7 Forms of Nonverbal Communication and Why They Are Important
Most of all communication is nonverbal and it may be the most important way you interact with others.
There are many forms of nonverbal communication and they are part of what makes us human.
They allow us to communicate with others despite language barriers or cultural differences.
They are a way to share what you’re feeling when you may not be able to say it. We use them every day without even knowing it and they share our true intentions. It’s been debated, but there’s always been the thought communication is 7% verbal, 38% vocal, and 55% facial. Regardless of the actual numbers, it’s clear that what we say is not as important as how we say it – and how we show it. Of all the different communication forms that are nonverbal, this might be the most prominent. It is also one that has a universal understanding. Any people or culture can understand a simple smile or frown. Different cultures may have some variations on how facial expressions are interpreted, but the core emotions shown through the face are universal. A smile is the same no matter where you are in the world. If you frown in Moscow, it’s understood the same way if you were to frown in Boston.
The face can not hide a sense of joy or concern, and all people share these strong emotions. Seeing a small child’s face fill with a sense of wonder and joy can be understood across any age and culture. Facial expressions can convey our many feelings without having to say a thing. Hand gestures can take on different meanings as you go around the world, but they are still an important form of communicating. A wave, peace sign, or thumbs up can convey meaning and are generally understood through different cultures. We see hand gestures as being able to emphasize points, and they are used by politicians, and leaders the world over. Paralinguistics aren’t what you say, but more how you say it. It doesn’t matter what language you’re speaking, but your tone, loudness of voice, inflection, and pitch set the stage for what you’re saying. It’s how we emphasize how we are feeling and it can be as important as the words we use. Using a softness to your voice can help comfort those in distress and help calm them.
The words you choose in those situations are always important, but it might be how they are delivered that conveys your true intent.
The way you present yourself with your body may communicate more about you than you could ever do with words. Simple things like your posture give insights into how you’re feeling and the impression you want to convey. Standing with crossed arms and legs shows you to be closed off and unapproachable. While sitting or standing with your arms open can allow others in. Someone who is leaning, or slumping their shoulders, can convey they are bored and it shows how powerful nonverbal communication really is. This might be an unfamiliar word, but you probably know it better as ‘personal space‘. Everyone has their own preference as to how comfortable they are when people get close to them. This is a form of nonverbal communication that may work better than words. Standing too close to someone may bring on feelings of discomfort and you’ll be able to pick up on this by seeing them move away. You can also see this with people speaking to groups: they may have to move back a little from everyone and this is the way they convey the space level they need to feel comfortable. Eye gaze is another form of communication that is nonverbal and universal. Keeping eye contact with someone shows that you are engaged and interested while not maintaining it shows the opposite. Keeping eye contact can also be a form of authority and a way to signify dominance over someone else. It is a powerful way to communicate without ever having to say a word. If you’re wanting to gauge if someone is interested in you, you can just watch their eye gaze. People who feel attracted to one another have their pupils dilate and their blinking increase. You may say you feel a certain way, but the body never lies. We also know this as ‘haptics‘ and it can be a way to share warmth with another person. A soft touch can convey more in a brief second than 100 words. A gentle touch from another person may stay with you for a long time. Nothing needs to be said, but we can share everything in that one touch. We as humans require physical contact, not only to boost our mood but for reassurance and security. Touch is a basic human requirement and a very important part of communicating. We touch to share love, affection, and familiarity. Touch is used to comfort others and to communicate how we are feeling while saying nothing. We can use even the simple act of a handshake to connect and bond with another person. You can see now that the actual words we use are actually farther down the list as an important way to communicate. Through all these different forms of nonverbal communication, we can share so much more than words can ever do. A great way to sum this up is from the great Maya Angelou who said: “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel“. This is why nonverbal communication is so important. R.
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