Nonverbal Communication

free essayThe way in which people communicate attracts much attention due to the significance attached to social interactions. Communication serves a number of functions, which partly, explains why communication comes in different forms such as verbal, written and non-verbal interactions. Further, the three types are divided into narrower subcategories that play a multiplicity of roles. It is argued that nonverbal forms of communication such as kinesics play a major role in both professional and personal lives.

Non-verbal communication has been defined in various ways, although consensus shows that it encompasses elements of speech and behavior that are useful in conveying a message (Andersen, 2007). However, words are not an element of nonverbal communication. Instead, this type of communication consists of volume, tone, speed and pitch of a voice, proximity of parties, gestures and facial expressions, stance, body posture, eye contact and movement and dress code or appearance (Andersen, 2004). In the past, it has been suggested that the spoken word only accounts for five percent of a given message while forty-five percent consists of tone and eye contact, while body language and movement account for fifty percent (Andersen, 2004).

The term kinesics, which centers on the study of nonverbal communication, was coined by Ray Birdwhistell (Waiflein, 2013). Based on the views of Waiflein (2013), nonverbal communication is based on facial expressions, gestures and body language. Although sometimes subtle, kinesics is important in the transmission of information from one party to another (Burgoon, Guerrero & Floyd, 2011). In this research paper, an interrogation on the usage of kinesics in both professional and personal life was conducted.

As a field of study, kinesics emerged as a subfield of anthropology (Brehove, 2011). However, with time, the field has expanded to other spheres such as psychology, sociology, business and communication. Thus, kinesics is an interdisciplinary field that demonstrates its applicability in current personal and professional spheres of life. The study reviews existing literature with the purpose of understanding the functionality of kinesics. In order to gain a deeper picture of kinesics, reviewing its historical roots is important.

Historical Context

While Birdwhistell made a significant contribution to the study of kinesics, it is noted that the subject was studied well before his time (Waiflein, 2013). Further, Waiflein (2013) observes that many studies focused on body movement, facial expressions and gestures (later known as kinesics). For instance in 1885, Warner Francis carried out a study titled, Physical Expression: its modes and principles. Another notable study was carried out by Edward Rowell in 1927 and published in the American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage,.

Waiflein (2013) notes that kinesics also interested Franz Boas, an American anthropologist, because he made major contributions in the 1970 after publishing a study on Kwakiutl Indians. The author focused on the hidden implications of the songs sung at the time. Thus, Boas initiated scholarly attempts aimed at understanding the meanings underlying gestures and other expressions.

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According to Farnell (2004), kinesics finally became institutionalized in the Anthropological Study of Human Movement Journal in 1979. A perusal of the journal finds that the field of kinesics has attracted extensive research that is useful in understanding how it influences communication in general.

Kinesics in Society

It has been noted that a substantial part of communication is nonverbal since responses to nonverbal behavior and cues such as facial expressions, postures, gestures, eye gaze, and tonal variations are common (Hogan & Stubbs, 2003). It is also clear that hairstyles, handshakes and other nonverbal details also convey a message during social interactions. These aspects have a significant impact on how people relate to each other. Scientific research on nonverbal communication and related behavior has been carried out ever since the first known study on the topic, attributed to Charles Darwin in 1872, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals was published. In particular, research on the topic has focused on the types, impact and expressions attached to unspoken behavior and communication (Carpenter, Liebal & Tomasello, 2011). Although it is difficult to take note of some forms of non-verbal communication and behavior, research has made significant contributions towards the understanding of the topic.

In many instances, nonverbal communication occurs based on the prevailing groups or types of behavior. For example, a frown accompanied by crossed arms and staring eyes indicates disapproval. Simpson-Giles (2001) observed that facial expressions are some of the most notable form of nonverbal communication. Hence, such expressions can play a useful role within professional or personal circles. For instance, a frown or smile conveys considerable information about an issue. For purposes of illustration, when a supervisor frowns at a worker, the implication is that something is not working as expected. However, caution should be exercised since non-verbal communication may vary from one culture to another, as already observed. However, facial expressions on fear, anger, sadness and happiness strike some form of universality across the world. Hence, their usage is almost uniform.

Staring, looking and blinking which are aspects of eye gazing which are critical in understanding nonverbal communication, and its role in professional or personal life. Hogan and Stubbs (2003) suggest that when individuals encounter people they like, the rate of blinking rises and is accompanied by a dilation of the pupils. Similarly, it is possible to assess emotions based on the gaze that people assume. Some of the possible emotions may signal attraction, interest or hostility (Hogan & Stubbs, 2003).

