Communication Revisited: Teach your child Non-verbal Communication

When I began this discussion, our definition of communication clearly goes beyond verbal communication. I know that non-verbal communication takes a better chunk of communication.   The truth is that we use non-verbal communication everyday in our relationships to pass our messages across. Primary and secondary custodians of the child use non-verbal communication in our communication with children in daily interaction. In most cases, we do not teach our children anything about non-verbal communication or the implication of same; we unreasonably expect them to understand our non-verbal gestures. In this part of the world, custodians expect children to understand what they mean, for example when they wink or twist their eyes in a particular way. Unfortunately, the child does not understand. The child is often chastised for not understanding a non-verbal gesture the custodians have not taught him and at the same time lack universal acceptance and bearing.

When I advocate that we must teach children non-verbal communication, I mean we need to focus more on teaching our children the implication of their non-verbal gestures and how to control or regulate same. Children, from birth began to communicate nonverbally. Therefore they are taught of nature. Our efforts should be on interpretations and proper use of non-verbal communication.

Wikipedia gives one of the most vivid definitions of non-verbal communication thus and I hereby quote it copiously: Nonverbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) cues between people. It is also seen as the nonlinguistic transmission of information through visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic channels. Mistakenly referred to as body language (kinesthetics), nonverbal communication encompasses much more, such as use of voice (paralanguage), gaze (oculesics), touch (haptics), distance (proxemics), time (chronemics), and physical environments/appearance. Only a small percentage of our total brain processes verbal communication, as an infant we learn nonverbal communication from our social-emotional communication, making our face, not our words the major organ of communication.’

In her article, ‘Types of Nonverbal Communication,’ published on the Psychology page of About.com, Kendra Cherry, writer and educator, who specializes in making psychology more understandable for students submits, ‘according to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal. Every day, we respond to thousands on nonverbal cues and behaviors including postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, and tone of voice. From our handshakes to our hairstyles, nonverbal details reveal who we are and impact how we relate to other people…While these signals are often so subtle that we are not consciously aware of them, research has identified several different types of nonverbal communication…In many cases, we communicate information in nonverbal ways using groups of behaviors. For example, we might combine a frown with crossed arms and unblinking eye gaze to indicate disapproval.’

Cherry identified 8 types of 8 Major Nonverbal Behaviors to include:

  1. Facial Expression
  2. Gestures
  3. Paralinguistics: Paralinguistics refers to vocal communication that is separate from actual language. This includes factors such as tone of voice, loudness, inflection and pitch.
  4. Body Language and Posture: Body language refers to the nonverbal signals that we use to communicate. According to experts, these nonverbal signals make up a huge part of daily communication. From our facial expressions to our body movements, the things we don’t say can still convey volumes of information. According to various researchers, body language is thought to account for between 50 to 70 percent of all communication.
  5. Proxemics: People often refer to their need for “personal space,” which is also an important type of nonverbal communication. The amount of distance we need and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us is influenced by a number of factors including social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics and level of familiarity. For example, the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. On the other hand, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people is around 10 to 12 feet.
  6. Eye Gaze
  7.  Haptics: Communicating through touch.
  8.  Appearance

In concluding, I will like to focus some attention on Body Language and touch a bit on haptics, which is communicating through touch. In the course of my work in the last 16 years, I have met many children and adults alike, who are betrayed their body language. As a matter of fact, they do not understand the impact of their body language on their total perception as a human being. I have seen children and adults, who hold conversations and instead of looking into the face of the person, they are talking to, they look down. Many do not know how to put themselves together when they are meeting someone for the first time or when holding conversation with someone they are not familiar with. This becomes a major attack on how they are perceived to be in terms of how confidence they are.

Another area where many children and adults hardly know how to insist on boundaries is haptics, which is communicating through touching, particularly when relating with the opposite sex. Some, particularly females can hardly hold conversations with anyone, particularly the opposite sex. They keep touching, in most cases innocently, until their touching is misinterpretation to mean an invitation for something deeper. Some males also try to test the waters by touching the opposite sex in some unpleasant areas in the course of a conversation.  It is also important to note that some do so out of ignorance. The naïve females, who is being touched in an unpleasant places do not resist or at least make a statement by moving away. This kind of reaction emboldens the mischievous and ignorant alike.

There are also adults, who touch children in unpleasant places in the name of holding conversations. Many of the people in this categories end up molesting the child.

In teaching our children, the interpretation and how to use nonverbal communication to protect themselves, we must make it a point of duty to point their attention to how body language can betray them and how haptics, which is communicating through touching can be abused. They must be taught not to be victims or an abuser.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.

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