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Non-Verbal Communication

  Communication is greatly facilitated by the use of language, but arguably, certain types of information are conveyed more efficiently and with greater subtlety by non-verbal means. Kinesics is the study of body movements in relation to expressive acts. All communicative events involve kinesic activity, such as the use of hand and eye movements, facial expressions and body posture. Each culture makes use of a unique repertoire of non-verbal communicative events, almost akin to a dialect. For example, the use of space in human interaction (proxemics) varies systematically: in face-to-face interaction, Mexicans tend to stand closer together than British people. And cross-cultural differences in the conventions for non-verbal interaction can sometimes lead to misinterpretation and the breakdown of communication.

Kinesic studies are complemented by a range of non-speech sounds used in communication (paralanguage), including aspects of voice quality, hissing, whistling, and shushing. Non-verbal acts often complement speech, but non-verbal communication can be used to undermine the words being spoken. When there is a conflict of meaning between the words someone uses and their non-verbal actions, the non-verbal message tends to be preferred as a true indicator of the speaker\'s attitudes. MS



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