As pointed out earlier, kinesics has found its way into the discipline of communication. It is apparent that an understanding on the meanings of body language and gestures provide an advantage to professionals in the field of business and public relations. Company executives or representatives are in a better position when they have a mastery of hidden messages (Hargie & Dickson, 2004). Through such comprehension, it is possible to get the best out of negotiations on business deals since it becomes easier to understand what other negotiators are presenting. Similarly, company operatives have an improved chance of succeeding when communicating with a target audience for some form of information. Put differently, through an understanding of kinesics, individuals entrusted with communication-based positions are able to act both effectively and efficiently.

Posture and body language reveal considerable information too. After the publication of the works of Julius Fast, Body Language, research into the topic has largely focused on the negative aspects such as the crossing of the legs and arms (Demarais & White, 2004). Although such behaviors might convey a message, body language remains far from being subtle such that making judgments based on them would be misleading.

Appearance is also another important attribute of nonverbal communication. For instance, psychological research has shown that various colors arouse different moods (Pease & Pease, 2004). It has also been suggested that appearance might change physiological judgments, interpretations and reactions. People often make judgments about people based on their appearances. In particular, within professional circles, the way a person dresses enhances his/her chances of success in regards to securing a job or promotion.

According to Pease and Pease (2004), nonverbal communication plays a role in many areas especially within those cultures that are rich in context. To begin with, nonverbal communication is useful in aiding the transmission of verbal messages. For instance, when discussing directions, a speaker has the option of pointing out the sites. Secondly, non-verbal communication is critical in accenting a verbal message. For instance, varying the tone helps indicate the meaning of given words. Thirdly, nonverbal communication is used to complement or contradict verbal messages. For instance, in American society nodding can reinforce a statement while a wink can contradict a given statement. The fourth role attributed to nonverbal communication is regulation of interactions. In practice, nonverbal cues transmit messages about speaking turns. Fifth, nonverbal communication may substitute the use of verbal communication in instances where the latter encounters difficulties such as when a meeting place becomes noisy. Similarly, nonverbal communication is used when the person does not understand verbal messages or is hearing impaired.

According to Freitas-Magalh?es (2006), a considerable proportion of kinesics reflects behavior that is learned. The behaviors are passed from parents and guardians to children. This demonstrates that human beings are interdependent. Through the learning process, human beings internalize the behaviors that they learn, and repeat them in a consistent manner (Grammer, Renninger & Fischer, 2004). Although people do not recognize that they are communicating through their body language, the truth remains that a message is conveyed whenever body movement, facial expressions, or gestures are used. Thus, studying human kinesics is a major contribution to understanding the communication process and its effects on society. For instance, understanding that human expressions are shaped by culture would play a significant role at the workplace or in other social settings. Viewed differently, understanding kinesics is important when studying interacts between people. For professionals, kinesics is important in understanding the expectations of employers while for an ordinary person it is critical in interactions with others (Floyd & Guerrero, 2006).

Based on past research, societies with lower vocalization rates tend to demonstrate inhibited communication as they rely more on facial expressions and gestures (Knapp & Hall, 2007). For example, in Middle Eastern cultures people seem to stand closer when conversing than do their Western counterparts. As another example, in Turkey it is culturally unacceptable to pocket, and in Iran it is deemed rude to display a thumbs-up sign. Despite some similarities, it is erroneous to assume universality in the usage of facial expressions or gestures (Grammer, Renninger & Fischer, 2004). Such a finding demonstrates that when employing kinesics, understanding cultural or regional variation is critical. Thus, knowledge on kinesics would help people both in their professional and personal lives. In particular, a professional would be knowledgeable on how to deal with fellow professionals, employers, and clients. On the other hand, a person is better placed to lead a comfortable life by understanding the different meanings that kinesics have. An understanding of such a magnitude is more important when a person is in a multicultural setting since variations are apparent.

Some of the subfields of kinesics that need probing include proxemics, oculesics, and haptics (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2009). Oculesics centers on the idea that during conversations, significant attention is focused on facial and eye expressions. Mainstream thoughts depict that the eyes and face are major conveyors of information sent from the speakers. Eye movement, eye contact, and pupil dilation are the central elements in the field of oculesics.

Haptics, which borders on communication via touching, is also instrumental in understanding nonverbal communication (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2009). Research on touch has focused on its effects at early stages of life including early childhood and infancy. Touch is used in communicating familiarity, sympathy, and affection among other emotions.

