Being in a place where the shows are mostly local it was hard to figure out what TV show can I choose to be the object of my communication task. My only resort was to watch TV episodes through my daughter’s Netflix account. I randomly chose, Arrow.
Part of the task was to watch the show without sound. I would say, it was one of those moments when I was completely focused on what I was watching so I could get a full grasp of what it is about. It started in an island with a man who looked like a castaway aiming his arrow towards a pile of woods and set it on fire. It belonged to two men from the ship that appeared like fishermen. They took him with them and the rest of the story unfolded. Missing for many years, he was finally brought back to his affluent family. Reading the lips of the actors and paying attention to the facial expressions and body movements, I could sense feelings of uncertainty, worry, and distaste when faced with different situations.
As I finally watched the same episode with vocals, a lot of my perceptions were confirmed although some were difficult to guess as what you see could be a circumstance that could be similar in other situations. For example, I have mistaken the scene in the lawyers’ office as news or a police office. As well, when they drove to town, although I could tell that he was being shown a familiar place, I could not figure out the context of their conversation. If I was aware beforehand about the DC comics character, Oliver Queen, aka, Arrow, it would have been easier to understand the context of the story.
However, by observing non-verbal communication, I was able to grasp some sections of the episode. Clues can be picked up from the context of the situation. Thus, if one understands the context, it would be easier to understand the message being conveyed. In many situations, the facial expressions of the actor complemented the spoken message. Although at times the message was unsaid, it was conveyed by the way the actor looked, moved his lips and shoulders. However, relying solely on non-verbal communication and non-verbal cues can be also be ambiguous (O’Hair, et.al., 2015). I was not very sure if the young man who came when he just arrived home was a brother or a best friend. I assumed that he had memory lapses when Oliver was in the hospital. When you watch without hearing words, you try to make sense of what you see which could form the wrong perceptions. You put the pieces together based on the facial expressions, gestures, and other stimuli and artifacts that you could observe – the manner which people dress up, the codes and texts in the surroundings. Thus, one looks at the totality of the environment and how the actors are interacting in it to make sense of the message being delivered. As such, there is such an expression that says, “read between the lines”. We pay attention not only to the words said, but the tone and pitch they were uttered, the facial gestures and body movements that were demonstrated as the words were spoken, and the proximity in space when delivering the message.
Learning from this experience, the next time I communicate with people, apart from words, a wide range of non-verbal cues could help in verifying and validating the message being conveyed – do they complement or present discrepancies?
O’Hair, D., Wiemann, M., Mullin, D. I., & Teven, J. (2015). Real communication (3rd. ed). New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.