Applications of Nonverbal Communication

By Ronald E. Riggio; Robert S. Feldman | Go to book overview

9

Nonverbal Behavior in Couple Relationships:
Exploring the Causes and Consequences
of Withdrawal

Patricia Noller

Judith A. Feeney

Nigel Roberts

University of Queensland

Andrew Christensen

University of California, Los Angeles

The importance of communication in close relationships is highlighted by Wood's assertion that "communication is not only a central, generative process of intimacy, but is actually what we experience as relationships" (1995, p.125). Although communication usually consists of both verbal and nonverbal channels, there is evidence that the nonverbal channels may be particularly crucial to relationship processes and outcomes (Gottman, Markman, & Notarius, 1977; Noller, 1984). Burgoon and Dillman (1995) suggest that "nonverbal relational messages signal how participants regard each other, their relationship and themselves in the relationship." Similarly, Watzlawick and his colleagues (Watzlawick, Beavin & Jackson, 1967) suggest that communication involves two levels of meaning : the content and relationship levels. The content level involves the literal meaning of the words that are spoken. In contrast, the relationship level conveys important information about how the partners are feeling about each other. This relational information is generally conveyed nonverbally, and can modify the meaning of the words. Our goals in this chapter are to review the literature on the interrelated topics of nonverbal behavior in close personal relationships and

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