Functions of Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication often supplements communication (Wood, 1999). Head and facial movements may provide us with information about other people's emotional states, and others receive similar information from us (Samovar and Porter, J991a). We obtain first impressions of others from various kinds of nonverbal communication, such as the clothing they wear and their body positions. Our social interaction is regulated by nonverbal communication. Through our body posture and eyecontact, we signal that we do or do not wish to speak to someone. For example, we may look down at the sidewalk or off into the distance when we pass homeless persons who look as if they are going to ask for money.
Nonverbal communication establishes the relationship among people in terms of their responsiveness to and power over one another (Wood, 1999). For example,we show that we are responsive toward or like another person by maintaining eye contact and attent body posture and perhaps by touching and standing close. By contrast. we signal to others that we do not wish to be near them or that we dislike them by refusing to look them in the eye or stand near thc,'li We can even express power or control over others through nonverbal communication. Goffman (J 956) su~ that demeanor (how we behave or conduct ourselves) is relative to social power. People in positions of dominance are allowed a wider range of permissible actions than are their subordinates, who are expected to show deference. Deference is the symbolic means by which subordinates give a required permissive response to those in power; it confirms the existence of inequality
and reaffirms each person's relationship to the other (Rollins. 1985).