Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Non-Verbal Communication and Management of Interactive Conflict in School-based violence: a Sociological Perspective” by Iyekolo, A. O. (2020), in which the author makes a revision about the problems of not paying attention to nonverbal cues of students and teachers.

We all know that school is a projection of society in a small version, actually.

In the end, it is still an environment in which people of diverse origins and socio-economic orientations come together, in order to acquire knowledge and social skills.

Social interaction would be the method through which people in any environment (although we are referring to the school in this case) creates relationships and exchange ideas, using both verbal and nonverbal language.

Language is so important precisely because it is the main tool of social interaction. Humans, animals, and even plants seem to have ways of communicating their state through its use.

And it is important both in its verbal and nonverbal manifestation. When the author talks about nonverbal communication, he refers to facial expressions, gestures, body movement and physical appearance, in addition to prosody, proxemics, artifacts, and so on.

In many cases, a large part of the nonverbal communication of the school environment is underestimated when actually it has a very important role in the correct development of life in the center. It is used constantly. In fact, social interaction and academic activities may not generate the expected benefits when nonverbal messages are not used properly, even school violence may appear.

Interactive conflicts occur. They happen when the academic and social interactions of school personnel and students become negative and dysfunctional. That is, the interaction between staff and students cannot lead them towards the achievement of the proposed objectives if there is a communication breakdown.

The author, in this article, presents from a sociological perspective how poor verbal and nonverbal communication can affect the relationship between students, teachers and the school, and how interaction conflicts can arise if the messages are not well decoded or they are underestimated by figures of power.

The author explains, firstly, the theory of labeling and the theory of self-fulfilling prophecies, which he considers important for the development of the paper.

Labeling theory says that people are assigned a label based on what they do, say, and how they appear. Therefore, the appearance of a person can be enough to label him/her as deviant, conformist, a delinquent, obedient, and so on. According to the experts who support this theory, if it is a figure of power the one that assigns the label (parents, teachers, etc.), there is a tendency for labeled people to see themselves as such and act accordingly.

Teachers’ interactions with students will be influenced by the label or definition of the student’s behavior, which is verbally and nonverbally communicated. Teachers can, for example, give more encouragement to those students they consider brilliant. This will cause that student’s self-concept to be shaped by the teacher’s expectations, seeing himself/herself as, brilliant, boring, or passive (in other cases), acting accordingly. This would be the theory of self-fulfilling prophecies applied to this context.

That is why a good understanding of communication, verbal and nonverbal, of students and teachers is so important.

The author highlights several nonverbal cues to which he considers that teachers should pay special attention.

Artifacts are nonverbal communication items consisting of clothing, makeup, glasses, accessories, jewelry, and so on. They are elements of the person’s appearance. Efforts are made in the school environment to unify these artifacts through policies such as wearing a uniform. In this way, they try to eliminate negative impressions, segregation, or inequalities, and instill discipline. But equally, if we take a close look at the students and teachers, we can still infer a few things about their person.

For example, a student can communicate through this way his disposition towards a certain youth subculture. It can also reflect his/her sense of discipline or his/her willingness to engage in a violent act. The way students roll up their sleeves, where they put their belts or pants, the level at which the shirt is buttoned… can say a lot about them.

Prosody is also a very interesting aspect. We refer to the voice, volume, rate of speech, pauses or sighs of the speaker. It can provide a rich source of information for the teacher, heads of studies, and all school staff who want to avoid violence in it.

Prosody can represent the temperament of students and teaching staff. Teachers can decode what a student’s level of aggressiveness is through prosody; just like school administrators can decode how their employees handle their emotions at school.

This channel informs listeners nonverbally about the emotional needs of the speaker. The teacher can detect if a student or another teacher is emotionally stable simply by listening to them speak.

We also have proxemics, which is the use of social and personal space when we are communicating. The way the student sits, moves his/her hands, his/her face, can show his/her interest in what he/she is listening to. Thus, the teacher can assess the eagerness of his students to, for example, learn.

The fact that schools do not correctly decode a series of nonverbal messages within their environments can generate conflicts and violence in them.

Unread negative nonverbal messages can cause conflicts that hinder social interaction. Many students are isolated and harassed at school because they do not integrate in the school as the others.

Unfortunately, a student can be very quiet, reserved and passive in class, not because that is his/her personality, but because he/she finds it difficult to place himself/herself among his/her peers. A teacher who is not aware of this may misclassify the student as passive and therefore neglect him/her. In addition, it could affect the student’s self-concept.

The conclusion we get is that nonverbal elements cannot be ignored in school and they need the same attention as verbal ones. This type of communication can improve the well-being of students and teachers and, as such, resources should be dedicated to its study.


Write A Comment

NonVerbal Communication Blog