Good communication is the foundation of successful relationships, both personally and professionally. But we communicate with much more than words. In fact, research shows that the majority of our communication is nonverbal. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and even the tone of our voice.
All of our nonverbal behaviors—the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make—send strong messages.The way you listen, look, move, and react tell the other person whether or not you care and how well you’re listening. The nonverbal signals you send either produce a sense of interest, trust, and desire for connection—or they generate disinterest, distrust, and confusion.
There are many different types of nonverbal communication. Together, the following nonverbal signals and cues communicate your interest and investment in others.
- Facial expression – Facial expressions play a major part in non-verbal communicatio. A lot can be conveyed by means of facial expressions – a smile, or a frown. Though the verbal communication can vary across locations, facial expressions are universal.
- Body movements and posture – The way people walk, sit, stand or walk can convey a lot about that person. Normally arm-crossing, or leg-crossing are percieved as defensive postures. The way you move and carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to the world.
- Gestures – Gestures are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We wave, point, beckon, and use our hands when we’re arguing or speaking animatedly—expressing ourselves with gestures often without thinking. They differ across cultures.
- Eye contact – The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Eye contact is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and for gauging the other person’s response.When people encounter people or things that they like, the rate of blinking increases and pupils dilate.
- Haptics – Communication through touch is another important non-verbal behavior. Think about the messages given by the following: a firm handshake, a timid tap on the shoulder, a warm bear hug, a reassuring pat on the back, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on your arm.
- Proxemics – Have you ever felt uncomfortable during a conversation because the other person was standing too close and invading your space? We all have a need for physical space, although that need differs depending on the culture, the situation, and the closeness of the relationship. You can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy, aggression, dominance, or affection.
- Voice – We communicate with our voices, even when we are not using words. Nonverbal speech sounds such as tone, pitch, volume, inflection, rhythm, and rate are important communication elements. When we speak, other people “read” our voices in addition to listening to our words. These nonverbal speech sounds provide subtle but powerful clues into our true feelings and what we really mean. Think about how tone of voice, for example, can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence.
In the next post you will see non-verbal communication tips for Interviews.