you intend it or not, your non-verbal communication, or "body language", will be
interpreted as showing your feelings, intentions, self-confidence, and
attitudes. Your mannerisms will affect, positively or negatively, the
impressions and attitudes people form about you. At the same time, your
ability to interpret what Americans mean by different types of body language
will enhance your ability to participate in and understand conversation.
Though you may already have some idea how Americans will interpret these
behaviors or what they will expect from you, it is important to learn more about
non-verbal communication as well as how to evaluate your own behavior.
Begin by reflecting on the following statements.
Read through these statements, think about them, and send your thoughts to me.
- Body language is the difference between what you say and
what you really mean.
- Non-verbal messages come from deep inside you, from your own
sense of self-esteem.
- When people don't know whether or not to believe what
they're hearing, they go to body language--it tells the truth.
- You must sustain direct eye contact if you want people to
take you seriously.
- Understanding body language is one of the most practical
skills you can develop.
non-verbal communication has several different aspects to consider, for this
investigation you will divide them up and each group will investigate only
Different Parts of Non-Verbal Communication
1. Predict: These types of
behaviors you see everyday, whether you actually talk to people or
not. What have you already
noticed about the behavior you are studying? What do you still not
understand? (this may be a good place to start.)
- Space: How much space between people is comfortable
- Eye Contact: How is it used? What different
meanings can it have?
- Facial Expressions: How do Americans indicate boredom,
interest, confusion, agreement or disagreement?
- Gestures: What are some typical gestures and what do
they mean? What are some special gestures?
2. Plan: Again, these types
of behaviors will be especially easy to observe from a distance. Remember,
how native speakers interpret them an important part of your
investigation. You may want to use interviews for this.
3. Collect Data: When collecting data, keep in mind the fact that different native
speakers may vary in both their use and interpretation of these behaviors.
(However, they may not.) Are you getting information about variation among
native speakers in your data?
Analyze: Can you categorize the different
behaviors and interpretations in your data? Does this show a
Reformulate: Is what you found what you
expected? Does it give you a better idea how to act in face-to-face
conversation? Does it help you interpret the behavior of native
Because each group looked at a different aspect of non-verbal
communication, it is important that you report on what you found and share your
insights. At the end of this unit, be prepared to give a short
presentation. You need to tell us about what you did in each step of the
investigation, especially the last. We want you to tell us and show us
both what you observed and how you think we can use this information to improve
our conversational skills.
Take a look at the following sites. They're interesting, and you
may get a good idea for your investigation. Remember, you never know where
a good idea will come from.
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