Why Non Verbal Communication is Important

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By Geraldine Kilbride

What is communication?

It is a process that involves exchange of information, thoughts as well as ideas and emotions.

Based on the channels used for communicating, the process of communication can be broadly classified as verbal communication and non verbal communication.

Non verbal communication is the most important method of communication that we have available as human beings. It is estimated that 55% of our communication is based on the non verbal communication methods, and only 38% is attributed to vocal communication, whereas written communication comes third with only 7% of our total.

The process of communication involves a sender that encodes and sends a message, which is then carried via the communication channel to the receiver. He/she decodes the message, processes the information and sends an appropriate reply via the same communication channel. This process is similar whether we are employing verbal or non verbal methods of communication.

Communication includes written and oral communication, whereas the non verbal communication includes body language, facial expressions and visuals, such as diagrams or pictures, all of which are used as a means of communication.

Important non verbal methods of communication

There are eight main methods of non verbal communication. Generally we are very familiar with the idea of ‘body language’. But this is a general term which covers different types of non verbal communication such as Gesture, Posture and Eye-Gaze.

1. Eye gaze

Eye contact can indicate interest, attention, and involvement. Gaze includes the actions of looking while talking, maintaining eye contact while listening, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation and blink rate.

2. Facial expression

Universal facial expressions signify anger, fear, sadness, surely and disgust. If you smile, frequently, you’ll be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable.

3. Posture

Your posture, including the pose, stance and bearing of the way you sit, slouch, stand, lean, bend, hold and move your body in space. It can immediately affect the way people perceive you.

4. Gesture

May be articulated by the movement of hands, arms or body, and also includes the movement of the head, face and eyes such as winking, nodding or rolling one’s eyes.

Speaking without gesture, can be seen as boring, stiff and unanimated.

5. Haptics

The word given to ‘touch’ as it refers to communication, includes handshake, holding hands, kissing, backslapping, high fives, a pat on the shoulder and brushing an arm.

The meaning conveyed from touch is highly dependent upon context, the relationship between communicators, and the manner of touch.

6. Paralanguage

This term refers to the non verbal cues of the voice. Acoustic properties of speech such as tone, pitch and accent can all give off a non verbal cues

7. Proxemics

This refers to the non verbal study of space and distance. The concept of territorial space refers to the area around the person that another person is not allowed to enter without consent. For example, the intimate zone is said to be up to 2 feet around the person and is reserved for close friends and loved ones.

8. Clothing and bodily characteristics

Finally, elements such as physique, height, weight, hair, skin colour, gender, odour and clothing send non verbal messages during interaction. They cannot be ignored.

Geraldine M. Kilbride is a Business Psychologist and owner of http://CrucialSkills4Leaders.com, Europe’s foremost resources for developing your leadership talent. Working with executives to understand and realise their unique leadership potential, CrucialSkills4Leaders uses classroom situations, experiential workshops as well as individual and group coaching to develop performance. The coaches and facilitators employed by CrucialSkills4Leaders are all regularly called upon by the London Business School, Number 1 for MBAs.

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