The Use of Kinesics and Voice Quality in Nonverbal Communication in Romantic Relationships

Imagine a father is waiting for his daughter in the waiting room at a hospital while she is having major heart surgery. He is praying to see her come out with a full recovery, yet he knows the difficulty of the procedure. The doctor slowly walks over, rubs his neck, and suddenly freezes. Then the father watches as the doctors face tells an unfortunate circumstance. Although not one word was said by the doctor, tears fall fast down the father’s face, and he realizes that his daughter has just passed away. The message the doctor was trying to convey was received without trying, and his actions portrayed said everything he couldn’t. This is called nonverbal communication; “all intentional and unintentional messages that are not written, spoken, or sounded” (Hamilton, 2008). This paper will explain Kinesics and voice quality in nonverbal communication and show its importance to romantic relationships.
Nonverbal communication is usually believed over verbal communication. Most researchers believe people have a harder time controlling nonverbal signals than verbal ones (Floyd, 2009). Let’s say, for example, that John is asked if he is lonely now that his significant other left him for another man. Although his first verbal response might be “of course not”, he may slump down in his chair and give out a heavy sigh as he speaks. It becomes very obvious then that John is actually lonely. His actions speak far more than his words. However, one must understand that nonverbal cues are not limited to only vocal communication.

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One of many studies done at the University of California Los Angeles stated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study stated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by the nonverbal communication (Heathfield, 2010). Although most scholars and researches believe that communication is done nonverbally, it is hard to determine exactly how much. Some researchers have developed various hypotheses and even formulas to give meaning. For most people, nonverbal communicating is simply a part of their daily communicating process. It is realized that it is going on, but not how important it is in every communicating relationship.
Experts generally agree that when two people are engaged in a face-to-face conversation, only a small fraction of the total message they share is contained in the words they use. A large portion of the message is contained in vocal elements such as tone of voice, accent, speed, volume, and inflection. The largest part of the message, and arguably the most important, is conveyed by Kinesics. This defined is the combination of gestures, postures, and facial expressions. In persuasion, nonverbal messages can support or interfere with the verbal messages that a person is delivering (Preston, 2005). Many put all their thoughts into what they say; however, most people don’t realize that most of what they are relaying is done nonverbally.
Most people think before they speak, but not many think about how the other person will interpret their message. Characteristics of the voice, known as vocalics, have unique paralinguistic cues that influence interpretation of verbal communication. They are as follows; pitch, inflection, volume, rate, filler words, pronunciation, articulation, accent, and silence (Floyd, 2009). It’s a combination of these that help to convey meaning of what is said or thought. Although a large portion of the message is contained in vocal elements, it is not the largest portion.
The largest part of interpretation in communication, and arguably the most important, is conveyed by Kinesics. Facial expression is the primary means of expressing emotion. For example, imagine an old man who grabs for the first bite of his Volcano Taco, and suddenly his jaw drops. He starts to pant, but not before he waves his hand around his mouth as if it were a fan. As he starts to turn red, his eyes begin to water. It doesn’t take rocket science to decipher that the taco was hot and clearly too much for the old man. Often people use nonverbal behaviors such as facial expressions or gestures to indicate how someone else should interpret our messages. For instance, one might smile and wink to indicate that we are being sarcastic or raise their eyebrows to signal that what they are saying is very serious (Floyd, 2009). All these behaviors are examples of how we can use nonverbal cues to meta-communicate with those around us.
Nonverbal communication is everywhere. Although words sometimes can’t say it all, our nonverbal cues usually can if intercepted correctly. This is why knowing how to control and read nonverbal communication is key in not only making but also keeping romantic relationships. Nonverbal behavior cues are especially important for several key features of relationships. These include attraction and affiliation, power and dominance, and arousal and relaxation (Floyd, 2009). Men often misinterpret a woman’s innocent smile or compliment as a sexual come-on. Gender stereotypes imply that men are socialized to over sexualize the world. In two studies Rebhahn reported that researchers discovered that men tended to overestimate women’s sexual interest, while women underestimated men’s willingness to commit (Rebhahn, 2000). It is obviously sometimes hard to intercept nonverbal communication, especially in relationships due to the dynamics. As humans, we tend to acknowledge the most dominant nonverbal cues and decipher them without further investigation of other cues.
Every time a person is able to hear or see another , it gives them a chance to pick up nonverbal cues. Box office movie hits do just that. One is able to watch closely as actors use Kinesics and vocal quality to give an audience a feel of authenticity. The many different variations can be seen in the hit movie The Ugly Truth . The movie centers around two actors, Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. Katherine plays a morning show producer who is a control freak and also has issues finding and keeping men. The story takes on a new role when Gerard is given air time on her show to speak his mind on his chauvinistic sex stereotypes. Throughout the romantic comedy, Gerard helps Katherine develop her romantic skills in hopes of starting a relationship with the perfect man. With trials and tribulations, the two fall in love and beat their issues. As one can imagine, romantic relationships are full of nonverbal communication. The following paragraphs give examples on nonverbal cues found within the scenes.
In one of the beginning scenes Katherine is home watching television. It just so happens that Gerard is on his own television show, The Ugly Truth. He is expressing his concepts on relationships, and Katherine feels strongly against his opinion. That’s why she decides to phone in. During this time they both batter back and forth. Her Kinesics during the conversation is full of nonverbal cues. When she first calls in, she makes a quick, hard comment to Gerard. You can tell she is comfortable and confident by her cues. She is sitting relaxed on her bed. She rolls her eyes as she talks about what she believes to be his ignorance. She is quick in what she is saying, yet she is talking very smoothly. Her entire demeanor altars once the conversations becomes sour for her side. Even though he is not in the same room, she stands up and starts to wave her hands to prove her point. Her voice starts to rise as she becomes more and more frustrated. Before she had a smooth flowing voice, and now she is emphasizing words that she is trying to relay importance to.
Later in the movie, Katherine gives an obvious nonverbal cue that can’t be ignored. After recording Gerard’s first show on her station, she is overwhelmed with his tactics and material. Later she is then found by her assistant and boss lying down in a closet. Once her boss told her that the ratings from that show were at an all time high, she jolted up. Although one would imagine she was excited, this cue tied with her facial expression suggested that she was disappointed. She wanted badly for him to fail in order for her to produce respectable news. After her coworkers leave, she shuts the door and lays back down. This is just one more example of how down in the dumps she feels, and that she wants to be left alone. Even though she says so little, she still expresses her emotions successfully.
Nonverbal communication is a phenomenon that is existent in every conversation. Every person uses various aspects Kinesics and vocal quality, and most don’t even realize it. This paper has illustrated that what we do in a conversation gives meaning to the words we use. It establishes fear, love, hate, excitement, and so much more. The understanding of nonverbal communication in romantic relationships is significantly important. In order to further develop personal relationships, one must realize the power nonverbal cues have over them. Now, one should have a better understanding of nonverbal communication and why it is imperative to know that people speak with their actions.