Paralinguistics, which captures the aspect of vocal communication, is another form of nonverbal communication (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2009). Tonal variation, loudness, pitch and inflection are some of the major attributes under paralinguistics. In order to get a clear picture about the effect of paralinguistics, it is necessary to recognize out how a powerful tone can influence how people view a speech or sentence. When a sentence is said powerfully, listeners may perceive it as approval. On the contrary, when similar speeches or sentences are delivered with haste, disapproval or disinterest might emerge.

Proxemic has been used to probe peoples’ use of space while communicating (Grammer, Renninger & Fischer, 2004). Individuals have public spaces that are visible to observers. The space between people while interacting differs depending on the nature of relationship that they have. Often, individuals are more comfortable interacting with people whom they get along with well. It is not a coincidence that individuals sit or stand furthest from the people they dislike. Observers note that personal space varies depending on many characteristics such as sex, age, nature of function, and circumstances. In a business set up, a worker would feel comfortable standing next to a co-worker as opposed to an unfamiliar customer.

From the above, it is also apparent that gestures are instrumental in the process of nonverbal communication. Gestures are deliberate signals or movements that are used in passing messages (Driver, 2010). Some of the most common forms of gestures include pointing, waving, and numeric finger usage. Like in the case of facial expressions, some gestures are culture-specific (Givens, 2005).

Nonverbal Communication in the Business Environment

The most important aspect to consider when discussing nonverbal communication revolves around the role of culture in communication. In general, cultural differences reflect variations in the way people carry out their daily life activities as Segal, Jaffe, Smith, and Boose (2014) observe. For instance, general appearance and dressing are critical in the communication process although the way they are perceived vary across societies. However, it is apparent that in every culture, the way people dress is important since observers make judgments based on appearance. For instance, Americans place a significant emphasis on looks and personal attractiveness. As already indicated, variations among cultures bring difficulties when assessing appearance. As an example, it is difficult to tell which looks constitute modesty in appearance. In materialistic societies, there is a common perception that dress codes are indicative of social class.

From above, it is indicated that body movement is also a major attribute considered in nonverbal communication. Similarly, it has been observed that the way people move their bodies transmit a message about a number of issues (Segal, Jaffe, Smith, & Boose, 2014). Further, it is alleged that body movement conveys a message on attitude that one holds about another person or an issue being addressed. For instance, leaning towards or facing another person transmits information about an attitude between or among the people involved. Emotional non-responsiveness can be illustrated when someone taps fingers or juggles coins while moving away from or towards another person. This demonstrates an intention to gain control.

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People become tempted to group together all body language used in the business environment although such is not often right. As indicated previously, nonverbal communication varies on several accounts such as the social environment or culture. Hence, it is acknowledged that nonverbal communication differs based on the nature of a business. When a party seeks to understand the best form of communication to employ, it is necessary to learn the dominant business culture in the given environment (Nolen, 1995).

Some of the most notable business cultures include industrial, casual, conservative and academic (Ribbens & Thompson, 2001). An industrial business culture is a hybrid version since it involves a mixture of many aspects. The culture has divisions based on job functions such as frontline employee or management/administrative. Examples of the industrial business culture are found in manufacturing, maintenance, construction and related firms. Generally, an industrial culture focuses on rewarding physical performance, safety matters, and unity across the organization. In such a setting, the acceptable body language includes self-confidence, physical activity, and a willingness to expend more efforts to get work done.

The second business culture reviewed is the conservative type. Under the category, elements of a traditional office set up emerge. Hence, it is not surprising that business entities such as banks, law firms, corporate organizations, accounting firms and others come to mind whenever conservative cultures are under review (Ribbens & Thompson, 2001). In practice, conservative firms are structured hierarchically in terms of processes and scheduling of activities. In conservative business cultures, the dress code remains formal although some form of liberalism is emerging, for instance, in the form of casual Fridays. Professionals operating in such environments are expected to stay focused on actual work while at their workstations (Hogan & Stubbs, 2003). Navarro (2008) also noted that the body language of professionals in such organizations is formal, focused, purposeful walks in hallways and limited slouching, leaning, or excessive socializing.

