Nonverbal Communication In Law Enforcement Essay

Nonverbal communication is particularly important, and potentially life saving, to police officers. The unique challenge faced by law enforcement is how to identify and engage suspects as individuals in heterogeneous society. Theories of nonverbal communication Otu (2015) mentions, reveal that an observer can infer character traits such as trustworthiness and honesty through a speaker’s nonverbal actions, which is important to law enforcement. There are also studies that link nonverbal behavior cues to aggressive acts.

Otu (2015) defines predictors of aggressive behavior as increases in tone of voice with negative verbal attack, narrowing of the eyelids, lowered brows, lips pressed together, and so on. The intended meaning from the sender often is revealed through their nonverbal communication. Law enforcement must address and interpret a suspect’s actions individually, which proves to be more difficult than it may seem. As mentioned before, various influences such as cultural and environmental factors vary greatly from each situation.

Nonverbal communication and behaviors must be analyzed before determining what a suspect is communicating. Otu (2015) reveals that liars are more likely to produce significantly more nonverbal behaviors that contradict the context or content of their words than truth tellers. For example, a person may deny stealing something, but show fear or distress while making the claim. It is important for law enforcement to maintain control of a situation. As mentioned before, proximity, eye contact, and physical appearance send nonverbal cues which law enforcement utilize.

A finding Otu (2015) references, agrees that the officer should maintain a close physical proximity, voice control, direct eye contact, and professional appearance. Those in law enforcement must be cautious with proximity. “Although close proximity to the criminal, coupled with a relaxed appearance will establish dominance and authority, officers should be conscience to avoid rushing into the “killing zone,” which is within a ten-foot radius of the suspected offender” (Otu, 2015, p. 8).

If cues are interpreted correctly, nonverbal communication can uncover traits such as trustworthiness, honesty, fear, and anger in suspects, according to the study by Otu (2015). “This finding also supports conclusions in the literature that say an officer’s ability to decode nonverbal behavior from suspects and establish the appearance of being firm, authoritative, and in control of all situations can deter suspects or criminals from trying to hurt or kill the officer” (Pinizzotto and Davis, 1999). Misinterpreting nonverbal communication can easily turn a situation south for an officer.

Consequently, law enforcement is one example of a profession that strongly relies on one’s ability to detect and comprehend nonverbal communication while being conscious of one’s own nonverbal cues at the same time. Most individuals would expect that meaning in communication is mostly derived from the verbal communication. Many studies show otherwise. “Some researchers ascribe to this type of communication, by voice and body, a major contribution 65 per cent, in comparison to the transmission of information by words 35 per cent.

Others claim that in interpersonal relations, information is transmitted in proportion of 82 per cent by body and voice, and only 18 per cent by verbal language” (Gheorghita, 2012, p. 552). Floyd (2011) makes similar conclusions saying that some studies estimate that up to 93% of meaning is through nonverbal transmission. A more realistic estimate, according to Floyd (2011), is that 65 to 70% or meaning comes from nonverbal communication. The trend in all of these studies is that nonverbal communication conveys significantly more meaning than verbal communication.

On top of that, people always are giving off nonverbal cues or displaying nonverbal behaviors. This happens at both a conscious and subconscious level. As explained before, appearance and body behaviors gives off nonverbal communication. This can happen with or without one’s knowledge. Even when people are separated, and communicate through technology, nonverbal communication has formed with emoticons being a great example. Granted, verbal communication is still very important, but communication would lose much of its power without nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal communication should receive more attention than it presently does due to its impact, prevalence, and importance in everyday life. Ask Father is a short film developed in 1919 about a young man seeking to marry the daughter of a man who is not yet ready to give his daughter’s hand in marriage. Most importantly, this film is a silent film. Throughout the movie, there are only 10 slides with text that are displayed to explain the scene or reveal what one of the characters said. The majority of the text shown is at the start of the film. The following is a brief description of the movie, Ask Father.

A young woman is sitting on a bench in a park with two other boys who are both too shy to ask the girl’s father to be married. A third boy appears, who the audience learns to be the main protagonist, with a handful of gifts. The girl tells the protagonist to “ask father. ” The protagonist fails to get the fathers attention and the scene goes to the father’s office. The rest of the film focuses on the many attempts that the protagonist goes through to try speaking with the girl’s father. There are three rooms the protagonist has to get through and he continually gets thrown out.

