Throughout the semester we learned about the different ways we communicate with one another. We looked at the different nonverbal tactics we employ (sometimes unknowingly) to get what we want. This blog will discuss how nonverbal communication can be used to discipline and control others in three different contexts.
An interpersonal relationship is defined by Management Study Guide as “a strong bond between two or more people.” This bond can be seen in different forms. People working together in the same organization, members of a team, romantic relationships, relationship with family members and relatives, and relationships between friends are all examples of interpersonal relationships.
Control: Within these interpersonal relationships, we can see how individuals behave specifically in the pursuit of control. There are many ways people will use nonverbal methods to control others. One article by Pamela Peters looked at two methods attorneys can use in a legal context, but these methods can be employed in a variety of settings by people to gain compliance through nonverbal signals. The first way involves influencing another person by making them like you, through creating attraction and similarity (Peters). When you focus on things you share, it builds trust and creates reliability through nonverbal behaviors (Peters). By doing these things you can better persuade others. From what I gathered throughout the semester, we see these tactics used most often in relationships between friends and romantic relationships. The second method in my opinion is more noticeable in relationships between family members, and in the relationships between people working in the same organization or members of a team. This is when people use nonverbal signals to express authority, power, and position to control others (Peters). These nonverbal signals are tied to things like rewards, threats, punishments, and rank (Peters). We have all gotten “the look” from one of our parents, as an example of this method.
Discipline: Most interpersonal relationships between children and their parents, or people with persons in authority, involve discipline on a regular basis. In class, we discussed how society views different forms of discipline. Historical methods of discipline like spankings are usually frowned on today. An article by Pam Kemp focused on 25 non-violent ways to discipline a student, and many of them involve nonverbal communication. One method was to ignore problem behavior, and instead reward positive behavior with something tangible to reinforce the good (Kemp). This method can be used in many interpersonal relationships to make them more positive. She also recommended gentle touch to help restore order (Kemp). You have to be careful with this one today, but in romantic relationships it might be effective. She also suggested addressing loud, aggressive behavior with nonverbal signals of calm, such as eye contact and physical relaxation (Kemp). She recommended a nonverbal warning system for bad habits to replace nagging, such as tugging an earlobe when a person is biting his nails without thinking about it (Kemp). Nonverbal signals can be useful in many contexts to encourage positive behavior.
Visual rhetoric can be an effective way of communicating with others. One reason it is so prevalent today is that it is powerful (Campbell 282). Visual messages are “efficient, emotional, and enthymematic in the way they persuade” (Campbell 285).
Control: Some of the most common uses of visual rhetoric to control are signs, such as no smoking, no diving, and no U turn. These can be powerful if the message is understood and if the person who sees it is willing to comply.
Discipline: Visual rhetoric can also be used to help us make good choices. Here is an example:
This visual image is to remind us that eating too much junk food can be unhealthy. One problem with visual rhetoric to discipline is that the message can be misperceived (Campbell 291). For example, some viewers may think the purpose of this image is to denounce McDonald’s. Misperception can especially be a problem when the viewer lacks cultural history or context (Campbell 292). In a recent CNN article about a Mississippi billboard, viewers were offended by the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again” over a 1965 photo of the confrontation between police and protesters on the bridge in Selma, Alabama (Grinberg). People were offended but they weren’t really sure why, because the message behind the billboard was too vague.
In class we learned that propaganda is often used in the form of images and words that effect people’s pathos. The purpose of propaganda is to manipulate behavior (Jowett and O’Donnell 53).
Control: According to Jowett and O’Donnell, the term propaganda is related to control and is considered to be a “deliberate attempt to alter or maintain a balance of power advantageous to the propagandist” (Jowett and O’Donnell 4). We don’t hear much about propaganda in our country because Americans love to be independent, but it comes up more often in nations with fewer freedoms such as Russia and China. A recent CNN article discussed the attempts by China’s president Xi Jinping to control the Chinese people and media through propaganda such as poems, videos, and even rap songs (Griffiths). It is hard to imagine that this type of propaganda is effective, but again as Americans we are used to being free to believe what we choose.
Discipline: Propaganda can also be used to encourage people to make good choices.
The image above is a piece of propaganda from the United Kingdom that compares cigarette smoking and guns. This type of propaganda uses knowledge and fear to get the audience to change behavior. It can be difficult to change behavior if the viewer has habits to the contrary, and even more so if emotions trigger the habits (Jowett and O’Donnell 54). This kind of propaganda will probably not be very effective against the habit of smoking, but maybe it will encourage someone not to start smoking.
Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs., and Susan Schultz Huxman. The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Critically. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 2009. Print.
Griffiths, James. “From Xi to Shining Xi: China’s Propaganda Machine Goes into Overdrive.” CNN. Cable News Network, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
Grinberg, Emanuella. “Mississippi Residents Unsure of Controversial Billboard’s Intent.” CNN. Cable News Network, 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
“Interpersonal Relationship.” Management Study Guide. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Jowett, Garth, and Victoria O’Donnell. Propaganda & Persuasion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2015. Print.
Kemp, Pam. “25 Nonviolent Discipline Options.” Suzuki Association of the Americas. 1 June 1994. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
Peters, Pamela. “Gaining Compliance through Non-Verbal Communication.” Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal. Pepperdine Digital Commons, 1 Dec. 2006. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.