By Inbal AbarbanelOctober 22nd, 2021

We’re used to thinking of a conversation as an exchange of verbal utterances between two interlocutors or more. Actually, there is more than that. There’s a whole dimension of nonverbal aspects in a discourse between people. Chronemics is one of them, a hidden but prominent element of dialogues, referring to the perception, usage, and structure of time in the interaction.

After all, communication is a time-bound activity. Time acts as a fundamental organizing principle for these activities. We are spending quality time with our friends, we are running out of time for a deadline at work, we attempt to be on time for appointments, and so on.

Chronemics effect our communication in the sense that it holds a valuable meaning for the discourse. Taking a pause before replaying means that a crucial statement is coming up. A long silence in the middle of the discourse entails a nervous and embarrassing atmosphere.

Moreover, chronemics signals social status in a given interaction. It is all actually a matter of responsiveness, whether one has the freedom of extending his response time or is bound to reply instantly. Talking rapidly with hesitant pauses sets a neurotic or nervous mood to the speaker, indicating a subordinate relation to the other interlocutors, whereas on the contrary, a slow speech pace sets a deliberate and calm quality, and implicates a high competence and a dominant position.

Chronemics is an exceptional nonverbal cue with the fact that it is valid not only on a face-to-face interaction or even not solely vocal. Chronemics is manifested in written communication as well. Given an email from a prospect, the dealmaker might be manipulating his response time in order to increase or retain his competence.

Chronemics has the power to delineate and preserve the social map. For example, a boss can be late for a meeting but not his subordinates. Running a pitching presentation for investors may also presuppose extra waiting for them, due to display of power. It is even fashionable to be late to a party. On the other hand, if you are missing the upper hand, you might not want to take your time. One must not arrive at a job interview five minutes late, inasmuch as you probably won’t get the job. To sum up, signaling with organizing time and responsiveness has the power of negotiation of social competence.