Characteristics of Non-verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is composed of four groups. Sometimes a non-verbal action can be put into multiple groups, but every non-verbal action can be put into at least one group. The characteristics of the non-verbal message determine which group it belongs to.
Contextual non-verbal communication is associated to the particular situation in which the communication occurs. Factors in the situation could be time, location, events, or the moods of others. An example of contextual non-verbal communication could be a person wearing a chicken costume in public. If you assume the person is wearing the costume just to get attention and stand out you may think he is an idiot. However, if you knew the person worked at a fast-food restaurant it would legitimatize the person's costume. Contextual non-verbal could also be ambiguous and cultural in some occasions.
Ambiguous non-verbal communication confuses the receiver by creating several ways the message can be interpreted. This can lead to miscommunication or misunderstanding which could damage a conversation or relationship. Sarcasm can be very ambiguous to a young child so the child often gets the wrong idea about things that have been said to it sarcastically.
Non-verbal communication can represent different meanings in different cultures. Cultural non-verbal communication can be confusing or ambiguous when the non-verbal message is isolated to a certain culture and a person visits. Gangs have their own cultural non-verbal communication that could be misinterpreted to other people who are not associated with gangs. Some English words have evolved to have different meanings in our culture. Something like that only non-verbal could be considered cultural.
Subconscious non-verbal messages are interpreted unknowingly to us. We also send them unknowingly to others because they are natural reactions in most cas