Business Communication Instructors' Perception of Nonverbal Communication

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

How important is nonverbal communication? Studies suggest that 65 to 90 percent of our communication is transmitted nonverbally. If this is true, then business communication instructors should be placing emphases on nonverbal communication. Nonverbal consists of the following: body language, tone of voice, gestures, physical appearance, space/territory, facial expressions and the clothes we wear.

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The purpose of this study was to determine which nonverbal topics and methods business communication instructors used in teaching nonverbal communication. Specifically the objectives of this study are:

* to determine the age and sex of the respondents.

* to determine the value of nonverbal communication as perceived by business communication instructors.

* to determine the number of assignments and materials used to teach nonverbal.

* to determine the topics taught in nonverbal.

* to determine the methods used in teaching nonverbal.

METHODOLOGY

A questionnaire was developed and mailed to members of the Association for Business Communication in the Southwest and West Regions. A total of 298 questionnaires were mailed. One hundred thirteen questionnaires were returned for a 38 percent return rate. However, some respondents did not teach nonverbal and some were retired; thus, there were 74 usable questionnaires.

RELATED LITERATURE

Nonverbal communication is a relatively new field of study and is defined as "everything but the words used to communicate." "Nonverbal communication" is just one label. Others include "body language", "kinesics," "paralanguage", and "proxemics."

Mary Ellen Guffey defines nonverbal communication as including "all written and unspoken messages, both intentional and unintentional."(Guffey, p. 50) Researchers have found that "an astonishing 93 per cent of the meaning of a message comes from nonverbal cues."(Guffey, p. 50) "Only seven per cent ...of a message comes from the words spoken."(Guffey, p. 50)

A recently published book, Nonverbal Communications, Forms and Functions by Peter A. Anderson is based on "current theory and research in the field of nonverbal communication." Anderson states that "most researchers believe that nonverbal communication is considerably more important" (Anderson, 1999, 1) than verbal communication. Although researchers may disagree with the percentage of a message that is carried nonverbally "numerous studies show that all the various aspects of nonverbal communication-body movements, interpersonal distance, touch, facial expressions, and all other components ... of nonverbal communication ...are very important" (Anderson, 1999, 2).

Anderson defines nonverbal communication as "includes all communication other than language." (Anderson, 1999, 2) Nonverbal communication is a part of the broader category of communication. "Verbal communication and nonverbal communication...exist side by side as two human processes that are part of the same system" (Anderson, 1999, 2).

The coverage of nonverbal communication in the business communication textbooks has increased over the past two decades. Business Communications by Himstreet and Baty published in 1973 and used as a text in a business communication course devoted a few lines to nonverbal communication. They reported that "facial expressions, gestures and other bodily actions can tell when a person is pleased or upset." (Himstreet & Baty, 1973, 10) Also, listeners can recognize when "a person's speech does not convey his true intentions." (Himstreet & Baty, 1973, 10)

Recently published business communication books devote much more space to nonverbal communication. A recently published book Lesikar's Basic Business Communication by Lesikar, Pettit and Flatley (1999) devoted approximately three and one-half pages to nonverbal communication and included the nature of nonverbal communication, types of nonverbal communication which includes body language, space, time, paralanguage, and other types of nonverbal communication. …