Non- verbal Communication – Children at Play
In a live communication set up, non-verbal cues form the most important pointers to the meanings relayed by the participants in the communication. Non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions, body movement, posture, touch and others help to create greater meaning in communication. These cues can be used during communication to accent some information, to contradict, to repeat as well as to complement information. In any group setting non-verbal cues tend to be used more frequently and also more genuinely. It is therefore interesting as well as informative to watch children playing and to learn from their non-verbal cues especially the use of body movement and facial expressions which are most prevalent in the group setting.
The exercise carried out involved the observation of children at play with particular interest on how they used facial expressions. In this context, facial expressions were taken to mean the variations in facial appearances that come about automatically due to variation of the seven key emotions of anger, joy, sadness, remorse, fear, surprise and disgust. The children observed were in a play group setting and were of one and a half years to 2 and 1/2 years. The children were observed during their morning play period from 9 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. During this time, the children are believed to be most active and hence with the capacity to display greater emotional variation.
Three different emotions were observed which include, remorse, anger and sadness. It was observed that participants showed glaring teeth and blood shot eyes. It was also observed that the remorseful participant brought his eye brows closer together while his mouth also pouted and the eyes became smaller. Similarly, an observation of asad expression showed eyebrows brought together, eyes pleading, curled and firmly closed lips. The use of these non-verbal cues in most cases yielded the needed results. While communicating remorse, the use of facial expressions enabled the target to understand the depth of the remorse i.e. that it went beyond face value. This helped to stress the need for forgiveness. Facial expressions used in sadness and in anger were helpful in drawing sympathy and response respectively. For the sad participant, the pleading eyes, and curled closed lips drew empathy by projecting the participant in a pitiful situation. The angry participant created fear in the target through blood shot eyes making sure that their demand was met. It can thus be said that non-verbal cues are important where there is intention to repeat or underline a message like in the case of anger.
Observation of the playing children made it possible to observe a variation of non-verbal cues. In the use of facial expressions, the variety of expressions that could be observed was not limited to the use of the key sense organs. Facial muscles contracted and expanded accordingly to enable the perfect illustration of the expected message. Contrary to the belief that there is a limit to the range of emotions that can be displayed by facial expressions, it was noted that the expressions changed as level of emotion also changed i.e. from the beginning of the particular emotion as it progresses towards the peak. To confirm the authenticity of this claim, it would be necessary to observe a mainly adult group in communication. An example of such a group may be found where court proceedings are ongoing.