It has been established that non-verbal communication accounts for somewhere between 65% and 93% of all communication meaning (Wood, 2004, p.129). This suggests that non-verbal communication has a very important role in communication. Non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, haptics, physical appearance, proxemics and paralanguage are all important in oral communication. These cues cannot be used in a written communication. Non-verbal cues in written communication have to be through description. Also non-verbal cues in written communication can take the form of all capping, bolding, emoticons or punctuation.
For example, if you are on a date with someone, and they are talking to you. You can convey interest by saying, “That is so fascinating.” You can supplement those words and convey responsiveness by nodding, making eye contact and asking questions. In online communication, if you were in a chat room with someone, you could type that you are interested and describe your interest further. You could convey your interest by responding quickly. Meanings are constructed in interpersonal communication (Wood, 2004, p.30). One must interpret the meanings of other’s non-verbal cues. This is somewhat straightforward in person but much harder in written or online communication. Since the same non-verbal cues are not available in online communication, messages may be ambiguous without that extra communication meaning.
Emoticons, All caps and those types of cues are not appropriate for all electronic communication. If you are on msn messenger with a friend, all of those are appropriate. If you are trying to compose and e-mail to a co-worker about an important issue, you may just have to rely on your words to convey your message. If you can write clear sentences and use correct punctuation and spelling, you can get your message across effectively. These verbal cues will get one’s message across without the use of informal cues like emoticons. These non-verbal cues will convey that you are professional, detail oriented, and aware of the proper standards for message construction. Proper punctuation, grammar, spelling and message construction are important in any written message, even an electronic communication. It is important not to forget this. Do not take an overly casual approach just because of the medium.
There are several ways to make sure your communication conveys the correct message, and is not misconstrued. One way is to pay attention and closely monitor all of your communication (Wood, 2004, p.149). Since other people will be interpreting your non-verbal cues, you needs to be mindful of them. Another way is to consider personal and contextual factors when attempting to interpret others non-verbal communication (Wood, 2004, p.150).This means evaluating the non-verbal communication on an individual basis. The same cues may not mean the same things for every person. Also pay attention to the context of the communication. This means considering cultural factors, as well as, gender factors when interpreting others. For example, men may be more aggressive and argumentative in online discussion forums whereas women more agreeable. This is just the nature of the gendered speech communities.
Wood, N. ( 2004). Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters. Belmont: