This ‘like language’ is the way we use our voice in uttering words. It is everything other than words—intonation, pitch, regional accent, sarcasm, hesitations, truthfulness, emotion, etc.
Voice communicates in ways that has nothing to do with the words speaker utters. Sometimes words are pleasant but the tone of voice betrays the true feelings. The words “Wow! How prompt you are today!” could be a compliment? But if tone of voice is sarcastic and said to someone who arrived an hour late, the true meaning is criticism, perhaps anger.
You can also convey different meanings by the rate, pitch and volume of your voice. Speaking fast may indicate nervousness or haste. A soft voice soothes and calms; a loud, shouting voice may foretell danger, urgency, a serious problem, joy or anger; stammering indicates nervousness.
Following discussion elaborates upon these features of voice:
a. Pitch Variations:
Pitch of the voice means – how high or low your vocal tones are. Use of pitch can be seen in two contexts – one, using high, normal, or low pitch depending upon the state of mind and status, two, using variations in the pitch to make the talk more effective.
Observe when a person generally use normal, high or low pitch. A confident and relaxed speaker tends to use normal pitch. For using high pitch and low pitch, no general categorization can be made. Most interesting aspect is that the high and low pitches can be used by the persons equally in stark opposite circumstances.
For example- people in place of authority like bosses use high pitch, unrelaxed speakers often use high pitch that is artificial and distracting, when a person is excited or angry, he speaks in high pitch, at times people who loose their confidence when they talk, begin on a high pitch and progress on a scream. Similarly, low pitch can also be used by low confidence people, as well as high authority humble executives.
‘Pitch’ assists greatly in voice modulation also. In a single talk the speaker may use various levels of pitch and range (i.e., how high and low your voice goes on a given scale) to add interest and variety as well as many personal qualities to the voice. It is used to convey emotions and meaning to our words and what we are saying.
The effect of different levels of pitch in the voice can be viewed as follows:
i. Monotone- voice stays close to modal level (high or low or normal) all the time, pattern is unrelated to the meaning of what is being said.
ii. Boring or apathetic – narrow pitch range
iii. Interesting – the way you change the pitch level of certain word for meaning can make the talk interesting for the listener for he can feel the emotions involved in the speech. This change of pitch is termed as intonation.
The purpose of discussing ‘pitch’ factor in the voice is that we should be able to see the effect of using different levels of pitch in the speech, and modulate our voice to use the most effective level of pitch in the given circumstances. An exercise to improve your pitch- do “siren sounds”. Start on a different pitch each time you do them.
Volume refers to the loudness of the voice.
A good speaker has to decide the volume of his speech:
1. According to the place where he is speaking, like if he is talking over a telephone, his volume should not be too loud.
2. According to the size of audience – bigger the number of audience, louder the volume required. However, the loudness of volume should not reach to the level of screaming. For adjusting with too big an audience beyond his volume range, the speaker should use electronic equipments like mike.
3. According to the meanings and emotions he wants to convey through his speech. The voice, which span from very soft to very loud, can emphasize and bring attention to the meaning and feeling of a word, sentence or paragraph. Any departure from the average volume level will draw attention. Better speakers change volume levels more frequently than average speakers do.
The most interesting voice will have a combination of variety in volume, speed, and range. Tips on expanding your volume range- Do the following volume control exercises-
Soft Medium Loud – Ha Ha Ha Ba Ba Ba Fa Fa Fa La La La Ra Ra Ra
While interpreting the meaning of loudness in a voice, it should be kept in the mind that the normal level of loudness differs from culture to culture. Thus it can be a confusing factor in intercultural communication. For example- Europeans interpret the loudness of Americans to aggressive behaviour, while Americans might think the British are secretive because they talk quietly.
c. Speed and Pause:
Speed is another quality of voice. Speaking in a very high speed may make the matter incomprehensible for the listener, and speaking at too low a speed may make the matter so boring that by the time you finish your sentence or para, the listener loses link from where you started. Thus a speaker should use normal pace to get his message across clearly.
