Tag Archive: proxemics


Glossophobia? (Part 3)

“Are we to be the master of language or will language be our master?”
Lewis Carroll  (Alice in Wonderland)

Last week, we discussed three central ideas that every successful speaker should utilize when giving an influential speech. The three ideas, thought of by Aristotle, include ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic or reasoning). This week, we are moving into a new concept called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, thought of by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Their concept states that language has the ability to create, distort, or destroy a person’s perception of reality. When I first read their definition, in a way, I was amazed by the idea. I began thinking about our blog, news articles, Facebook posts/statuses, music lyrics, poems, movie quotes, movies, my everyday interactions with people, and the list could go on and on! I was extremely intrigued by thinking about how these different forms of language have impacted my life and the lives of others around me.

The foundation for the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is built off the use of words (Verbal Language) and nonwords (Nonverbal Language). For my post today, I want to focus on nonverbal language and how you can effectively utilize four primary areas of nonverbal language when communicating. The four areas we will be discussing today include proxemics, kinesics, haptics, and paralanguage.   

Proxemics is defined as the study of space and distance. When delivering a speech, talking with a group of friends, or simply communicating with an individual, one must keep Hall’s Spatial Zones in mind. First is the intimate distance, which is reserved for closest friends and family (from touching to 1.5 feet). Next is the personal distance which could be used with the rest of your friends, family, and strong acquaintances (1.5-4 feet). Third is the social distance which is used for meeting people for the first time (4-8 feet). Last is the public distance, which is the preferred distance from total strangers (8 feet or more).

Kinesics deals with bodily movements of all types. The three primary areas of kinesics include gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. Our gestures are either conscious or subconscious and have the ability to add or take away value from our speech (“okay” symbol, arm movement, habits such as playing with nose, ear, chin, etc.). Eye contact is a learned behavior and many cultures exhibit different rules when using eye contact. Use eye contact to your advantage and show your audience or speaker that you are interested! Last, our facial expressions have the ability to show what we feel, more than what we feel, the opposite of what we feel, and they sometimes show nothing! My professor said in class, “Never trust the face!”

Haptics deals with touch and uses it as a communication variable. For example, there are five levels of “touching behavior.” The first is the functional professional touch such as a doctor performing a patient examination. Next is the socially polite touch which is often seen in first encounters (handshake). Third is the friendship warmth touch which is used to express ongoing interpersonal relationships (a hug). The fourth level is the love intimacy touch such as holding hands or kissing. Last is the sexual arousal touch which is the most inmate form of touch. Communication by touch can be very powerful so use these five levels to your advantage when conveying your message to another person.

Paralanguage is defined as sounded, non-verbal communication such as variations in vocal pitch, volume, and rate. This could include special vocalizations such as laughter, cries, and groans. Also included, which many of us use every day, are the common breakers such as err, um, uh, or ah to fill gaps of silence while we think. Here is an interesting story about paralanguage, one of my professors from school wanted to eliminate her use of “um’s” in the classroom. One day during class, she brought in a bowl of candy and said to count how many times she said the word “um.” At the end of the class, who ever had the most tallied won! Keep that idea in mind if you are trying to eradicate your use of um’s 🙂

I know most of these ideas occur subconsciously, but I hope I have surfaced something from deep within your subconscious that will allow you to apply these ideas when communicating with others! Next week, I have saved the best post for last. We will be discussing how you can have a successful speech delivery and together, tackle this crazy idea of Glossophobia!

<< Glossophobia? (Part 2)   Glossophobia (Part 4) >>

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Glossophobia? (Part One)

The first thing I was thinking when I saw that word (Glossophobia) is what in the world does it mean!? Well, the word represents something that most people around the world fear more than death, public speaking. “As many as 75%  of people have Glossophobia. Statistically, far more of us claim that we would prefer death to giving a speech; even comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that at a funeral, most people would rather be lying in the casket than delivering the eulogy” (Glossophobia.com).

This summer, I was required to take a Communications class for school. Many people told me I would have no problem with public speaking, but the butterflies in my stomach were telling me otherwise. In order to pass the class, we had to prepare three speeches, one with a group and two flying solo. Yes, I was rather nervous in the beginning. Yes, I had been dreading the thought of taking this class. And yes, I had Glossophobia, but by the end of the semester, my attitude began to change. I had been equipped with a toolbox of thoughts that changed my outlook on communication. My professor provided our class with many valuable notes that I want to share with you in my upcoming series. By the end, my goal is that readers will be ready to challenge their Glossophobia and be successful in the realm of public speaking and communication!

My professor started our first day of class by challenging us to define communication. When everyone shared their definitions, we all had multiple ideas about this one simple word. In a way, that is what he was attempting to show us. This one word is used by people every day, but everyone has their own unique way of expressing its meaning. He then provided us with seven characteristics to give us an image of communication…

1. Communication is constantly occurring

2. Communication is constantly changing

3. Communication usually involves an exchange

4. Communication involves a relationship

5. Communication is heavily influenced by culture and co-culture

  • Culture:  attitude, beliefs, and values of a group of people
  • Co-culture: a group within a culture that has attitudes, beliefs, and values that are different from the larger culture (Gender, race, Midwestern, etc.)

6. Communication is power

7. Communication is a process

We will dive deeper into these ideas later in the series. For this first post, I want to discuss characteristic number seven. Communication is a process because it usually involves both a sender and a receiver. In a nutshell, this is what occurs between a sender and receiver during communication:

Sender encodes a message, delivers it through a channel, message goes through barriers, receiver decodes the message, receiver encodes feedback, delivers feedback through a channel, feedback goes through barriers, sender decodes feedback (all of which takes place within a situation).

Even though the above definition may seem complex, it does not even begin to dive into all the variables that both the sender and receiver express! Within the structure of communication exists verbal and non-verbal cues, proxemics, kinesics, paralanguage, haptics, and chronemics that all add meaning to the message being conveyed. Have no fear because I will explain these variables and how they can add meaning to your message in upcoming posts. In the future, we will also be discussing the structure of your speech, delivery of your speech, and tackling what some people fear more than death, communication anxiety, also known as Glossophobia.

As for today, I hope I have expanded your horizons on the meaning of communication. I want to leave you with a question to ponder that my professor also shared with us:  Can one not not communicate? (OR–are we always communicating? Are there times when we are not communicating?)

Share your thoughts in the comments below!