When we say ‘communication,’ we usually mean ‘what we say,’ or the words we use. Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, is much more than the literal meaning of words and the information or message they communicate. It also includes nonverbal behaviors that convey implicit messages, whether deliberate or not.
Nonverbal communication is a platform where people express their thoughts, feelings, and actions. They can also be used as an indicator of intent. For example, a person may smile, raise their arms, or slam on the ground. When this happens, this is called nonverbal speech. In some cases, it is not a verbal expression, but a gesture can indicate an emotion.
Facial expressions, voice tone and pitch, body language gestures (kinesics), and physical space between communicators are examples of nonverbal communication (proxemics). Over and above spoken (verbal) communication, nonverbal cues can provide insights, additional information, and significance. According to some estimations, nonverbal communication accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all communication!
Table of Contents
1. The Cultural Context in Non-verbal Communication
The good news is that as we grow older and develop, most of us learn to comprehend nonverbal communication. It’s an unavoidable element of how we connect with others, and most of us use and interpret it without even realizing it. It may be more challenging to interpret consciously as a result of this. If you stop thinking about it, you’ll probably realize you have a perfect sense of what someone was trying to say. The bad news is that nonverbal communication varies greatly by culture.
Depending on the culture, nonverbal communication can vary. In some cultures, it is socially inappropriate to show emotion in public. In other cultures, this behavior is discouraged, as a person may be seen as a lack of control over one’s emotions. In other cultures, people may use gestures to indicate respect or give directions. This may be why people in Japan tend to be more reserved regarding facial expressions. Another kind of nonverbal communication is silence. In a conversation, this type of communication is used to express the importance of an idea. If a person is angry, they may slam their hands or throw themselves in the air. They may be expressing feelings of happiness, joy, or even fear. The language they use will be very different. The body language of the other person will be very different from theirs.
2. Elements of Non-verbal Communication
Using nonverbal communication is an essential part of communication. Nonverbal behavior is so widely used that it can be misunderstood. In some cultures, it is the most noticeable form of communication. The most effective type of communication is the one that uses the least words. The best way to communicate with others is by expressing your feelings through different types of nonverbal behavior. There are seven main types of nonverbal communication. Here are some examples. First, look at the way people interact with each other. Are they engrossed in the conversation? If they are, they are interested in what they are talking about.
The following are elements of nonverbal communication or body language:
Expressions on the Face
The human face is incredibly expressive, capable of conveying a wide range of emotions without saying anything. Facial expressions, unlike some other kinds of nonverbal communication, are universal. Across civilizations, the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and contempt are all the same. A person’s facial expressions are the most common form of nonverbal communication. They can communicate information or emotions. For example, a person can indicate surprise by raising their eyebrows or opening their eyes. Other signs of attention or interest can be conveyed by strategic eye content. Conversely, a person can convey disrespect by glancing away.
Posture and Mobility of the Body
Consider how the way people sit, move, stand, or hold their heads affects your perceptions of them. The way you move and conduct yourself sends out a lot of information to the rest of the world. Your posture, bearing, stance, and subtle motions are examples of nonverbal communication.
Our daily lives are tied together through gestures. When debating or speaking animatedly, you may wave, point, beckon or use your hands, often expressing yourself without thinking through gestures. However, the meaning of some gestures varies greatly throughout cultures. While the hand-made “OK” sign, for example, typically sends a good message in English-speaking countries, it is deemed offensive in Germany, Russia, and Brazil. As a result, it’s critical to be cautious about utilizing gestures to avoid misinterpretation.
Make Direct Eye Contact
Because most people’s major sense is vision, eye contact is an exceptionally essential kind of nonverbal communication. Many things can be communicated by staring at someone, including attention, affection, animosity, or attraction. Maintaining the flow of conversation and measuring the other person’s attention and response need eye contact.
A touch is a powerful tool for communication. Consider how a feeble handshake, a loving bear hug, a patronizing pat on the head, or a dominating grasp on the arm send entirely different messages.