The third business culture that is under consideration is of the casual nature. Under the casual culture, the focus shifts to modern, progressive firms, especially small and medium enterprises or those involved in technology and related activities (Ribbens & Thompson, 2001). One of the best examples of such companies is the ‘dot com’ company, which displays, among other things, ping-pong tables, beanbag chairs and an absence of a specified dress code. Despite the company being an extreme example, it is useful in illustrating the role of kinesics in business or communication. In a casual business set up, body language is more relaxed in addition to being open to fun and light-hearted moments (Ribbens & Thompson, 2001). Also, interactions within such an organization are more personal, open, and to some extent are seen as genuine. In casual enterprises, developing and nurturing friendships are acceptable. Thus, in such settings, body language entails nonverbal behaviors that are relationship-oriented aside from being of a social nature.

The final business culture considered is the academic one. The academic business culture is limited to learning institutions such as colleges, research foundations, universities, and issue-oriented or think-tank entities (Ribbens & Thompson, 2001). The focal aspect of the academic culture is creativity, knowledge, discussion and thought. In such organizations, body language shows openness and thoughtfulness as opposed to being dominant or overbearing. Furthermore, assertive nonverbal conduct is common, and emphasis on face-to-face relationships and discussions is common. The implication is that gestures, posture, eye contact, and facial expressions are critical in the communication process in every type of organization.

In light of the listing of the major cultural types of organizations, it is imperative that each firm identifies its correct culture. Workers or professionals are likely to benefit from understanding the kind of culture that their organizations operate. The primary reason revolves around the need to behave in a way that is in synchrony with company or organizational culture and expectations (Mehrabian, 2007). Often, when a professional acts outside the realm of the company’s culture, s/he is likely to be seen as less competent or untrustworthy.

Besides guiding how one relates with co-workers, understanding the culture of a business informs decisions about the way to handle clients (Gilbert, 2002). In fact, the primary goal of a business is to meet its objectives, which rests on satisfying the needs of as many customers as possible. In light of the above realization, learning about business culture is a major requirement for workers.

After the above review, attention shifts to various kinesics and their involvement in the business circles. Working in the business world positions one in a scenario where a considerable amount of time is spent in meetings. Examples of these meetings include staff meetings, planning meetings, sales meetings, budget meetings, project meetings, department meetings, group meetings, and committee meetings, among others. Irrespective of the type of meeting that one attends, the quality of communication emerges as a crucial part in the business world (Ekman, 2003).

When doing business, body language has considerable influence on perception before and after meetings (Ekman, 2003). Some of the ways in which body language influences communication may include the sitting position, adjacent seat occupants, the manner of sitting, whether it is necessary to sit, the position and resting of hands and legs, eye contact and overall body positioning (Konnellan, 2003).

Seating Arrangements

Seating arrangements might seem basic on the surface, but in reality they convey an important message. In a business set-up, the choice of a seat is critical in terms of where it is located since the location is viewed based on its proximity to the central table (Knapp & Hall, 2002). Similarly, the location one occupies in relation to other meeting attendees is important. Often, those individuals who sit closer to meeting leaders appear to be more credible and respectable. It has also been noted that some leaders might opt to sit somewhere around a table as opposed to occupying the head with the intention of creating a more relaxed environment. Despite such decisions, occupants of seats close to those occupied to the leaders are perceived to be more powerful.

The above realization raises questions about those who occupy seats further away from the leader. For instance, a powerful person may fail to occupy a seat next to the leader because of personal differences. Also, since head-on seating arrangements may send confrontational feelings, organizing seats diagonally may help defuse potential tensions. When discussing the variations between diagonal and head-on seating arrangements, the difference is clear. Hence, understanding seating dynamics is important for professionals and even ordinary persons.

Body Position and Posture

Looking around when attending a meeting shows that people have different postures and body positions (Beall, 2004). Viewing the differences communicates the attitudes, significance, and attention that the attendees assign the meeting. Thus, it is not surprising that an observer can read many messages based on the manner in which an individual’s body or postures appear. Apart from knowing the level of interest that people assign an activity, it is possible to determine the extent to which there is agreement or disagreement on an issue. In this regard, a professional needs to learn the messages conveyed by different body positions and postures in order to enhance their relevance to organizations. Besides the need to avoid slouching, one should also avoid being seen as paying military attention to issues under discussion. Attendees who convey a relaxed attitude by leaning back and forward on occasions come out as the most desirable characters. Upholding an open body position, keeping arms on a table without leaning on them, and resting fingers together lightly are other acceptable body movements when meeting people.


