Non-verbalcommunication: breaking the rules

Non-verbal communication: breaking the rules

Non-verbalbehavior is an intricate set of vocal and body signals thataccompanies a speech and help in transmission of its meaning. Thereare several examples of non-verbal behaviors which include,paralanguage, facial expressions, body posture, eye movements andgestures among others. Non-verbal communication is very beneficial inthe development and maintenance of human social relations. Variousnon-verbal behaviors have a distinct set of rules that govern them inthe process of conveying meaning. In any case that these norms areviolated then the speech may lose the proper sense (Hinde, 1972).This essay discusses paralanguage as a non- verbal communicationmethod and the norms that govern it in the transmission of meaning.

Paralanguageis a non-verbal element of speech usually optional vocal effects usedto modify meaning and convey emotions. Paralanguage comprises oftone, volume and pitch of the voice and the speed with which themessage is being delivered among others. Tone can be defined as aquality in a voice that expresses the feelings or thoughts of aspeaker often towards the individual being addressed. This impliesthat the same sentence can convey different meanings once thenarrator intends to change the tone. For instance, a communicatorwould use intonation to indicate whether a certain sentence is aquestion or a statement. Consider the following: That’s it, andthat’s it? They are the same, but they differ because of theirintonations. The first sentence is a statement and therefore has afalling tone while the second is a question because it has a risingintonation

Variousnorms govern paralanguage mainly depending on the context. Forinstance, we are supposed to ensure we use small voices in quiteplaces such as churches and libraries. One should make sure to use alow tone when expressing polite words such as sorry, excuse me andplease. Everyone is expected to lower their voices when correctingsomeone. Loud sounds may mean rudeness or disrespect in some regions.In most cultures, we are supposed to reduce our tones whencommunicating to elderly people. This is taken as a sign of respect.

Oneof the paralanguage rules that is decided to violate is the use of alow voice while addressing the elderly. I visited my grandmother toher house as usual and she requested me to spend the night at herhouse. However, instead of explaining my reasons why I couldn`t sleepover in a respectful manner, I decided to shout back at her as a wayof breaking this norm of paralanguage. This was an apparent disregardof what the society naturally accepted as a way of life. Children areexpected to show respect to the old at all cost. At first, mygrandmother was speechless and glued her stern face at me. I couldread between the lines that she was furious. That was what I expectedafter having been rude to her. However, she sunk into her couch andin a quiet tone that betrayed her politeness she ordered me to sitbeside her. She grabbed me and held me tightly on her chest. It was asign of love. The only reason why she acted this way was as a resultof a strong relationship that we had established between us, and shewas sure I responded angrily for a reason. I felt guilty indeed andcouldn’t stand to look her directly into the eye and explain why Idid it. She was nice to me even after being rude to her.

Theother person I had an encounter with was my mother. After havingcollided with my grandmother, I walked straight home, and I decidedto violate the same rule of paralanguage. The supper was not readyand instead respectfully approaching her, I angrily shouted at thetop of my voice. She is different from my grandmother, and I expecteda fierce reaction. She shouted back at me in a louder voice and withthe unrelenting look on her face. I grew cold. This was expected ofher because the society entrusts her with keeping my disciplineintact. I felt sad and uncomfortable to be in her presence for havingbeen obscene.

Theother way through which I violated this norm of paralanguage was byaddressing my college principal in clamor. In this case I had failedto complete my English homework and when he asked me to provide myreasons for not completing it I replied in a loud and continuednoise. The principal stared at me in bewilderment and I was sure hewas confused by my sudden change in behaviour. He looked confused anddid not act. This was a surprising deportment since I expected apunch from him. Being the head of the school, the society expects himto instil discipline in the students even if it means beating. Thiswas an awkward reaction from him. I felt guilty for having treatedhim that way. It was really uncomfortable standing before his scaringface.

Theother person I confronted with my unexpected behaviour was my dad. Hecan be described as polite but violent when crossed. After havingbeen into a conflict with my principal he had to be informed. Asusual he at first requested politely for an explanation. Nonetheless,I failed to return the favour of his politeness and I responded in aloud and harsh voice. Just as per my expectations, he jumped unto mea grabbed me tightly with his shaky hands. His eyes popped out andhis face was sweaty. This implied that he was angry. My family has anestablished relationship between our parent and us. It is a relationof respect and a code of conduct that governs how punishments shouldbe delivered. This being my first time to be disrespectful to him hehad to forgive me. I felt so sad and hurt for being rude. It wasreally uncomfortable to be near him and I walked away with guilthaunting me all over.

Havingshown inconsistent misconduct during the past one week as I tried tocomplete my assignment of breaking non-verbal rules. My parentsinsisted that I needed to visit a peer counsellor at the college. Hewas an elderly man about the age of my father and he deserved myrespect. However, he was shocked by the way I managed myself duringhis session. Every time I responded to his questions with my voicefull of rage and infuriating. Nevertheless, he was not moved,whenever reacted. His voice was just at a normal tone. Nothingportrayed his anger, he had successfully managed it. Having been intocontact with many aggravating teens, I was certain that he had becomeused to such behaviour. My expectations were correct, he had reactedexactly as I had predicted. However, this was not comforting, I feltsorry and unhappy for not being courteous. My deportment had made melose trust and respect from him. It is never easy to regain trust onelost.

Rulesof non- verbal communication are paramount in the society since theyact as a foundation of installing dignity among the people. Theyserve as valued means through which children learn as they grow up.Rules of paralanguage, for instance, are very useful in ensuringrespect and politeness prevail within the society. Without thesenorms that govern how we should speak while in different situationsand context, the society would be a bad place full of rudeness andloss of dignity.

Theimportance of the non-verbal communication within our communitiescannot be ignored and violated at any time. We need to ensure thatthey are strictly followed since they serve as a foundation of aprosperous society. Violation of these norms should be punishable ifwe need to steer our communities to greater heights of success.


Hinde,R. (1972). Non-verbalcommunication.Cambridge [England]: University Press.