Nonverbal Observation Discussion
I’d like for each of you to spend a few minutes watching someone in a public setting for the sole purpose of observing nonverbal cues. Please do not choose someone you already know, such as a group of friends, family, your children, etc. Please choose people who are at least teenagers or older. For example, watch a couple while you’re having coffee one afternoon, or a family while you’re waiting for a movie to start, and so on. You don’t want it to be obvious that you’re watching.
You want to choose someone who is not alone—someone sitting or talking with another live person, not someone on a cell phone. Although it is hard these days, try to find people who aren’t texting or scrolling through their phones the entire time. You will need to observe both people or the entire group for interaction, but you want to focus on one main person to write about. You may want to write down some notes to yourself as you watch. Each answer should be a paragraph (a minimum of 5–7 sentences) in length. In particular, look for some of the following things:
Briefly explain the context…where were you? Who were you watching? Why did you choose this person? What was it about the interaction that got your attention?
What kind of gestures did you see? Describe the gestures. Don’t just say, “she used her hands a lot.” How? There’s a difference between pointing your finger in someone’s face and stroking someone’s face. Did it seem this person needed his/her hands to express themselves? Did he or she have any repetitive habits like drumming his fingers or playing with her hair? Did this person touch someone with them? What did the touch tell you? Would you say this person used his or her whole body to communicate, or did this person make only small, occasional movements and gestures?
Did this person’s clothing or body say anything about him or her? Describe what he/she is wearing. A T-shirt with a slogan or art? Do you see any tattoos, piercings, etc.? Jewelry? Dressed up or casual? Did you feel he or she was appropriately dressed for the time and place?
What about eye contact? Did this person sustain eye contact with whomever he/she was with? Some eye contact? A lot of eye contact? Smiles? Frowns? Would you say based on the nonverbal behavior that you would describe this person as happy, sad, preoccupied, friendly, quiet, standoffish, what?
What did this experience show you about communicating non verbally? How might this experience affect how you interact in the future? How do you feel verbal and nonverbal communication differ after doing this exercise? Does nonverbal communication enhance or distract?
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