Nonverbal communication plays an important role in the human behavior. It is very complex and often provides more meaning than a verbal conversation. Relying on nonverbal signs in cases of uncertainty about the feelings or intentions of another person can be more useful than paying attention to words (DeVito, 134). This essay aims to describe and analyze the nonverbal communication between three individuals while explaining its elements and supporting the analysis of relevant scientific evidence.
The observation took place in the college cafeteria. I took the table near the window to have a great view on the rest of the students in the room. I could observe them without being suspected of doing so. I instantly noticed a group of students, having a conversation about the forthcoming exam. The table in front of them was full of books, which gave me the impression that they were studying during their meal. This group seemed interesting to me; thus, I decided to observe their nonverbal communication and use my observations for this essay.
Three members of the group were sitting closely together around a small table. From the verbal information I could catch, I realized that a young man and two girls were classmates, anticipating an exam in S. The Student # 1 (female) was impatient to study and get a better grade in the exam, while Students #2 and #3 seemed to be more interested in each other than worrying about studies.
Though the table was very small, I could immediately notice that the distance between people sitting around it, was not equal. Student # 2 and Student # 3 were sitting very close to each other with their shoulders attached. They showed a clear sense of physical attractiveness towards each other. The student #1 was sitting further from the couple, with many books on the table in front of her. The whole company was smiling and laughing from time to time, that made me assume they were good friends. Sometimes they were talking about serious matters, discussing sociological theories and recent researches. I noticed that the student #2 touched the hand of the Student #3 several times to attract her attention when she was talking too much. Their actions were completely natural, relaxed and without the slightest hint of pretentiousness.
The Students #2 and #3 were demonstrating sitting behavior typical for males and females. The legs of the young man were extended and spread apart, while a girl was sitting her legs crossed at the knees. Student #1 was sitting with her legs parallel; her arm against the back of the chair. There was not much space between the Students # 2 and # 3, while Student # 1 was more distant from them. However, three of them had managed to establish an environment of successful nonverbal communication. While observing their interaction, I could notice that the subjects # 2 and # 3 were significantly attracted by each other. Their mutual attraction was vividly seen through their postures and facial expressions. They were leaning at each other, being in a close proximity, touched each other, had relaxed postures, open arms, positive facial expressions (smiling and laughing all the time), and were engaged in a direct eye contact. Subject # 1 also had relaxed posture and gestures but was not showing any attraction signs (such as touching), thus it could be assumed that the nature of her relationships with the rest of the group were based on simple friendship.
Many researchers like Werner (1987) claim that space plays a huge role in human nonverbal communication (p. 169). Every individual is in the need to establish certain space as one`s own. In a shared dormitory area, the items on the common cafeteria table were used to mark the territory of the group members. For instance, the Student # 1 has put several books on the table in front of her, thus marking her territory and in such a way creating more distance between her and the couple.
Personal space is known to be the "bubble" of an individual. It is the distance a person maintains between herself and others, being the amount of space claimed as one`s own (Floyd, 2011). Hall in1966 was the first to distinguish between four distances regularly used by people in the process of communication (DeVito, 2002). I used these four categories introduced by him in the process of the observation. In accordance with his theory, a particular distance between individuals in the process of communication may be the indicator of their relationships and attitudes towards each another.
During my observation of the particular case, I noticed two types of distances categories: intimate and personal. Intimate distance is the one we touch each other and it is 18 inches between individuals (DeVito, 2002). The Students #2 and #3 were sitting very close with their shoulders attached, which was a sign of very close relations. This intimate distance is used to give comfort, to show affection and to protect.
The distance between the couple and the Student # 1 could be defined as the personal distance that ranges from 18 inches up to 4 feet (DeVito, 2002). The distance between the Subjects, in this case, was around 20 inches that perfectly fits into this category. This distance is used mostly for the conversation with friends, which confirms my theory about the nature of relations between the students.
Another form of observed nonverbal communication was touch. This is a very important aspect that should be analyzed, as tactile communication itself always involves invasion of personal space of other individuals. Normally it may be used only by people in very close relationships to show affection or to demand attention. When the Student #3 started talking too loud without stop, Student #2 used a gentle touch on her hand to attract her attention instead of just interrupting her with words.
I was sitting very close to the group of students; thus, being able to hear their talk and analyze their paralanguage. Every member of the group under observation had clear pronunciation and good articulation, producing the words in a completely understandable way. The pitch of the female voices was traditionally higher, while the male student had the lower voice. The rate and volume of their conversation were very high. The speech of the Student # 3 was the most rapid and loud. These vocal cues were used to build more detailed personality characteristics of the subjects. For instance, a rapid speaking rate indicated that the students were confident about what they were talking about. Loud-voiced and fast-speaking Student #3 could be characterized as dominant in the group, trying to get attention to her words and being in a completely confident position (Pearson, Nelson, Titsworth & Harter, 2011). The young girl sub consciously used these vocal cues to clarify the message she wanted to deliver to the rest of the students.
This assignment helped me to realize many things. First of all, I understood that nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. It is the primary means of showing emotions and attitudes. I was not able to guess the relationships between the students from their conversation, however, with the help of the detailed analysis of their positions, facial expressions, presence of eye contact, touch, and proximity, as well as the paralanguage they used, I managed to draw a conclusion about the nature of their relations and attitudes towards one another.