Be My Valentine?

Love is in the air this week.

Simply observe the splendour of flowers and balloons around and we are able to conclude the onset of a special event – Valentine’s Day. A day where cupid strikes.

The whole notion about love inspired this particular entry.

Following last week’s discussion on verbal communication, this week’s entry will focus on the nonverbal aspect of communication. It is important to remember, however, that in reality, nonverbal cues interact with verbal cues; both are inseparable from the other.

In a social context, situations like dates involve both verbal and nonverbal behaviour and communication. But I shall focus on the latter. Amidst my hunt for interesting videos, I chanced upon an interactive web series on YouTube about dating. The videos, collectively titled 8 Dates , feature a socially awkward female, Ava, on a quest to find a boyfriend before Valentine’s Day. (Find out more about 8 Dates )

Each separate clip features the female lead going on a date with different individuals. As we follow her on her journey, we can observe and pick out the use of nonverbal communication in everyday lives. To assist in my analysis, I have selected the more recent one being posted on 5 February 2011.

5 Feb 2011. 8 Dates: HAUNTED By Your Ex.

Well, the above clip isn’t your typical date. But nonetheless, we are able to identify specific nonverbal cues based on their interaction with each other.

The first type of nonverbal communication that is most widely observed on a date is that of Kinesics, or body language. More specifically, a type of kinesics known as affect displays are prevalent as we notice an array of facial expressions in the clip by both parties. At the very beginning, the male lead’s facial expression communicates the message that he isn’t enjoying himself (He substantiates that via verbal communication by explaining the breakup with his ex girlfriend). Subsequently, throughout the date, his facial expression simply stuck at the stage of sorrow, because everything reminded him of his ex girlfriend. The female lead is similarly flustered when everything she said or did reminded her date of his ex, and this emotion was expressed through her facial expression.  

The inability to move on and get over the breakup can also be a nonverbal cue. Time conveys meaning, and in this context, focuses on the male lead’s association with time. Him being so wrapped up in past memories delivers the idea of Chronemics – the study of how time affects human behaviour.  In short, the sequence can be described like this: Stuck in the past – behaviour affected – date failed.

In dates, eye contact (Oculesics) is also a very important code of nonverbal communication. Meaning is associated with the eyes even though no words are spoken (Imagine a very much in love couple gazing into each other’s eyes. They love each other, no?). In the video, the male lead seldom makes eye contact with the focal of his attention – his date. Eye contact conveys meaning like interest and attraction. But the guy, obviously self absorbed in his past, constantly shifts his gaze, denoting his awkwardness and lack of attention towards this date.

Essentially, nonverbal communication is prevalent in many more ways than we can imagine in our lives. Dates require interpersonal communication, and this video is a bad example of a great date. But what we can draw from this is the use of nonverbal cues that if, understood thoroughly, signify a more successful date to come 🙂

Food for thought:

Are there other examples in our lives where nonverbal communication is used?

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February 19, 2011. Uncategorized.

14 Comments

  1. calean replied:

    All the time! 🙂 we are always reminded to take note of body language in interviews or presentations for example, because it can convey attitude and perhaps some assumptions on character.

    I feel that eye contact is particularly important, and this we need to ‘learn’ or keep to it. In the age where notifications or sms comes in every few minutes on our mobile phones, learning to keep our eyes on the person we’re talking to is all the more important. It may be taken for granted at some time.. for example keeping our eye contact when our parents pop in to our rooms to talk to us . 🙂

    • Valerie replied:

      Hi yes I totally agree with your comment on eye contact! It’s a very real-life situation particular in today’s society. I myself am guilty of being too caught up in texting on my phone and end up neglecting the person whom I was talking to. If eye contact signifies attention, I was probably not giving the party I am conversing with his or her due respect. So in essence it is important for us to take note of our eye contact with people in our daily lives (:

  2. papaya replied:

    I agree that facial expression / mood is quite important too. For example your partner is try to tell you a very interesting story but your reaction or comments are like nonchalant. It will just stop the person from continuing his/her story and cause a bad impression, which if repeated several times might cause a unwanted quarrel in the end.