Gesturing is also an important aspect when assessing meetings. When talking, speakers are advised to control the movement of their hands (Ekman, 2003). When a person is unaware of their body movements, it might be useful to seek the services of a trusted colleague to observe and give feedback on a given performance. The implication is that body language is an influential factor in the conduct of professional affairs. As a professional, there is a need to learn the significance of body language since it guides speaking and the reception of messages by an audience.

Based on the discussion on body motion and posture, questions over the presence or absence of a connection between the body and brain is intriguing. It is held that the brain, emotions, feelings and attitudes influence health and the wellbeing of a body. If the brain influences a body’s status, the issue that remains unanswered is whether the influence can occur in reverse. Campbell (2005) found that based on a focus on neuro-linguistics the brain and body affect feelings and beliefs. For instance, when one hears about diplomacy, the picture that comes to mind is a big room with representatives from various countries seeking an agreement. In diplomatic engagements, body language is critical. Similarly, the tenets of diplomacy are useful to people as they go about their daily activities.

Focusing on matters pertaining to international diplomacy helps to illuminate the essence of kinesics in communication. It is noted that, to some extent, international diplomacy relies on body language and other nonverbal communication cues. After examining diplomatic missions, Ottenheimer (2007) observed that they reflected a rich use of gestures when negotiations are underway. The application of body language in some cases appears to be deliberate, and is designed to influence other players. Thus, a newly recruited diplomat would benefit from paying attention to body language and position. For skilled or professional diplomats, understanding culture, gender relations, anger and confrontation dynamics, values, beliefs and expected objectives are highly desirable (Remland, Jones, & Brinkman, 1995).

As already indicated, diplomacy does not only apply to the professional life but in the personal lives of everybody. Social interaction occurs on a daily basis. Hence, mastering the art of kinesics may play to the advantage of individuals. While going about routine activities whether at the workplace or at home, conflict is bound to occur. The disagreement may be with a spouse or co-worker. Although solving a dispute between spouses is different from handling a workplace dispute, some similarities are discernable. Hence, understanding and applying body language appropriately would prove critical in both in professional and personal lives.

As mentioned, the issue of culture emerges as a major factor. Culture refers to where one is raised and how this influences the way contentious issues are handled. For instance, a marketing department has guidelines on how to handle discrepancies between the production and sales departments. Gender would also be an issue although such a factor does not play a significant role within the workplace (Remland, 2009). However, in everyday society, when a conflict ensues, the gender of the perceived offender influences the action taken or response given.

Other aspects that people consider when resolving a dispute is the level of confrontation or anger involved (Knapp & Hall, 2007). If the levels are high, the chances of succeeding are minimal. In such cases, one needs to look out for behavior or body language that is likely to suggest aggression. In such instances, taking a deep breath, relaxing and taking leave may help in calming the situation. It is also important to consider the values of those involved in an issue. Notably, two or more workers might hold diametrically opposed views regarding the conduct of business. For instance, one of the workers may see the telemarketing idea as distasteful and intrusive while others view it as necessary for business operations.

The difference in beliefs may also play a role in day-to-day engagements. Beliefs are a function of many factors (Knapp & Hall, 2007). Thus, two or more people are likely to clash over an issue based on their different belief systems. In the business environment, a person may believe that the demand for a certain product is strong since the economy is on an upward trend. Such a notion is likely to make the person less aggressive, leading to major repercussions in the form of losses.

Body Language and Office Politics

In practice, each office or business setting encounters some form of politics. Despite attempts to conceal it, observers such as Waiflein (2013) reinforce the statement that office politics is unavoidable. Thus, the general view is that whenever people are working together, personal or professional politics emerge. In understanding politics within offices, comprehending body language dynamics is necessary. The position is held in reference to the view that body language contributes to such politics through inhibition or facilitation. The implication is that body language has the ability to encourage or discourage office politics. Thus, learning body language dynamics would prove helpful to professionals.

When attempting to prolong office politics, participants use their bodies actively in inviting others (Hargie & Dickson, 2004). Although some of the actions might be unconscious, others are intentional. However, regardless of the conscience subject, professionals understand and use their familiarity with nonverbal communication and body language to advance their personal or professional interests. As an example, when a new sales executive joins an organization, people who employ body language to further their political aspirations are likely to show certain behaviors such as taking positions that facilitate striking of a conversation, occupying a seat next to the new executive, micromanaging over the new employee, listening and sharing with the new person actively, offering information and tips about the office, and occupying the space between the new employee and the rest of the staff.

