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Business communication is a form of language used in and by the companies (Stuart, Sarow and Stuart, 2007). It can also be described as the internal and external interactions of a given company. Business communication can also be referred to as corporate communication and it’s perceived in four perspectives. The first one is practitioner perspective, which deals with how to present communication skills in conducting effective meetings, giving presentations, etc. The second is linguistic perspective that focuses on the use of language in and between companies with an aim of understanding how language is put into use during interactions (Cornelissen, 2011). Management perspective is the third one and it deals with management of communication procedures as a way of establishing a pleasing reputation. The last perspective is named multi-disciplinary, which focuses on the relationship existing between various disciplines such as linguistics, sociology, psychology, anthropology and communication. Business communication can be formal or informal depending on the matter at hand. Formal communication entails board meetings and progression interviews while informal communication involves telephone calls and colleague meetings. The image of a business in the mind of stakeholders primarily depends on business communication (Cameron, 2000). How the business interacts with its employees, customers, supplies and the publics matters a lot as far as image is concerned.
Communication is done in two ways (Pease & Pease, 2004). A source must be present, message and medium of transmission, recipient as well as feedback. It is the duty of the sender to formulate a meaningful message that would be perceived in the right way by the recipient. The recipient on the other hand may decide to give a verbal feedback or choose to remain silent, which also has a perceived meaning. Silence is also a means of communication and this paper will try to demonstrate its role on business interactions.
The Role of Silence
Silence is a form of non-verbal communication where people in organizations pass messages without actually speaking (Koester, 2004). When two people stare at each other for one or two minutes without speaking a word, they are bound to derive messages from each other. Messages may be passed through a person’s clothing, facial expressions, sitting position, etc. As much as people try to seize from communicating, a lot of information is being passed between them. However, silence can be perceived to portray a negative message or attribute. This can be well described as a barrier to communication, which is sometimes beneficial to workplace interactions. When one person starts a conversation with another person, he/she expects a response, but when the recipient remains silent it draws mixed reactions and attention to him/her. Silence is also perceived as a non-verbal behaviour that generates clues to the beliefs as well as activities of a particular cultural group.
Silence comes in three types, i.e. interactive silence, psychological silence and socio-cultural silence (Nikolaou, Vakola & Bourantas, 2011). Psychological silence is used to help the recipient understand the message, e.g. during a class lecture. Interactive silence occurs when addressees engage in planned pauses during conversation, e.g. pausing to allow the speaker to continue. Socio-cultural silence is interpreted on the basis specific cultural codes, e.g. silence is acceptable in western churches. Silence can be applied in many communication occasions, e.g. a pause in talk, leaving a question unanswered, declining to greet someone, whispering, exercising avoidance and irrelevant talk among others.
Silence plays a vital role as far as business interactions are concerned. One does not have to say something in order to communicate (Tuominen, 2007). However, silence leaves one party with an opportunity to perceive the intended meaning conveyed by the recipient’s silence. The first role of silence is that it puts pressure on the other party once it is applied. Silence in conversation is prohibited in the US society, but it is common in some cultures. This can cause misunderstanding especially when the people communicating are of cultural background. In some cultures, silence is used as a sign of respect, e.g. when a young person wants to communicate with a person of authority, he/she is expected to remain silent until acknowledge. Therapists as well as investigators use silence to put pressure on clients and suspects respectively. When silence is subjected to someone, it acts as a pressure and blurting something out comes automatically even if it wasn’t intended. Business management uses this tool during interviewing sessions. An interviewer lets the silence hang in order to find out how the interviewee conducts him/herself. This shows that silence can be of importance once applied in the right situation.
The second role of silence is that it can at times indicate hostility and disagreement (McDonald & Crawford, 2012). In spite of the fact that indifference won’t be portrayed directly, silence would automatically show that the person concerned has negative emotions. When people experience anger, embarrassment or fear, their thinking brain slows down. This makes people unable to speak, unable to find words and enraged. Some people get flooded with emotions especially the teenagers and opt for silence as opposed to talking it out and maintaining the conversation. When this happens, it saves a great deal as silence prevents chaos. In a business sitting, junior staffs who choose to remain silent when angered/offended never quarrel with the top management. They choose to remain silent to contain their fear or embarrassment and to avoid disagreements with their authorities. After remaining silent, the conversation ends since they seize to talk it out and the god thing is that nobody gets offended in the end.
The third role of silence is where it indicates profoundness such as awe, respect or horror. During a lively conversation, people may hear something that may put them off and render them speechless because it goes beyond boundaries (Grandien & Johansson, 2012). An example would be when people talk about a dreadful trauma they have gone through in their life. The response of ‘oh’ and ‘that’s scary’ doesn’t seem to work and so people fall silent. During interactions in a business setting, people tend to share their life experiences openly and without fear. It is sometimes the duty of the affected person to talk it out in as a way of feeling relieved. However, the listening party becomes tongue-tied when the speakers goes beyond words. After remaining silent, the speaker will perceive that as an act of sympathy and therefore, the conversation will be cut shot, but their relationship status will remain healthy.
The fourth role of silence is that it can indicate contemplation. Introverts present in an organization thinks prior to speaking (Tuleja & O’Rourke, 2008). Extroverts on the other hand, discover their thinking and feelings once they talk it out. Introverts take their time to figure out the implication of a situation before they speak or let their voice out. If people in an organization were introverts, then chances of quarrelling and misunderstandings would be reduced to zero. Thinking prior to speaking gives room for emotional control and relief from agitated anger. This means that no one would be in a position to act under the influence of anger and heated emotions. However, some silence can be perceived as an intentional rudeness. Refusing to respond to a communicated message is a form of ignorance. For instance, in the US society extended silence is a sign of rudeness and can result to serious confrontations. To be on the safe side, it is wise to use silence only when it is necessary and for a definite time.
The fifth role of silence is that it is used to give room for listening. In communication sessions, there must be a speaker and a listener at any given time. When one person is speaking, the other person should be listening and vice versa (Tuleja & O’Rourke, 2008). When listening to someone, an open space is created for them to speak and let it out. Good and experienced people know how to listen and it can be learnt. This openness is created through non-verbal means and managed through the study of emotional intelligence as well as non-verbal communication. When a person is allowed time to speak out his/her feelings, listeners are in a position to understand him/her better and the communication becomes meaningful at the end.
Lastly, silence can evoke sympathy. When listening to the misery and speech of other people, there is a tendency of listening keenly to their tone of voice. The varying voice of the speaker enables the listener to perceive what the other person is feeling. This will call for sympathy and shared feelings among people involved. This is important in an organizational setting since members of staff feel for each other and thereby creates an environment characterized with harmony and cohesion.
Conclusively, silence can be intentional or unintentional. It is possible for one to communicate with another person by just remaining silent. Silence plays a vital role in business interactions with regard to the organization’s welfare. At some point, people mistake silence and tend to perceive the wrong meaning, which is contrary to what the person involved wanted to convey.
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