Non-Verbal Communication

in Communication / General

Messages are communicated verbally or non-verbally. Verbal communication may be oral or written. Non-verbal communication means employing audio signs or visual signs to communicate a message.

Audio Signals as Communication Tools

Audio signals communicate messages. In olden days, the entire community will retire for the day when the ‘curfew tolls’. The curfew is a signal given by the ringing of a bell that signalled the approach of the night. The practice of clamping curfew has its origin in this. Prayer time is communicated by the ringing of the bell in temples and churches. During the World war in major cities, dome shaped bunkers were built. The blaring of a siren called the ARP would convey the message to the people to take shelter in the bunkers. ARP is the acronym for Air raid precaution and the siren was an audio signal warning about an air raid or bombardment. When the telephone bell rings, you know that someone is on the line. When the calling bell rings, you know that someone is at the door through the audio signal. Buzzers, alarms, beating of drums are all audio signals that convey messages.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Audio Signal

The advantages of employing audio signals are that they are easy to operate, quick to communicate and can reach a large section of audience, scattered over a large area. But, audio signs as non-verbal tools of communication have only a limited scope. One signal only can be employed at a time. Supposing the closing bell of the school is rung by error earlier, there can be no corrective step. The children would have run home!

Visual Signs in Communication

Visual signs are employed as a substitute for verbal communication. A picture of a burning cigarette with a red cross over it can easily communicate a No-smoking warning. An umbrella marked over a carton indicates that it should be kept in a dry place and not in the open. Visual sign of a wheel chair outside a toilet indicates that it is meant for physically disadvantaged people. Red and green lights on railway tracks and traffic junctions are visual signs conveying messages. The stripes drawn on the road at a zebra crossing form a visual sign indicating a pedestrian crossing. Posters, drawings, cartoons are all employed as substitutes for verbal communication.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Visual Signal

Visual signs are advantageous because they arrest the attention and are brief to a point. They can cut across linguistic barriers provided they carry a universally accepted meaning. Visual communication signals have disadvantages also. They can be misunderstood easily in different contexts. They are useful only in conveying short messages and cannot be employed for long ones.

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