Another example centers on tension among co-workers. In such a situation, the following behaviors may be displayed: eye contact avoidance, faking ignorance about the other person, occupying a confrontational position in meetings, turning their backs when the perceived enemy is speaking, among others. The above examples demonstrate that body language is an effective tool that conveys messages within office set-ups with regard to encouragement of office politics.

On the contrary, body language is also useful in defusing or discouraging office politics (Floyd & Guerrero, 2006). The primary reason this is possible is that body language can be used to communicate disapproval or displeasure. Moreover, the messages can be relayed without taking a confrontational approach. For example, in the case of the new sales manager, if one worker disapproves attention seekers, some of the ways to respond is to exit discussions where the culprit is boasting about his/her relationship with the new leader. Other measures include directing conversation and comments directly to the new executive rather than going through a third party, demonstrating high levels of professionalism in office functions, focusing on performance as opposed to office politics, respecting the new executive without compromising on personal integrity, and keeping off interactions with the new executive least in the presence of the office politician.

Sometimes it is not possible to shun politics completely. In such an event, individuals are advised to open up, and address the facts directly before resuming routine activities outside the realm of office politics (Freitas-Magalh?es, 2006). In addition, other options to politicking within an organization are available. In this regard, an individual should decide whether to take part in the politics or discourage the conduct. Another option would be to quit the organization in favor of another one. In the end, deciding the best choice is a personal matter. However, it is apparent that body language plays an influential role. Hence, understanding body language dynamics is useful to a professional in understanding and handling office politics. Such knowledge should help professionals in knowing the way to behave when faced with dilemmas.

Body Language Status, Dominance or Hierarchy

Body language has also been used to display status, dominance or hierarchy. Weiten, Dunn and Hammer (2009) noted that the power of body language and nonverbal messages is noticeable when applied to passing information about the aspects of status, dominance or hierarchy. In this regard, many individuals develop and use such skills consciously to improve their lives, further their careers, or exert general control over other persons in different settings.

According to Weiten, Dunn and Hammer (2009), appearance, size, and height are the basic nonverbal cues that are used to convey status. Taller people are assumed to be of greater status although it is not a requirement to be physically tall to apply height in conveying their status. Uncomplicated actions such as assuming an erect posture, holding shoulders backwards and squarely, and holding the head upright constitute behaviors that make people look taller or bigger.

Touching is part of body movement that is used to convey a message. In practice, the functional use of touch in business is impersonal (Remland, 2009). For instance, a physician’s touch when conducting an examination must be professional. However, in most professions, touch is not applicable, an aspect that explains why it is not often used among business. In personal relationships, a touch is used to show the degree to which the persons involved are intimate. However, a handshake is the most common type of touch used. It is widely used as a form of recognition. Patting somebody on the back indicates friendship, although it can also convey a sense of dominance. In work places, touch is limited to necessary instances, and many managers or employees are expected to avoid friendship-like touches. Since some touches are can be viewed as sexual harassment, thus, those touching inappropriately run the risk of such accusations.

Another aspect of note is that touch is critical in passing information, as already indicated. In practice, when interacting, individuals of higher social status are the ones most likely to initiate the forms of touching. This might include placing hands over another person’s arms, or reaching out for a hand shaking. The influence in touching extends to those observing an interaction since when one is seen initiating touching they are perceived to be of a higher class (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2009).

The conveyance of hierarchy body language is equally useful and similar to status, although slight differences are notable (Hogan & Stubbs, 2003). For instance, hierarchy is usually associated with the position or structure exhibited by a group. Specifically, a club president is further up the hierarchy compared to a treasurer. Many forms of body language can be applied to denote the differences. For instance, seating arrangements would reveal the hierarchy. As shown previously, seating arrangement is a powerful indicator of hierarchical ranks. In practice, the highest-ranking person occupies the central part of a table. The further one occupies from the leader, the lower the rank such a person occupies, and vice versa. For skilled leaders, it is easy to use such arrangements to gain personally or professionally. When an open discussion is necessary, a smart leader occupies a seat further from the center to allow members the space to contribute freely.

While operating in an office environment it is also apparent that body language can come into play in regards to conveying dominance (Hogan & Stubbs, 2003). Dominance is often related to power, command and control. Exhibition of dominance takes place in different forms that can be either positive or negative. The differential factor is the intention and outcome of interactions. Communicating dominance may involve body positioning, relative elevation, and other general efforts geared towards controlling interactions (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2009).