However, like pitch, one can vary the speed to make the talk more effective. When you want to stimulate people or increase their attention span simply pick up your pace. Conversely, speaking slowly, drawing out vowels and adding pauses can have a calming and soothing effect. Speed of speaking also reflects the state of mind of a person. You may notice a nervous person speaking in very high speed.
Pauses are punctuation marks in speech and can be very powerful. They are used as speed breakers while speaking. They give time to speaker to think. Used effectively, they help to stress points and build interest. Used badly, they can change the meaning of the conversation. If you get a chance, listen to the speech of Ex-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and see how effectively he makes use of pause in his speech.
Talking speed and the pause in conversations also differ among cultures. For instance, the Japanese are comfortable having several pauses in their conversations, while Americans and many Arabic people are uncomfortable with any silence.
Speed can be the easiest vocal characteristic to vary and refine. Experiment with different speeds within a paragraph and/or sentence. A comfortable rate (or speed) of speaking is approximately 150 words per minute (wmp). If you speak too fast, slow down — pauses are very powerful. If you speak too slowly, practice developing a faster pace.
d. Stress on Words:
By emphasizing different key words in a sentence you can purposely indicate your feelings about what is important.
Notice the difference in this one statement-
She’s giving this money to me.
SHE is the one giving the money, nobody else.
She’s giving this money to me.
She is GIVING, not lending.
She’s giving this money to me.
MONEY is being exchanged, not anything else.
She’s giving this money to me.
I AM GETTING the money, nobody else.
Note that the same sentence is conveying a different meaning (not in the literal sense), in the sense what actually communicator wants to convey.
Have you ever observed a speaker using the words – ‘OK’, ‘is that clear’, ‘you know’ and ‘isn’t it’, time and again while making a talk. How do you react to these non-fluencies? Do they make the talk better, or show the lack of confidence in the speaker? It depends how frequently and at which places they are used. When these are used purposely at the right places, they give time to both – the speaker and the listener – to think and react. But when they are used very frequently, they distort the whole speech.
Another kind of non-fluency can be stammering. This shows lack of belief in what one says. For instance, a subordinate who begins to stammer as he says “Everything is going fine here” might sound nervous or doubtful to his manager – as if everything was not fine and the subordinate was afraid that the truth would be discovered.
Researchers have found that the tone, pitch, quality of voice, and rate of speaking convey emotions that can be accurately judged regardless of the content of the message.
The important thing to gain from this is that the voice is important, not just as the conveyor of the message, but also as a complement to the message. Learn to objectively evaluate your voice for continual improvement. Our most valuable personal tool as a speaker is our VOICE.
The way we use it has the power to captivate or repel, to communicate or bore, to motivate or discourage. Investing time in developing a compelling and interesting voice will help keep your listeners totally engaged in your talks and keep you energized from beginning to end. Make a tape recording of your voice so you can hear yourself as others hear you.
However, paralanguage may be ambiguous at times. A subordinate who is speaking very fast may be nervous, although possibly because of making a presentation to a superior than because of the content of the message.
Similarly, a manager who sounds hostile when he says “thank you for your ideas”, may be occupied by another problem, or he may not be aware that his normal manner gives people the impression of hostility. One should use and interpret them carefully keeping the surrounding circumstances in mind.
4. Circumstantial Language – Space, Surroundings, and Time:
One of the very interesting aspect of communication is that it’s not the person only who communicates. Actually everything about him and his surroundings communicates. The way he talks, the way he walks, the way he dresses, the way he uses his time, the way he decorate his room, the way he allow people to enter into the space around him.
Some of the circumstantial factors which communicates about the person are discussed below:
a. Space Language (Proxemics):
Proxemics is “personal space language”- Countless messages are communicated by the way people use space around them, the way they claim that space for themselves, or the way they share it. How close do you stand to the one with whom you are communicating? Where do you sit in the room?
