Using and Understanding Nonverbal Communication

DMNonverbalCommunication - See What You've Been Missing! Q & A - Humitnell Originally published on Psychology Today by Jeff Thompson, a Ph.D. candidate researching nonverbal communication and mediation at Griffith University Law School. 

As someone currently researching nonverbal communication, I have happily (yes- happily!) read many books, journal articles, magazine articles, and blog postings in regards to this broad subject. The new book by David Matsumoto, Mark Frank, Hyi Sung Hwang titled Nonverbal Communication blends nonverbal communication research with how professionals have used this knowledge to excel in there profession. This includes law, negotiation, medical, marketing and more.

The book is available from Sage. Nonverbal Communication can easily be considered a hybrid book of research and practical use of nonverbal communication in addition to being ground breaking. It includes research chapters with ample citations that are complimented later on in the book with chapters on personal reflections of professionals that can be applied to the reader regardless of their profession.

Nonverbal Communication has been providing me valuable assistance in a variety of settings. Firstly, it is a great companion while I conduct my research, secondly it offers some great supplemental stories for the workshops I conduct, and finally it offers me in each chapter moments to discern how the information and stories provided apply to the work I do in law enforcement and conflict resolution.

Enjoy the following question and answer session I conducted recently with one of the authors, David Matsumoto via email:

1) To start things off, why did you, along with Mark Frank and Hyi Sung Hwang, write this book?

[DM] We created this book because there was a gap in the available books. Many are for scientists that don’t really translate how the scientific work can be translated into practice. Others are by practitioners, with sometimes little or no nod to the science, and in some cases discussing NVBs that have not been validated. We wrote this book so that scientists could appreciate the practical use of research, and practitioners could appreciate the science behind validated NVB indicators.

2) You explain the functions of nonverbal communication as it being able to 1) define communication, 2) regulate verbal communication, and 3) be the message itself. Can you explain what these mean?

[DM] As stated in Chapter 1, NVC serves to provide a context for communication, sometimes commenting on words. A quick smile, for instance, when discussing the disappearance of one’s children, provides additional info that defines the communication. Our voices, faces, and head gestures regulate turn-taking in conversations. And these all occur without words sometime, and thus the NVB becomes the main message themselves.

3) I see this almost as two books in one- the first section detailing recent scientific research in nonverbal communication while the second part gives examples of professionals who share their experiences on how nonverbal communication has impacted their work. Why design the book this way?

[DM] Exactly as discussed above. We wanted to have all the information about both the science and the practical application all in one place, because no other book does so.

4) What are some common misconceptions about nonverbal communication?

[DM] The big misconception about NVB and deception is that averting one’s gaze or fidgeting is associated with lying. This belief is held across cultures. Studies have tested this hypothesis, and most do not support it. It is a myth.

5) Everyone wants to be a human lie detector or more broadly, experts at nonverbal communication. You mention that the book is the first to truly highlight the strength of evidence based training in regards to the effectiveness of nonverbal communication training. How does your book highlight this and in a manner the general reader can make itapplicable to them?

[DM] The book highlights this by first highlighting what science has empirically vetted as valid indicators of emotion, deception, and other mental states. The book then goes further by having practitioners whom we have trained discuss how they have applied the skills and knowledge of empirically vetted indicators in their professional work.

6) As a follow-up, I mention [here] some things a person should look for when considering signing up for a training. What do you suggest is needed for an effective training?

[DM] Actually I think the tips you offer here are good. I would also offer that the individuals who get the most benefit from training are those who (1) see the value of NVBs, or come to see that value, (2) appreciate the science behind the empirically-validated indicators, (3) are motivated to learn and use the skills to improve their interviewing skills, and (4) are open enough to not hang onto previous ways and beliefs about NVBs

7) Will there be a sequel?

[DM] Don’t know. Hope so!

8) When is the book available and how can be find out more about you and company?

[DM] The book is currently available. You can purchase it via Amazon via this link

Conclusion: At $40, the price will seem expensive but for the value of getting basically two books in one, it is well worth the price. The book offers credible research and real anecdotal stories from professionals that demonstrates the effectiveness (and ineffectiveness) of nonverbal communication making this a true value and worthy of reading.

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