By: Kent Carroll
I used an example from the show, The Office. The Office is a comedy about employees in a paper company. Michael, who is the boss, puts on an event so that the employees can better understand diversity. In order to do this, Michael gives everyone an ethnicity or religion on a notecard and does not allow him or her to see what it is. Each employee puts their notecard on their forehead for everyone to see. The employees go around and describe each other’s card in hopes that the person will guess the correct word on the notecard. It shows several interactions between the co-workers as they carry out this activity. Some are frustrated about the game itself and some are frustrated trying to play the game. This became very offensive due to the stereotypes that individuals had created about the different cultures. The scene culminates in Michael taking it too far with one employee and getting slapped in the face.
This video clip shows many different aspects of nonverbal communication. In the clip there are many different nonverbal responses the characters, based on how they were approached in this strange game. These responses included shrugging of the shoulders, and giving confused or frustrated look. Both of these responses could be described as what the book defines as a “affect displays”. According to the book the affect displays, “reveal emotion”. Much can be interpreted by the nonverbal communication. The “Nonverbal Communication” book states, “Many different nonverbal channels can be used to send simultaneous messages”. We see this in the clip when Pam, an employee, gave a frustrated shrug to Stanley, another employee at the office. There was no need for Pam to verbally communicate that she was frustrated. Communication experts list several examples of the power of nonverbal communication. “Nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding as well as understanding” is one of the examples that is discussed in the book. An example of this in the clip is when Michael, the boss, tries to explain Kelly’s ethnicity. Kelly came in to the room smiling and kept the smile on her face for a while. Michael was stereotyping and making fun of her ethnicity. As soon as it dawned on Kelly what Michael was saying, she slapped him in the face. The nonverbal communication did not portray that she was upset until she was slapping Michael. Another aspect of nonverbal communication we see in this clip is the use of an emblem. Michael uses an “emblem” when he puts his hands up in a cautionary way at Stanley because he realizes Stanley might be offended that he got a “black” card. The book define an emblem as “gestures that have a clear symbolic meaning and can stand alone as a speech act.” The gesture to Stanley meets that description in that it is understood that Michael realizes his blunder and communicates it with his hand motions. Another place we see nonverbal communication displayed is when Michael uses an accent. The book talks about accents and says that they are, “distinctive patterns of pronunciation that is usually associated with a regional dialect, culture, co-culture, or socio-economic group.” We see Michael embody this nonverbal code with his accent because he is clearly trying to portray an Indian, without saying he is one. Dwight also uses an accent in the clip.