Non-Verbal Communication

Human language is a remarkably complex form of communication, consisting of countless languages and ever-growing dialects and colloquialisms. Despite the vast array of language differences, one constant persists – non-verbal aspects of communication remain stable and universal.

Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the transmission of messages or signals through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and body language. It includes the use of social cues, kinesics, distance (proxemics) and physical environments/appearance, of voice (paralanguage) and of touch (haptics).It can also include the use of time (chronemics) and eye contact and the actions of looking while talking and listening, frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate (oculesics).

Nonverbal communication is communication conveyed by expressions of the face and eyes, movement and body posture, vocal characteristics, clothing, physical environment and distance among other methods. Nonverbal communication plays a role in all communication: it is impossible to communicate without sending out nonverbal clues. These clues help others determine the truth behind one’s words and their true feelings. Nonverbal communication is a powerful form of communication in that it expresses and reveals attitudes and attributes that may not be expressed by the words spoken.

One broad area of nonverbal communication involves body position and motion. Referred to as kinesics, this area of nonverbal communication encompasses the following:

Posture – The way that you hold your body or the way that you stand can communicate messages to other people. For example, if you are very interested in a conversation, you may find that you lean in towards the person that’s talking. Reclining back in your chair can show that you are comfortable and relaxed. If you are fidgeting and restless, it could indicate that you’re nervous or that you are impatient.

Eye Contact – The amount of eye contact that you make with people can also communicate with them. For example, if you are intently listening to something that someone is saying, it can help to make eye contact with them, so they know that you’re paying attention. However, holding eye contact for too long and not looking away can cause people to feel uncomfortable.

Facial Expressions – There are many ways that your facial expressions can communicate the emotions that you’re feeling or the things that you’re thinking to the people around you. Smiling can let people know that you are happy or friendly. Frowning communicates that you may be sad or concerned. Furrowing your eyebrows can make you look angry or like you’re deep in thought.

Gestures – The hand gestures that you make can also add to the conversation that you’re having. Conversely, they can allow you to communicate with someone without having to say anything at all. For example, you can point directions out to people, or you can use your hand gestures to add to the message that you’re trying to communicate. For example, when using American Sign Language, the way you gesture can communicate the emotion that goes along with the words that you are signing.

Why Is Nonverbal Communication Important?

While the majority of communication may be verbal, nonverbal communication can work to support the message that you are trying to convey. Here are some ways that nonverbal communication is so important:

It Helps People Understand What You’re Saying

The use of nonverbal communication can be used to help people have a better understanding of the message you’re trying to share. For example, if you are saying something important and you are using serious facial expressions and direct gestures, it can help them to understand the importance of what you’re communicating. Or, doing things like smiling and nodding your head approvingly can help communicate that you agree with what someone is saying.

It Can Show Confidence

One example that is often given in conversations about nonverbal communication is how you can use your body language to convey confidence during job interviews. By keeping your shoulders back, your head up, and making eye contact with another person, you portray that you are a confident person. Even if you’re not feeling particularly confident at that moment, you can communicate that message to someone else by your nonverbal communication.

It Helps You Make A Good First Impression

It has been found that people make their first impression of you in the first seven seconds after meeting you. You may not have been able to verbally say anything in those first seven seconds of meeting someone. This means that they are making their judgment of you off of your body language and nonverbal cues. In some situations, it can be difficult to overcome a bad first impression. This is another reason why it’s important to pay attention to what you’re communicating non-verbally to others.

Individuals use these channels to convey a variety of emotions as well as to display important clues regarding their personality.

Nonverbal communication has been a focus of consideration for some time in areas such as corporate performance skills and individual societal skills. However, it has received little consideration, in language teaching as an accompaniment to spoken language, though recent drifts in neuro-linguistic programming concerning reflecting and corresponding body language have sieved into current research and practice.

Reference: What Is Non Verbal Communication, And Why Does It Matter?

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated March 31, 2022


This Blog on 'Non-Verbal Communication' has been contributed by Chrisann D'souza. She is an ambitious and results-driven individual. She loves to learn about the human psyche and hopes to raise awareness about mental health, gender issues, and cruelty to animals.

She is part of the International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology, IJNGP is a peer-reviewed journal that serves as a platform for the enrichment, articulation, and support of the constantly emerging field dedicated to promoting the study and research in Neurolinguistics Gestalt Psychology, and Therapy.