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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nonverbal Communication


By Vicki Ritts, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley
and James R. Stein, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. 

It is not only what you say in the classroom that is important, but it's how you say it that can make the difference to students. Nonverbal messages are an essential component of communication in the teaching process.Teachers should be aware of nonverbal behavior in the classroom for three major reasons:

  • An awareness of nonverbal behavior will allow you to become better receivers of students' messages.
  • You will become a better sender of signals that reinforce learning.
  • This mode of communication increases the degree of the perceived psychological closeness between teacher and student.
Some major areas of nonverbal behaviors to explore are:
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Posture and body orientation
  • Proximity
  • Paralinguistics
  • Humor
Eye contact:
Eye contact, an important channel of interpersonal communication, helps regulate the flow of communication. And it signals interest in others. Furthermore, eye contact with audiences increases the speaker's credibility. Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth and credibility.

Facial expressions:
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits:
  • Happiness
  • Friendliness
  • Warmth
  • Liking
  • Affiliation
Thus, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and students will react favorably and learn more.

If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring, stiff and unanimated. A lively and animated teaching style captures students' attention, makes the material more interesting, facilitates learning and provides a bit of entertainment. Head nods, a form of gestures, communicate positive reinforcement to students and indicate that you are listening.

Posture and body orientation:
You communicate numerous messages by the way you walk, talk, stand and sit. Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicates to students that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Furthermore, interpersonal closeness results when you and your students face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided; it communicates disinterest to your class.

Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with students. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading students' space. Some of these are:
  • Rocking
  • Leg swinging
  • Tapping
  • Gaze aversion
Typically, in large college classes space invasion is not a problem. In fact, there is usually too much distance. To counteract this, move around the classroom to increase interaction with your students. Increasing proximity enables you to make better eye contact and increases the opportunities for students to speak.

This facet of nonverbal communication includes such vocal elements as:
  • Tone
  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Timbre
  • Loudness
  • Inflection
For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms is of instructors who speak in a monotone. Listeners perceive these instructors as boring and dull. Students report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to teachers who have not learned to modulate their voices.

Humor is often overlooked as a teaching tool, and it is too often not encouraged in college classrooms. Laughter releases stress and tension for both instructor and student. You should develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage students to do the same. It fosters a friendly classroom environment that facilitates learning. (Lou Holtz wrote that when his players felt successful he always observed the presence of good humor in the locker room.)

Knowledge Communicated:
Obviously, adequate knowledge of the subject matter is crucial to your success; however, it's not the only crucial element. Creating a climate that facilitates learning and retention demands good nonverbal and verbal skills. To improve your nonverbal skills, record your speaking on video tape. Then ask a colleague in communications to suggest refinements.


Lina Ryan said...

I agree that it is important how prepared and how much knowledge you have about your topic, but the nonverbal communication plays an important role when you are sending a massage. Nonverbal communication will definitely help the audience to better receive and understand the subject you are trying to get across.

Wendy COM101-930 said...

At first glance, these behaviors seem unimportant. Thinking back to speeches I have attended, all these things made a huge difference sometimes working for or against the speaker.

Anonymous said...

Even the shy people who don't say much have a lot of body language. It's the one way to communicate with people and read them no matter what situation you may be in.
I like humor in the classroom, it makes it more light-hearted and causes smiling. All of these examples are positive and I agree, very important not just in a public speaking class but for all classes, teachers and students alike.

Kasey Ferrell
HN 115

Alexis Donovan 4041 said...

On the first day of class when you walked in I was wondering what you would be like! I was nervous. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. As soon as you made a joke it made me feel more comfortable. Humor is definitely important when communicating. Who wants to talk or listen to someone boring?!

Jessica Johnson said...

It is hard to concentrate on all aspects of doing a speech to get a message across when you are nervous and trying so hard not to send across the wrong message through body language. I may be right on top of my topic but once I get in front of people, lose all control and mental capacity to properly get the message across.
Jessica Johnson COM 101-4041

Anonymous said...

These tips are really helpful and I will keep them in mind for any speaking I do. At a young age I learned that eye contact is essential when communicating with others. I try to focus on someone's eyes when I speak to them because it generates respect.

Angelina Gomez

Anonymous said...

Non-verbal communication is so powerful. By having the wrong facial expressions or gestures when speaking you could offend someone or be sending a different message than you meant to.
Julia Miller
Com101 HN 4041

joey torres said...

all this things on non verbal communication are grate but the best is about humor. you kinda got to be somewhat funny so that people don't take you so seriously and when most people do that they will listen better joey torres bc6003

Trevino01 said...

These are all very helpful points when doing a speech. These things will help you bond with your audience much better when presenting. Having eye contact with your audience is huge as well.

Leslie Gomez-COM 4041 said...

Actions speak louder than words I agree with all of these tips. It is surprising the amount of difference you can make through gestures that influence your conversation. I've noticed that a smile and eye contact is everything.

Danielle Scarano 4041 said...

so funny how sometimes you dont even realize what your body language is saying. some people need to be more careful of how their body language makes them appear.

iheartblog702 said...

This makes so much sense like the humor part, its so true! whenever you laugh or make the class laugh its a stress reliver. Thanks to this i now know how to improve on my speeches.

iheartblog702 said...

This makes so much sense like the humor part, its so true! whenever you laugh or make the class laugh its a stress reliver. Thanks to this i now know how to improve on my speeches.

Anonymous said...

Body language is so interesting. It seriously say so much more than words. It's funny how you can catch your self making a certain face that totally gives true feelings when you're trying to hide your emotions.

Anonymous said...

that preview comment was from
Chelsee Henderson Com 101 4049
SORRY! always forget to put my name!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this! I've had teachers who stare to long and raise their voice and most students were afraid of them. Humor releases so much tension in the room and definitely makes the situation much more comfortable.

Taylor Bishop
Com 101

Anonymous said...

I can completely say that I enjoy humor in speeches. If i listen to a speech that just seems to drag on..and on....and on....if makes the listener lose interest. Especially if it is a topic that isnt really interesting to the listener. I like humor in the classroom too, makes the 'air' less tense!

Joseph Contreras HN 4049 COM 101

Berenice said...

i agree with everyone that "I can completely say that I enjoy humor in speeches"Especially if it is a topic that isnt really interesting to the listener. I like humor in the classroom too