How do you position yourself with respect to others at a meeting? How furniture is arranged? All of these things communicate about your relationship with others, your status, and level of confidence you have, the type of event, and many more things.
1. How Use of Space Communicates about Our Relationship with Others?
Consider the area that surrounds you at this moment – the space from your body outward that forms a complete circle around you for about 1.5 feet. Remember that in this space you originate all of the body movements. Also, note that you move this space with you wherever you go.
Whom do you allow to enter into this close proximity to you? Family? Close friends? Select others? Under what circumstances do others come into such closeness with you? More than likely, you permit only special people to enter this space; in general, no words or at most whispered words are used here.
Others may enter this space occasionally but only under special circumstances. A handshake or a quick pat on the back are what you probably allow casual acquaintances to do in this space. But they enter this space infrequently and briefly.
Next, consider the space that extends from 1.5 to 4 feet beyond the first space zone just identified. In this second, concentric space circle, you permit other and different things to happen. Conversations with close friends, colleagues, peers, and the like occur.
Normal talking is permitted in this area as opposed to whispered words or complete silence in the more intimate space immediately surrounding you. Although personal in nature, it is a relaxed and casual space for you most of the time and permits spontaneous, informal communications.
Extending beyond the second area is a third identifiable space zone. It begins at the 4-feet mark and continues for 8 more feet. Think about this personal space and what happens in it for a moment. More than likely, you use this space formally, meaning that the relationships in it are more official. No doubt most of your “business” is done in this zone. It is conducted with less emotion and more planning.
The last area to consider ranges from 12 feet around you to the farthest distance you can see. Things that occur here are even more formal. Perhaps you might view happenings in this area as an impartial observer. Such a perception indicates the degree of detachment you can maintain about activities in this area.
You might have to raise your voice to communicate to others. This last area represents the most remote and formal space for you. In some cases, it might be where you place the things that are least significant to you.
These four spaces are what Edward T. Hall refers to as our informal space.
Specifically, Hall names four types of informal space:
1. Intimate – physical contact to 18 inches.
2. Personal – 18 inches to 4 feet.
3. Social – 4 to 12 feet.
4. Public – 12 feet to range of eyesight and hearing.
Without question, the types and quality of our communication activities differ in each of these four zones, as we have illustrated. But remember that we determine these areas individually, and can change them by changing our physical location. Thus, they are specific to us personally.
In most of the cases, the distance people put between themselves and others is significant. It reflects feelings and attitudes, and thus affects communication. However, in some cases, the distance zones don’t apply at all – or at least the distance are not flexible enough to reflect the attitudes of the parties.
Dentists and barbers, for instance work within the intimate distance-actual physical contact; yet the relationship between dentist and patient, or barber and client may be impersonal.
2. How Use of Space Communicates about Our Status?
Interpersonal distance is another non-verbal indicator of power. Goldhaber says there are three basic principles that summarize the use of personal space in an organization- The higher your position (status) in the organization-
1. The more and better space you will have,
2. The better protected your territory will be, and
3. The easier it will be to invade the territory of lower-status personnel.
The impact of use of space on the communication process is related directly to the environment in which the space is maintained.
3. How Use of Space Communicates about Our Level of Confidence?
Even choices about seating can influence interaction. Confident persons often select the position at a table where they can see and be seen. Persons who do not want to indulge in communication often seat themselves in less visible seats along the sides of a table.
4. How Use of Space Communicates about the Purpose of Communication?
Consider 15 persons sitting around a round table – seems to be a scene of a conference, a group of four persons standing informally- seems to be a group of friends (note that the way people in groups allocate their assigned spaces determines the group leader, favourite members, types of interaction patterns), arrangement having 100 chairs and a dais with a speaker’s platform – seems to be a stage set for a lecture. Note that use of space in every case is self-communicative about the type of event.