Have you ever felt uneasy during a chat because someone was standing too close to you and invading your personal space? We all require physical space, yet how much space we require varies depending on culture, situation, and the closeness of the relationship. Physical space can be used to transmit a variety of nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy and affection, hostility, and authority.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that counts. Other people “read” your voice in addition to listening to your words while you talk. Your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone and inflection, and sounds that suggest understanding, such as “ahh” and “uh-huh,” are all things kids pay attention to. Consider how your voice tone can convey sarcasm, rage, tenderness, or confidence.
3. How to Read Non-verbal Communication?
You’ll improve your ability to manage stress and understand emotions once you’ve honed your ability to read nonverbal cues from others. It’s also critical to:
- Keep an eye out for inconsistencies. What is said should be reinforced through nonverbal communication. Is the person stating one thing but communicating a different message through body language? Are they, for example, saying “yes” while shaking their head “no”?
- Take a collective look at nonverbal communication cues. Don’t put too much stock in a single nonverbal hint or gesture. Take note of all the nonverbal cues you’re getting, from eye contact to voice tone and body language. Are their nonverbal cues consistent—or inconsistent—with what they’re saying when taken all together?
- Trust your gut feelings: Accept your instincts. You may be picking up on a discrepancy between verbal and nonverbal clues if you have the feeling that someone isn’t being honest or that things don’t add up.
4. How to Improve Non-verbal Communication?
Nonverbal communication is a fast-paced back-and-forth procedure that necessitates your complete concentration on the present time. You’re almost guaranteed to miss nonverbal signs and not fully understand what’s being said if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, checking your phone, or thinking about something else. You can increase your nonverbal communication by learning to handle stress and gaining emotional awareness in addition to being present.
- Your ability to communicate is harmed by stress. When you’re stressed, you’re more prone to misinterpret others, convey confused or off-putting nonverbal messages, and fall into dangerous knee-jerk behavior patterns. Also, keep in mind that emotions are contagious. If you’re irritated, you’re more likely to upset others, exacerbating a poor scenario.
- Take a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed by tension. Before you leap back into the conversation, take a moment to relax. You’ll feel better equipped to cope with the situation positively once you’ve achieved your emotional equilibrium. Developing your emotional awareness: You must be aware of your emotions and how they influence you to convey accurate nonverbal clues. You must also recognize other people’s emotions and the genuine feelings underlying the signals they provide. This is when emotional intelligence comes into play. Being emotionally aware allows you to do the following. Read other people accurately, including the emotions they’re experiencing and the nonverbal messages they’re delivering.
- Send nonverbal messages that correspond to your words to build trust in relationships.
- Respond in a way that demonstrates that you are aware of their situation and care.
Because we’ve been trained to shut off our feelings, many of us are detached from our emotions—especially powerful emotions like anger, grief, and fear. You can suppress or numb your feelings, but you can’t get rid of them. They’re still there, and they’re still having an impact on your actions. You’ll acquire more control over how you think and act if you expand your emotional awareness and connect with negative emotions.
To Wrap It Up
These types of nonverbal communication are essential and should be studied further. Whether interacting with a person in person or online, you are most likely aware of their body language. While there are many benefits to interacting with people through nonverbal means, it is sometimes difficult to understand how to read body language.
There are many different forms of nonverbal communication. In addition to words, a person’s body language can also convey various messages. For example, a person can show emotion with their face or hand gestures. While the use of facial expressions is universal, other nonverbal communication can include body movement. A person’s posture, bearing, and subtle movements contribute to a person’s message. When it comes to nonverbal communication, a person’s gestures and facial expressions can convey many things. They can show a person’s attitude or their mood, or even their attitude. A person’s gestures can also help communicate ideas. If a person tries to use gestures to express their emotions, the meaning of these actions will be more precise. The purpose of gestures in nonverbal communication is to convey ideas.