Non Verbal Communication is the process of communicating without words. Non Verbal Communication refers to the messages sent through gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and posture. We send many more non verbal messages than verbal messages. It is estimated that 50 to 90 percent of messages are non verbal.
Non Verbal Communication has few rules and often occurs unconsciously, for instance while speaking we may throw our arms around; while listening a sudden shock may result in a sharp intake of breath. Such non verbal signals add impact to a meaning, and they combine to provide an instant impression in a way that written communication or telephone calls cannot. Actions of this sort are an important part of the communication process. We must be aware of the non verbal messages we send at all times. Careless use of the non verbal messages can send the wrong message. When listening to someone, observe his or her non verbal signals carefully and try to interpret them correctly.
Messages communicated by different types of non verbal communication are listed below:GesturesGestures can both complement and contradict other forms of communication. For example, when one person tells another to turn “left” while pointing right, the gesture contradicts the spoken words. If a person both says to turn right and points right, the gesture complements the words. The gestures that we see in everyday business communication include a wide range of hand and arm movements. When examined in context, they may have specific meanings:Baton-like pointing movements of the hands and arms punctuate words and may communicate control.
Finger wagging and arms crossed over the chest may be signs of disagreement.
A hand or finger covering the mouth may indicate that the speaker is holding something back or is too embarrassed or reluctant to speak.
Hands on the hips with thumbs back communicate toughness and a reluctance to back down.
Counting off on fingers may be a sign of clear thinking and logic.
Although gestures can be used deliberately to communicate honesty, self- confidence, straightforwardness and control, most are used unconsciously.
Eye ContactWhen people look directly into each other’s eyes, they make eye contact. Eyes can send messages as well as receive information. Indeed, eye contact can be the most powerful form of Non Verbal Communication. In business, as in personal relationships, eye contact sends different messages. Purposefully looking at someone is a signal of recognition. Direct eye contact tells a job applicant that we are interested in learning more. Purposefully looking away from someone may be a sign of arrogance or anger.
The length of time that eye contact is held has a message of its own. Eye contact with a stranger is instantaneous. More than a glance makes both parties uncomfortable. Maintaining eye contact with a person of the opposite sex for too long can mean sexual interest – an inappropriate business message. Extended eye contact between men who do not know each other is an implicit threat. By contrast, it is acceptable in public speaking to hold eye contact with audience members as a sign of involvement and engagement.
Eye contact is the most difficult of all facial features to fake. Even subtle changes in contact and expression have the power to show strong feelings if interpreted correctly.
Facial ExpressionsClosely linked to eye contact, facial expressions are movements of the face that reflect attitudes and emotions that often difficult to read. With the vast number of possible expressions, the speed at which they change, and the ability of most people to “mask” messages they do not want to send, all but the most obvious expressions may be misinterpreted. Psychologists have identified six emotions that are expressed facially in all parts of the world: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, and fear.
PosturePosture is the position of our body as we sit or stand. It can communicate strong non verbal cues. For example:Letting our head drop, leaning back and supporting our head with our hand expresses boredom.
Adopting an “open” sitting posture, with our head and body to one side and legs uncrossed, often communicates agreement.
Walking rapidly with our hands moving freely at our side may communicate confidence and goal orientation.