When we talk about the space around a person, we see it as informal space and formal space. But it is not only individuals who communicate something about themselves by the use of space, but organizations as well. From organization’s viewpoint, we consider the space in physical settings – we can see it as fixed space and semi fixed space.
In fixed space, surrounding’s physical features are permanent, and cannot be rearranged according to our need or wishes. For example- the shape of a building, and the number and size of rooms in it, are of fixed nature [Note that nothing is permanent as such, but when we use the term fixed, we mean those things which cannot be changed in routine and involve a high level planning and a very high cost if choose to be changed]. In semi fixed space, there is a scope of changing the physical settings – like arrangement of furniture.
In practice, it is the combined use of formal, informal, fixed and semi fixed space, which structures space language.
Aspects of surroundings include room size, location, furnishing, machines, architecture, wall decorations, floor (carpeted or bare), lighting, windows, view, the way you arrange objects in your work area – the desks, chairs, tables, and bookcases, and other related aspects. The design of your office, according to researchers, can greatly affect the communications within it.
Surrounding conveys status. It has been generally seen that a person whose office is a luxurious top floor suite with a panoramic view is considered of high status than a person whose office is dingy, poorly lighted basement room. Your pecking order in the organization is frequently determined by such things as the size of your desk, square feet in your office, number of windows in the office, quality of the carpet, and type of paintings (originals or copies) on the wall.
Also surroundings like furniture arrangement affect the level of comfort and status and facilitate or hinder the communication process. For example- in one study of a medical office, only 10 per cent of the patients were “at ease” while conversing with a doctor seated behind a desk, while the percentage rose to 55 per cent when desk was removed.
The way we use our time provides a number of silent messages. Most rules about informal times are not taught and are generally practiced unconsciously.
Some of these are discussed below:
An employee who routinely arrives at work half an hour early will be considered a hard worker by the boss and will certainly earn laurels from him. May business advisors recommend that you be particularly scrupulous about your use of time during the first few months you are on job. Otherwise it may create a bad impression for the rest of your job duration.
ii. Waiting Time:
Have you ever waited outside the room of a doctor? Why you have to wait for such people? Mainly because they have special skills that create high demand for their services. As a result their time is organized in a manner that is most efficient for them – by keeping others lined up to see them at their convenience. It’s not only people of medical profession, who make the people wait for them. In fact individuals in high status position often communicate the idea that their time is more valuable than others.
iii. Time Given to a Task:
The amount of time we spend on a task or problem is also a good indication of how much importance we give it.
The speed with which a task is finished or is to be finished communicates about its urgency.
v. Time Given to/For a Person:
The manager who never has time to talk over a problem with an employee or who postpones performance review because he does not have time is implying something about the way he values his subordinates, as is the manager who takes time to converse casually with employees every now and then for works.
Rules and customs about time vary widely from one culture to another. For example- most North Americans and Europeans are very particular about the time of their appointments, Indians are more casual about appointments and deadlines. In many cultures speaking within the allotted time generally shows good planning and concern for audience.
But in other cultures, speaking only for the allotted time would indicate lack of excitement or indifference towards the audience or the issue. Getting down to business quickly can be seen as a rude and insulting more on the part of a potential business associated. In some cultures, if the personal relationship is not established by “taking time” for dialogue and discussion, there will be no business relationship.
In concluding this article, we note that the Knowledge of non-verbal communication is important to managers who serve as leaders of organizational “teams, “for at least two reasons-
1. To function effectively as a team leader the manager must interact with the other members successfully. If he knows how to make use of non- verbal clues, he can put his message across more effectively.
2. If a manager can perceive the meaning of non-verbal clues in the behaviour of his team mates, he would be able to gauge their needs such as approval, growth, achievement, and recognition, etc. This knowledge would obviously help him in managing the team members.
Further, non-verbal mechanisms are only a part of conversation. Both verbal and nonverbal communications are important sources of information used in combination with each other in the process of communication.