When being thrown out, a young woman, who is the switchboard operator in the office, begins throwing down her pillow where the protagonist will land. The protagonist progressively uses more and more complex plans. At one point he goes into the costume room conveniently located nearby and charges in with knight’s armor. In the end, the protagonist finally gets to the father’s office and the phone rings. The protagonist picks up the phone and discovers that the girl he has been after just married another boy and they are now heading off to their honeymoon.

Both the protagonist and father are dumbfounded. The protagonist walks out and sees the switchboard operator and sits down with her. The switchboard operator reveals that her father had passed away, which pleases the protagonist because he does not want to go through the same experience again. Then the film ends shortly after. As already mentioned, Ask Father is a silent film which completely removes any verbal communication that the audience would hear. Thus, the film utilizes an abundance of flamboyant gestures and actions to convey the nonverbal messages clearly to the audience.

The fact that the film was able to portray an entire story without the audience hearing any verbal communication shows the power in nonverbal communication. The film makes effective use of music to set the mood for each of the scenes. The protagonist wears glasses and is nicely dressed which may nonverbally suggest to the audience that he is intelligent. The nice cloths nonverbally suggests he could be financially stable or wealthy. Therefore, the film recognizes this and actually has a slide with a sentence explaining that he is madly in love with the young woman but knee deep in debt.

The protagonist is very animated in his gestures. The girl’s father in contrast is old, wears a spectacle and nice clothes, and behaves grumpy. The protagonist is ignored by the girl’s father, sending a nonverbal message that the boy is not important enough to receive his attention. When the girl’s father returns to his office, he disciplines his other workers for slacking, which shows his power over them. The movie was made in America which helps the viewers understand the nonverbal cues being communicated but people today may not understand the nonverbal behaviors as well as in 1919, when the movie was first released.

The culture of America has remained largely the same but there are certainly differences today. Therefore, someone watching the film today or someone from another country, and therefore a different culture, may have more difficulty understanding the film. In Ask Father, the nonverbal behaviors, specifically the gestures and movement of the characters, were quite dramatic. The fact that it is an early film influences the overall quality of the video. The speed of the characters in the film feels too quick to be considered very naturalistic. Everything is sped up a little faster than real time.

It makes the movie interesting because with the sped up time, the gestures seem even more extreme. The nonverbal cues give some depth to the characters in the film. By the end of the movie, the audience has a good idea of the protagonist’s characteristics. The protagonist is driven, a little stubborn, energetic, clever, and entertaining. The film accomplishes this without the audience hearing a single word uttered from the protagonist. Despite Ask Father being 97 years old at this point, it holds up well when comparing it to the nonverbal studies of today.

The most impressive point is that audience does not need to hear verbal communication in the movie to understand the story. This follows the studies on nonverbal communication that suggests the large majority of meaning is derived from not verbal, but nonverbal communication. The importance of looking into the movie, Ask Father, is to see the sheer influence nonverbal communication possesses and how nonverbal communication has remained largely the same. Expressing emotions, such as glee or frustration, have not changed and easily recognizable.

Most movies today have verbal communication that the audience can listen to so it is more difficult to see the importance of the underlying nonverbal messages. Personally, I find that the scholarly portrayal of nonverbal communication resonates the most with my own experience. Ask Father almost feel too foreign. The exaggerated nonverbal behaviors makes it seem more distant to me. The scholarly portrayal of nonverbal communication I can relate to better as it makes sense to me how important nonverbal communication is to the meaning of what one says.

I have a friend in particular who is very sarcastic. Without understanding his nonverbal cues, it would make understanding his jokes much more difficult. I have heard about a few of the findings, like that taller people tend to get promoted more. I found myself more familiar with the scholarly finds so it resonated with me more. I am well aware that I need to work on controlling my own nonverbal communication and being more aware of others. I try to make eye contact with whom I talk with, try not cross my arms, and try paying attention to my body language.

However, I often forget to pay attention to all of these. I aim to put more conscious thought into these areas and towards observing nonverbal cues from those I communicate with. Communication is a crucial part to everyday living. To be a fully competent communicator, one must remember the importance of nonverbal communication. There is much more to nonverbal communication than may meet the eye. Although more easily forgotten in comparison to verbal communication, nonverbal communication’s impact in conveying and understanding messages makes it a necessary skill for everyone.