  3. jia hui replied:

    I suppose another form of non-verbal communication may be in the form of music or art. Some people convey their feelings and messages by writing a piece of music or drawing and painting. Emotions can be effectively communicated in this way too.

    However, this mode of non-verbal communication is rather indirect. At times, the messages which you may want to bring across to others may run the risk of being misinterpretated.

    • Valerie replied:

      Good point! Another important aspect about music is also its constant use in virtually all programmes to bring out the atmosphere of different contexts. Music conveys emotions, but people often take background music for granted.

      I agree with you that misintepretation may occur. Not only in this mode, but in all forms of nonverbal communication because of its inherent characteristic of subjectivity.

  4. Jingz replied:

    Heya! I like how you analyse the use of Kinesics, chronemics and oculesics! I think that beyond all this theory, how in real life we handle such non verbal cues are quite different to how we perceive them in videos! We need to be aware of how we communicate, so as not to create misunderstandings! And I agree with how eye contact is important to conversing with others, as it can be said to be terminating the conversation when you look away from the person!

    • Valerie replied:

      Thank you!

      Well, definitely! Theoretical information only acts as a guide to help us understand different modes of communication better. With a better knowledge and understanding of the aspects of nonverbal behaviour, we will be more apt in handling with actual situations in real life.

  5. Kang replied:

    I think body language is really important. It is really obvious to the other person but not to you. Actions like slouching over the table or yawning while listening to your teacher or your friends talk, it really says alot about how one is feeling at that moment in time. Eventhough you may not mean it but the impact to the recipient is BIG.. Even I knowing the effect may sometimes do it unknowingly too and it feels really bad. No doubt sometimes we cant help ourselves but ya we should still try to refrain from it if we dont mean it. Its rude!!!

  6. Valerie replied:

    Unconcious nonverbal behaviour is no doubt present in our daily lives! In everything we do, we may convey meaning through our behaviour even though it is a subconcious act. Being more aware of our body language will indeed minimize the negative impact it has towards the recepients of our unintended “message”. Certain habits like what you mentioned should be corrected so that we can avoid stepping on the toes of others.

  7. Jael replied:

    I totally agree that our body language plays an important role during a conversation with any one. It acts as a nonverbal cue to people whom we are communicating with. However, this only happens in the high context culture because we are taught to do so since young. On contrary, in the low context culture, spoken words are being value instead.

  8. Li Yin Low replied:

    If I’m not mistaken, 70 to 80% of communication among human beings is nonverbal. Nonverbal cues are especially important in intercultural communication as they help us get beyond the language barrier. However, nonverbal cues differ across cultures. For example, the A-OK sign means A-OK in America but it symbolizes a vulgarity in other parts of the world. Perhaps you can consider the origin of these nonverbal cues that we have? Nonverbal cues are usually learnt through culture and upbringing. Yet, some nonverbal cues are similar worldwide. Any thoughts as to why that is so? (:

    • Lina replied:

      To reply the above question by Li Yin, I think that universal nonverbal cues could be due to the mutual influence of culture and society. Although many nonverbal cues are learnt through culture and the way we have been brought up since young, many are learnt from other cultures.

      If a particularly society finds the OK sign acceptable, for example, people from other cultures may pick it up and bring it back to their own society. Through the influence and infiltration of a particular culture, what is socially acceptable will soon be adopted by the natives. Over time, countries around the world will adopt the same nonverbal cue. However, it is difficult to determine where certain cues originate from.

  9. Jennifer replied:

    In my life, music is a form of nonverbal cue that is very close to my heart. I’m an introvert by nature, so music is an avenue for me to communicate my emotions to others without having to say it verbally. Behind every music piece lies a different story, and it is up to the listener to interpret it as all forms of nonverbal cues are subjective. The beauty of being able to communicate and convey meaning without speaking is what makes nonverbal communication so captivating.

  10. Yuanxin replied:

    Introverted people will definitely be more inclined to using nonverbal communication. However, it is interesting to see that extroverted people actively engage in both verbal and nonverbal communication. Most of the time, extroverts use alot of hand signs to complement their verbal speech.

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