Communication Skills

A Simple Guide To Non-Verbal Communication

Non verbal communication

1. What is non verbal communication?

Simply, the use of body language to convey meaning. Research says 55 - 65 % of all communication is done non-verbally. Experts also say we use verbal communication to convey information, and non-verbal communication to convey our attitudes, feelings and values.


2. The major components of non-verbal communication


- Gestures: Showing basic human emotions using slight movement of body/parts. They differ across cultures.


- Facial expressions: The eyes and the mouth basically. Eye contact and smile/frown are the mainstays of facial expressions.


- Congruence: Our words must match out body language if we are to be fully trusted. For example, we tell some we love them, but we are looking elsewhere. This is an example of in-congruence.


- Props: Placing of our limbs (hands on hips, steepling fingers), or holding an object (cigarette) and so on, conveying an attitude.


- Territory: We like our spaces and we protect it and we get worked up when it is encroached. In office, we will shout, 'how dare you touch me?'. In a crowded train we will curse and push back when people brush against you. Everyone is so territorial.


3. Common non-verbal communication mistakes we make


- Deliberately trying to alter body language to send a different message/signal: Bluffing requires practice, a lot of it. And you risk sending mixed signals at best, if they haven't already read through your charade.


- Over-interpreting and seeing silent messages everywhere: This is like someone trying to write like Tolstoy right after learning basics of a language. Experts suggest before we come to any conclusion, we must also consider the context (setting and situation). Maybe that person is silent today because his child is sick, not because he is guilty.


- A more severe form of 'body language expertise' is making decisions/accusations based on someone's gestures and such. Seek evidence before you jump in.


Thank you for reading.
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