Non-verbal Communication

February 24, 2009


I recently finished reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book “Travels with Herodotus”. I particularly liked the following passage:

Negusi knew only two expressions n English: “problem” and “no problem”. But using this gibberish we communicated ably in the most fraught circumstances. In conjunction with the wordless signals particular to each human being and which can speak volumes f only we would observe him carefully – drink it in, as it were – two words sufficed for us to feel no chasm between us and made traveling together possible”

To me this sums up the role of non-verbal communication. Its possible to understand each other with using words.

This is missing when communication only takes place in writing – as when we use e-mail, carry out electronic conferencing, when conducting “e-learning” and in other situations where we rely on written and verbal communication only. Without face to face contact it is so easy for things to be misunderstood and misinterpreted because the signals given through gestures, body language etc are missing.

Another problem with e-communication is the asynchronous nature of the conversation. Its like playing correspondence chess – there can be long gaps between each “move” and take a long time to complete something which would be over relatively quickly face to face. It is also very easy for the conversation to move off at tangents, which can be difficult to bring back to the original direction.


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