Strategic Functions of Nonverbal Exchange
Miles L. Patterson University of Missouri- St. Louis
The study of strategic communication encompasses a very extensive area of research. Topics such as attitude change, conformity, deception, conflict, decision making, and impression management are some of the many issues that relate to strategic communication. For the most part, the research on strategic communication has focused on verbal behavior, or the content side of communication, with less attention paid to the role of nonverbal behavior. That condition has been changing in recent years with the growth of research on nonverbal behavior in interaction.
One of the circumstances that has been conducive to the study of strategic nonverbal behavior is the recognition that nonverbal behavior may serve a variety of functions in interaction. Several different researchers have proposed classifications of functions that apply to nonverbal behavior. For example, Argyle and his colleagues ( Argyle, 1972; Argyle & Dean, 1965; Argyle, Lalljee, & Cook, 1968; Kendon, 1967) have emphasized the role of nonverbal behavior in the following areas: (a) synchronizing speech; (b) providing feedback; (c) expressing intimacy; and (d) supporting or replacing verbal communication. Ekman and Friesen ( 1969) have emphasized the role of nonverbal behavior relative to verbal communication. They suggested that, in addition to regulating interaction, nonverbal behavior may repeat, contradict, complement, or accent verbal communication. In a similar fashion, Harrison ( 1973) and Burgoon ( Burgoon, 1985; Burgoon & Saine, 1978) have employed a communication systems perspective in proposing their classification of functions.
In recent years, I have been working on elaborating a classification of func-