Teachers standing in front of classrooms full of students exemplify elevation in the best terms. Often, students remain seated throughout the teaching sessions. Since the teacher assumes an elevated position, s/he is expected to be in control of the interaction that takes place. In the arena of public speaking, it is also possible to sense dominance given the manner in which public speakers at podiums behave. Elevation is also discerned when politicians engage in debate. All candidates seem to have the same height because each politician’s backers arrange podiums of equal stature.

Some business positions entail a high degree of using nonverbal communication such as head or facial movements. For instance, bank tellers are expected to understand kinesics since such applies to their job. Banks are more successful if their staff understand and apply nonverbal communication appropriately. Other fields such as marketing and auditing are equally dependent on the usage of body language. As Nolen (1995) observes, eye movement and smiles are useful in relieving tension in typical business environments. Segal, Jaffe, Smith, and Boose (2014) observed that recording one’s expressions is desired since it allows persons to assess their body language to facilitate necessary adjustments and improvements.

Body Language in Personal Life

Apart from other uses of body language, the personal life of individuals can also benefit or suffer from its mastery or its absence. According to Waiflein (2013), body language can be identified with a high degree of accuracy. In particular, it is possible to identify seven different types of emotions that are critical in personal communication by assessing body movement (Beall, 2004). Eye expressions and facial looks can indicate: sadness, anger, happiness, fear, contempt, surprise, and interest.

People are able to use and alter their facial movements to control their and other peoples’ emotions (Beall, 2004). For instance, individuals are able to intensify or exaggerate body movement in order to depict a stronger personality or emotion. An example to illustrate the case is found in the exaggeration of positive feelings after a sales person closes a major deal. People are also capable of de-intensifying positive feelings by inhibiting their body movements to suit the prevailing circumstances. For example, when one employee is awarded a pay rise but realizes a colleague was not awarded, s/he may reduce the intensity of happiness in order to avoid offending. Similarly, a person being reprimanded might resist appearing disappointed because of the urge to demonstrate a strong character. Further, a customer care representative might find it convenient to hide his/her feelings of disappointment or frustration encountered in serving a customer, simply because of professional etiquette. Understanding the field of kinesics is thus critical not only for professionals, but also for the ordinary people.

Eye movement or contact also plays a critical part in developing relations at both the workplace and open places (Ekman, 2003). For instance, maintaining eye contact is a receptive behavior that is supportive of closer engagements. Similarly, it is noted that looking away or down might signal the level of respect one accords another. Refusing to maintain eye contact is also a point of disapproval or discomfort with an unfolding scenario. However, caution should be exercised to avoid making blanket interpretations since extraversion or shyness may influence the extent to which people maintain eye contact.

Despite a presence of personal space norms, individuals often feel that such spaces have been violated (Remland, Jones, & Brinkman, 1995). In particular, if a person stands or sits so close to another individual, it may be seen as offensive. In an event that personal space is violated, victims react differently. For instance, people anticipating violation might stay away from functions, crowds, or parties. Other reactions include withdrawal from an event or adopting insulation measures. Insulation measures may be seen when for instance, a person arranges chairs in his or her office in such a manner that no one can occupy them. Other persons may fight violation by informing intruders about the discomfort they are causing. It is critical that in business or organizational set-ups, behaviors seen as violating personal space are identified, and efforts made to minimize or eradicate them.

At this point, it is apparent that various authors have attempted to contribute towards the understanding of kinesics. For instance, Mehrabian (2007) focused on five types of nonverbal communication. The five categories are useful in inspecting and learning movements that take place during interactions. However, the possibility that a movement belongs to more than one category remains.

The first category considered is emblem, which encompasses movements that are so common such that specific names have been adopted to refer to them (Hargie & Dickson, 2004). Some of the body movements under this category include handshakes and smiles. Often, emblems hold intrinsic meaning, and are understood easily by those who are familiar with them. Movements or gestures of the head, arms, legs and hands are also important in passing information. For instance, the waving of a hand is used to substitute saying hi/hello. Similarly, nodding can pass a message depending on the setting. Such gestures or movements are important at the workplace since they are a quick and convenient way to pass messages. Another benefit of using the body movement is that they easily understood although they may vary among cultures. For example, the ‘ok’ sign displayed though touching the thumb and forefinger is accepted in the United States, it is widely regarded as vulgar in other places such as in Australia.

