Once you have an understanding, observe a small group of people, which can be comprised of friends, family, or a group of strangers. The small group should have three to six people and be composed of both male and female members. Observe the group for 15–30 minutes, looking for the types of interactions taking place and how each person uses nonverbal communication to make oneself understood. Pay special attention to nonverbal signals and gestures (body language, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, space, tone, appearance, etc.).
** Understand when doing your observations that you must protect the privacy of the people you observe. Anything you discover as part of your observation that does not relate directly to the objective of the assignment needs to be kept confidential. There are three different roles that you, as the observer, may have as defined below (Patton, 1986). In your paper, please discuss the type of observation you did and what you learned from that aspect.
- Full participant observation: You took part in the conversation and were part of the “observation.”
- Partial observation: You were sometimes part of the conversation, but mostly stayed on the outer edge of it.
- Onlooker: You were an outsider and simply observed another group’s interactions. (this is recommended for the assignment)
Note the number of people in the group and briefly describe the interactions that you observed (who is doing most of the talking, number of people involved, the way members are seated, clothes, and the topic of conversation, if you know it, etc.). Create a matrix to present your observations (an example of a completed matrix is shown below—you will create your own to fit your specific observations).
Based on your observations on how nonverbal cues are regulating the flow of conversation, write an analysis including answers to the following questions. Be sure to use terms and concepts from the textbook, research, and module readings.
- What do you think is the topic of conversation? Describe the topic of conversation.
- Assess how each member’s body posture and movements convey his or her status and attitude.
- Deduce which nonverbal signals are responsible for showing emotion and feeling. Examine how these nonverbal signals help to explain what is going on.
- Differentiate between the gestures used by males vs. females—conclude if there is a noticeable difference.
- Compare what the research says in relation to what you observed.
- Identify any inconsistencies in the person’s nonverbal communication with what he or she was talking about (ex: shaking head “yes” and saying “no”).
- Examine what type of observation you did in reference to this assignment (types are listed above).
- What did you find most challenging about interpreting nonverbal behaviors in this setting?
- How does this assignment help you to better understand nonverbal communication and gender?