Non-verbal communication refers to “all external stimuli other than spoken or written words and including body motion, characteristics of appearance, characteristics of voice and use of space and distancing. All these non-verbal clues taken together are also known as body language. Body language plays significant role in oral communication. Sigmund Freud’s observation may appear to be an exaggeration but it is the exaggeration of a vital truth: “He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent he chats with his fingerprints; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.” It is believed that a charming person has a pleasant voice, a dynamic person has a vibrant voice and a confident person an assured voice.
When we send a message as part of a communication, it can reach the receiver in more than one way; through the words (verbal channel) we use, through the voice (vocal channel) we use and through the body language (action channel or what is broadly considered as “non-verbal” channel). In 1971, research published by Albert Mehrabian showed that
Words account for 7 per cent
Tone of voice account for 35 per cent
Body language accounts for 55 per cent of the message.
Just think about this: More than half the message that a receiver gets is from your body language! Nonverbal signals play a vital role in communication because they can strengthen a verbal message (when the nonverbal signals match the spoken words), weaken a verbal message (when nonverbal signals don’t match the words), or replace words entirely. For example, you might tell a client that a project is coming along timely, but your forced smile and nervous glances send an entirely different message.
Physical expressions like waving, pointing, touching and slouching are all forms of nonverbal communication. The study of body movement and expression is known as kinesics. Humans move their bodies when communicating because, as research has shown, it helps "ease the mental effort when communication is difficult."
Recognizing Nonverbal Communication
Paying special attention to nonverbal signals in the workplace will enhance your ability to communicate successfully. Moreover, as you interact with business associates from other backgrounds, you’ll discover that some nonverbal signals don’t necessarily translate across cultures. The range and variety of nonverbal signals are almost endless, but one can grasp the basics by studying six general categories:
Facial expression: Your face is the primary vehicle for expressing your emotions; it reveals both the type and intensity of your feelings. Eye contact is another important aspect by which a speaker can reach out to the audience and the listener can synch up with speaker. Eye contact can be distributed on a targeted basis to different sections of the audience based on need.
Gesture and Posture: The way you position and move your body expresses both specific...