By Justin Bigger:
In Chapter Nine of Management Communication, O’Rourke writes about the importance of non-verbal communication and lays out a framework for interpreting it within a cross-cultural dimension.
I’m sure everyone has misinterpreted nonverbal communication sometime in their past, even if they aren’t aware of it. The difficult thing about non-verbal communication is that it is sometimes difficult for us to even be aware of what particular non-verbal gesture gave us a certain impression of someone else’s feelings. This is especially true if you have known the person for a significant amount of time.
When I first started college, I moved in with a friend that I had known since elementary school. In hindsight, this was a colossal mistake on both of our parts, and the friendship quickly dissolved within a year of becoming roommates. If I think back to what happened, the entire thing fell apart over non-verbal communication. After knowing each other for so long, we kind of developed short-cuts in our everyday communication process that prevented us from discussing things maybe as much as we should have. Instead, we relied heavily on non-verbal communication and the amount of non-verbal communication that we were absorbing day in and day out lead to many problems that eventually ended the friendship.
Non-verbal communication can be very helpful and is a very important part of the communication process, but it is often necessary that more meaningful communication take place for the sake of clarification. Never take for granted your ability to ask another person what’s on his or her mind, because if you solely go on some pre-programmed reaction to a non-verbal stimuli it can lead to disastrous results.