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Jag, you should consider how long humans, homo sapiens, have been around to how long written language has been around.  Hundreds of thousands of years compared to thousands of years, no matter how you look at it (which doesn't even count   That's important, especially when you consider the additional fact that until writing was invented, we had nothing except direct communication to work with.
I majored in Communication Studies, and I minored in Interpersonal Conflict Mediation. I've been trained and continue to practice the training of considering words, and their meanings, and the intent of the speaker, and the context of the words, the cultural aspects, the subtext, and the social climate of the words for a few years now. I get paid to do so in one of my jobs, I do it for my own pleasure in a blog, and I also volunteer as a mediator. You can rest assured that when I share an opinion on the subject of human communication, it is, in fact, a considered opinion, based on theories and principles of the discipline. I specialized in Rhetoric precisely because of politics and religion, in case you find that of interest.

I'm not denying the importance of words here.  But when you get right down to it, they're just sounds; they need a shared meaning before they can be used to communicate.  But humans can develop that shared meaning even with no words in common - this is how we end up with pidgin languages.  I'm sure you already know that so I won't lecture.

But here's the thing.  We have literally hundreds of thousands of years where the only way to communicate would have been to do it face to face, or at least close enough to see the other person.  Which means that words developed in tandem with nonverbal communication[1].  You said that body language requires cultural referents, and that's true.  But spoken words do too.  Yeah, you can learn a language without ever talking or listening to a native speaker, but it's rather tough to make yourself understood in that case; you're going to be missing both the way the words are pronounced and the referents that help glue the language together.
 1. I don't know how they balance out, but I am pretty sure that nonverbal/subverbal is going to outweigh verbal, simply because of the fact that we start out with no language at all and have to pick it up from listening, and still manage to pick up enough to be able to talk within 2-3 years.
I thought I was clear that I wasn't dismissing the importance of nonverbal communication altogether, only making the point that it is subjective in ways we probably don'tr often stop to consider. We've "all heard" that nonverbal communication is <some number between 70-93%>, and that particular statistic is misapplied, and misunderstood, and ultimately, functionally useless. That was the essence of my first post. My second one was mostly an elaboration, as requested by jnebug, building on the previous post.

This is just a hypothetical on my part; I could easily be wrong.  But I think that we fill in the blanks in text-only conversation by imagining how the person we're conversing with would have looked and sounded when saying it, possibly by substituting in people we actually know who act similarly.  Again, I don't know if that's the case, but I think it's at least going to be in the ballpark.
The main idea I wanted to convey is that nonverbal language is much more subjective than most people think it is. It's fine to note nonverbals, and to accept the obvious ones, but don't get carried away and decide that you KNOW things you don't actually know.

So, to the sense I'm getting in this post from you, I agree that nonverbal communication has evolutionary roots that pre-date spoken language. That development was a crucial survival skill. However, we've had verbal communication skills for a long time now, and adaptations have occurred as well. This discussion isn't about that[2] - it's about the power of words, and the ability to use words to hurt. I hope we can get far enough into this discussion to also consider the power of words to help, and to heal.

I honestly don't understand what point you're trying to get me to see. I noted that my first remark (intended to point out that the statistic is wrong) was a bit off topic by way of the "/derail" comment. junebug, the OP, said she didn't think it was off topic and asked me to say more, so I did. What else are you reading in my posts? You seem to have overlooked everything I said about text and the lack of those cues, and that we still understand what is written as it was intended, much more often than not.
 2. I do happen to know a young man  who got a degree in evolutionary psychology, i'd be happy to try and get him to come for a visit and have that conversation with him if you want? He's also an atheist, and you should be warned that eventually, most of the answers come down to "would it help them have sex or not?" He CAN make the argument to support that, it's up to you to accept or refute his position, lol
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junebug72 Professor Jag! August 14, 2017, 04:18:43 AM