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Unit 7

THE COMMUNICATIVE POWERS OF MAN

Comprehensive Reading

Signals Without Words

It is fascinating to think about how we learn about the people around us. People depend a great deal on conversation to help them learn about others. If businessmen or teachers get together, for example, we can often predict their topics of conversation. Once two people have gotten acquainted, it is easy for them to say that they learned about each other through their conversations. If we think carefully about it, however, we can discover other kinds of language.

Whenever we observe two people talking, we notice their language of course. But if we look deeply enough, we will notice other things too. Whether the two people notice it or not, they are using other forms of communication.

Neither sentences nor words by themselves entirely convey meaning. To help others understand our words more clearly, we move parts of our bodies. Raising our eyebrows, smiling at the right time, nodding our heads, sighing, and moving our hands are examples of another kind of language. Adults do these things and children do, too. They are such an important part of communication that they have been called "body language." Sometimes we enjoy watching others' use of body language. At other times, watching someone bite his nails, drum his fingers on the table, or rub his hands together may be irritating enough to make us uncomfortable.

Our body language is so familiar to us that we may not be conscious of it. Such aspects of communication, however, are too important to ignore. While it is not easy to control either our speech patterns or our body language, awareness of them can help us develop insights into ourselves and others.