The other category is that of illustrator movements. Illustrators are applied concurrently with words naturally with a view to adding meaning to verbal communication (Floyd & Guerrero, 2006). For instance, an illustrator could be used by nodding to emphasize a saying or phrase. Similarly, an individual can wave a hand in order to demonstrate an idea. Besides using gestures or body movements whose meanings are known, sometimes people use other gestures that are unknown. In such scenarios, it is said that individuals are embellishing their words.

The most important category is the affect display. The category reflects actions, which are paired with emotions like facial movements, and emotions that indicate amusement or disgust (Floyd & Guerrero, 2006). The kinesics can show if a person is receptive, distracted, angry, etc. When one encounters a person seated in a slumped position, the implication is that they are unhappy, or disinterested in what is going around. On the other hand, people who are smiling, seated upright, and have raised eyebrows are indicating a sense of happiness and interest. Although in most cases the affect display signs are read appropriately, in some instances they are misread. For instance, a person may appear concerned about something, but such an individual may be merely engaged in deep thought.

Regulator movements occupy the fourth category of body movements. The aspects are commonly observed in social interactions, although they are useful in a business setting too. Regulator actions are those taken by an individual who is listening with a view to helping another improve their communication skills (Floyd & Guerrero, 2006). In such instances, listeners may nod in agreement and make steps in a given manner to urge the speaker to proceed or demand repetition of some points. Some regulator movements can help in communicating desires of listeners to close a discussion or resume explaining some issues.

Finally, the adapter category is considered. Under the adapter category, reference is made to unconscious movements that take place because of comfort or clarity reasons (Hargie & Dickson, 2004). Such may include scratching an itch or shifting positions. Despite have limited meaning, such movements are important in demonstrating feelings and attitudes about people. Similarly, adjusting clothes, toying and fidgeting, and biting of the nails are some examples of adapter actions. Thus, adapters are indicative of a mental state of person such as being nervous or upset. These behaviors, especially at the workplace or interview sessions, may be interpreted in a negative way. Indeed, they can be seen as bordering on dishonest, anxiety or preoccupation with other activities.

Paralanguage, which involves the use of pitch and sounds when delivering a speech in social or business functions, has an effect on the communication process too (Remland, 2009). Personal evaluations, conferences, or meetings are subjected to paralanguage antics. It has been noted that speaking in a shrilling voice might provoke annoyance and irritation on participants. When the speaker incorporates too many pauses, listeners are likely to become disinterested. Hence, a proper understanding of such dynamics is critical in the communication process.

Body positioning often follows efforts aimed at attaining control. According to Navarro (2008), when a person moves closer to another one, dominance is reflected. Similarly, breaking a conversation or speaking first is a display of dominance. Looking at the position of one’s hand equally communicates about dominance. In everyday life, when a couple is walking while holding hands, the spouse whose hand is ahead and raised is most likely the dominant person. Without regard to status, dominance, or hierarchy, body language remains a major tool used in nonverbal communication. An individual boosts his or her chances of success by using body positioning appropriately and consciously.


Without a doubt, nonverbal communication irrespective of type plays a significant role both in personal and professional lives. As indicated in the paper, nonverbal forms of communication such as kinesics is instrumental in conveying messages and emotions. Thus, it is not surprising that within any environment nonverbal communication is used to a large degree.

Despite emerging as a recent phenomenon, kinesics has been studied extensively. Coined by Ray Birdwhistell, Kinesics has grown in stature since it is now regarded as an interdisciplinary field. Authors, among them, Waiflein (2013), indicated that kinesics involved nonverbal facial expressions, gestures and body language. Kinesics is important in the passing information from one party to another even though sometimes it remains subtle, as observed by Burgoon, Guerrero and Floyd (2011). After interrogating the usage of kinesics in both professional and personal life, the paper has found that this type of nonverbal communication plays significant roles in both professional and personal life although sometimes there is an overlap among the functions.

It has also been established that each entity would gain from developing an understanding of kinesics dynamics. However, it is indicative that every organization is under an obligation to identify its structure so that it can maximize the benefits associated with using nonverbal communication. An understanding of such a nature is important for professionals since they are likely to benefit from knowing how people communicate. In the same way, understanding organizational culture is critical for professionals.

Based on the paper, it is concluded that nonverbal communication directs relationships among workers, employers and other stakeholders. For business enterprises, kinesics is important in the pursuit of primary goals that are focused on satisfying customers’ needs. Kinesics has a widespread effect on human interactions, professional and personal lives, and hence, individuals should be more aware of kinesics in order to improve their personal and professional interactions.

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