Verba and Non-Verbal Communication Theories

Last Updated: 13 Jan 2021
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In all communication events, unless there is a relationship between actions and words, the message can be wrongly interpreted. I observed a conversation between a bartender and a customer in busy and crowded bar. The customer wanted the buy one more double bourbon but the bartender refused to sell to him. This resulted in a series of communication theories, which will be analysed later.

In order to analyse the communication theories that provide most insight into understanding the dynamics of the observed event, it is necessary to define what communication is and examine the different communication models and theories used in the observed event. In the context of the observed event, verbal and nonverbal communication, paralanguage, noise (psychological and physical), attribution errors, body movements (emblems, illustrators, affect displays and regulators) are the communication theories that will be examined to show how they all combine to give more meaning to messages.

Communication is a process of which information flows from one source to a receiver and back. ( who) communication is a two way process which is complete only when the receiver gives feedback that he or she has understood the message. When people use words to communicate, they do not just listen to what is said in order to understand the message. They also look at the person who is speaking to see what their body is doing and listen to the way they are saying the words to understand their full message. For example, in the observed event, 80% of the communication has been made before the customer even opened his mouth to speak.

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The customer staggered to the bar and verbally asked to be served one more double bourbon. The bartender refused to serve him because he knew the customer is already drunk and according to the NSW law, should not be served any more drinks. The question is how did the bartender know the customer was drunk? As opposed to the verbal message, the bartender was able to decipher the nonverbal messages being sent by the customer - the disturbed balance in his movement, his glassy eyes, smell of alcohol, sweat on his face, and the muddled speech. ll these indicated to the bartender that this customer is drunk.

When his request was denied, the customer became defensive saying he was not drunk. He refused the alternative non-alcoholic drinks offered by the bartender and became instantly aggressive, yelling and abusing the bartender. One could read the evidence of paralanguage in the customer’s voice. ‘Paralanguage is the vocal (but nonverbal) dimension of speech. (reading 2. 2) one could read from the high pitch of his voice, and the angry tone of his voice which was becoming loud that the customer is beginning to get angry and aggressive.

One could also see the angry look on his face; this is called affect display which is any emotional response in a communication. There are also different body movements by both the bartender and the customer that all gave more meaning to the conversation. For example, when the customer could not be controlled, the bartender called the security staff by raising his hand palm up and establishing eye contact with him. The security understood immediately that his service was needed at the bar.

This nonverbal body movement is called emblems. According to ( textbook p. 69) ‘emblems are those gestures that have a specific verbal translation. Another body movement was the way the bartender was shaking his head side to side at the same time he was declining the customer’s request. This type is called an illustrator. Illustrators are all those gestures that go along with our speech. ’(textbook p. 70) There was also the evidence of repetitions of messages in the observed event. the bartender had to explain to the customer over and over again why he would not serve him more alcohol because the customer kept saying he should be served now.

Here, there was difficulty getting the message across to the customer and this could be due to a particular barrier to communication called noise. Noise is any distortion factor that blocks, disrupts, or distrusts the message being sent to the receiver, interfering with the communication process. (textbook p. 7) In this context, the noise could be psychological due to the emotional state of the customer (being drunk) or physical noise stemming from the loud music in the club and also the presence of many people. Not getting the message across easily could also be due to attribution errors which are errors people make because they assign a certain meaning to something that was not intended.

In this event, the customer is of Indian origin; so it could be that he understood the bartender’s shaking of head to be a ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No’. This is because a slow shaking of head in India means ‘Yes’. The presence of regulators such as ‘pauses’ that occurred throughout this conversation indicate opportunities for feedback and responses to be sure the other person is listening. To conclude, communication, which is the exchange of ideas, knowledge, information and attitudes, is much more than words.

Although verbal and nonverbal communication are similar in that they both convey meanings and different in more ways, both of them put together provide complete meaning of the message. Even though they work together, it is nonverbal communication that accounts for 65 to 93% of the total meaning of communication. (birdwhitsell, 1970; mehrabian, 1981). This means that what is not being said in a communication determines the success or failure of that communication. Due to the dynamic nature of communications, it is important to master nonverbal behaviours especially in service industries like tourism and hospitality for effective communication.

The bartender being able to know the customer was drunk was due to the nonverbal symptoms of drunkenness. Most symptoms of drunkenness are universal irrespective of age, gender, culture or origin and can be easily identified. Thus the different communication theories used in this communication event: verbal and nonverbal communication (vocal and nonvocal), the different types of body movements, noise (physical and psychological), attribution errors all combine to provide the most insight into understanding the dynamics of the observed event.

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Verba and Non-Verbal Communication Theories. (2017, Apr 04). Retrieved from

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