Non-Verbal Communication – An integral part of Interpersonal Skills

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication

Communication between people is more than just the meaning that is explicitly expressed in words or the information or message that is communicated.

There are also subtle messages, whether they are intentional or not, that is communicated through non-verbal behaviors.

Non-verbal communication can be described as facial expressions, sound and pitch of voice, gestures that are displayed using gestures (kinesics) and physical distance between two communicators (proxemics).

Non-verbal signals can provide clues and other information as well as significance over and above spoken (verbal) communication.

Non-verbal communication enable individuals to:

  • Reinforce or alter what is spoken in the language. For instance, people might make a loud snort when they say “Yes” to emphasize that they are in agreement with their counterpart; however, an oblique shrug or a sad expression saying “I’m happy, thank you” might suggest that the situation is not good at all.
  • Share information about their mood.
  • Establish or enhance the relationship between two individuals.
  • Send feedback to the person you are advising.
  • The flow of communication should be controlled By notifying others that they are done speaking or would like to speak up.

Learn the language on non-verbal communication

A number of popular texts about non-verbal communication cover the subject as if it was a language that could be learned, with the idea that if the purpose of every eye motion and gesture is understood, the true feelings and motives of an individual will be understood. Of course, this is absolutely true.

The problem is that interpreting non-verbal communication isn’t as easy. Communication that is non-verbal is not an unchanging language that has a specific meaning. It is influenced and shaped by the environment in which it is occurring. This is the case for both the place and the individuals involved, as well as the cultural context. A head nod head between co-workers in an informal meeting could be a different thing, the same gesture utilized to thank someone in the room or when two people are engaged in conversations in a social setting.

Communication between people is also complicated because it’s typically impossible to discern an expression or gesture accurately by itself. Non-verbal communication is an entire set of gestures, hand movements, eyes movements, poses and gestures that must be understood in conjunction the spoken words (verbal communications).

Cultural context

The good news is that a lot of us are taught to interpret non-verbal messages as we age and progress. It’s a regular aspect of our communication with others, and the majority of us utilize the language and interpret it without thinking about it. This makes it difficult to understand it in a conscious manner.

If you can take a break from thinking about it, you’ll likely find you have a pretty accurate idea of what the person intended to say. The problem lies in the fact that communication via non-verbal means could be extremely specific to a particular culture.

Examples of cultural-specific non-verbal communication

  • The commonly-held image of Italians that involves huge gestures, lots and many hand-waving gestures, as well as a lot of shouting and exuberant shouting, could be a cliché; however, it has reasons. In Italian culture, the excitement is displayed more prominently than that in the UK. For instance, the use of non-verbal communication is believed to be more evident. This makes it more difficult for Italians to comprehend non-verbal messages when they are in the UK or USA in a culture where it’s more delicate. But, even in Italy, there are geographic differences.
  • The thumbs-up sign, which generally signifies approval in English-speaking countries, is considered to be offensive in other nations, including, apparently Greece, Italy and some regions in the Middle East.
  • Making a circle using your forefinger and thumb like it means that you are in good health in Western culture. It is commonly used by divers. In Japan, it is believed to be the symbol of money. In Arabic countries, it’s an indication of danger. So, be mindful of how you communicate using body language and gestures!

The importance of non-verbal communication

When we talk, non-verbal signals can be just as important and, in some instances, even more, crucial as what we actually communicate. Non-verbal communication has an enormous influence on the person listening and the result of the conversation.

WARNING! People have a tendency to have less control in their non-verbal communication than the words they actually use. This is due to the fact that the non-verbal communication process is more emotional, which makes it more instinctive.

If there’s a contradiction between the two, you most likely rely on the non-verbal messages, and not the words spoken. The absence of non-verbal messages could also be a sign that the speaker is very conscious of their body language and is trying to hide their real feelings.

Different types of non-verbal communication

There are numerous kinds of communication that are nonverbal. These comprise:

  • Body motions (kinesics), for instance, hand gestures or shaking or nodding the head;
  • Posture, which is how your posture is when you stand or sit and whether or not you are sitting or standing, whether your arms are crossed and so on.
  • Contact with the eyes in which the quantity of eye contact is often a determinant of the degree of trust and trustworthiness.
  • Para-language or other aspects of the voice that are distinct from the words selected, like the tone, pitch, and the speed at which you speak;
  • Personal space or closeness (proxemics), which is the determinant of the level of intimacy and is likely to vary widely depending on the culture of origin;
  • Expressions that are facial include frowning, smiling and even blinking.
  • The physiological changes such as blinking more or sweating in times of stress.

Body Language, Proximity and Posture

There are estimates that suggest that speech may only comprise 20 % to 30 per cent of the communication. The body language of the person, their posture, and distance can provide crucial information to complement words or any other form of communication. They’re an essential element to convey the message.

Body language or movement (Kinesics)

It can be described as posture, gestures, head and hand movements or body movements in general.

The body movements are used to emphasize or reinforce the words of a person and provide insight into the mood and attitude of an individual. But, it’s also possible for body movements to clash with the words spoken. An experienced observer might be able detect differences in Behaviour and use them as clues to what the person is actually feeling and thinking.

There are many different types of body movement that include:


Gestures with the same purpose as words are known as emblems. Examples of this include signals which mean ‘OK “Come here!” or hand movements that are used to hitchhike. But, take note that although some symbols are recognized internationally, however, others will require interpretation within the context of their culture.


Gestures that accompany words in order to communicate a message are called illustrators. For instance, the typical hand gesture that follows the phrase “over repeated’ or pointing at the head in a certain direction while saying “over there”.


Gestures that provide feedback while conversing are referred to as regulators. Examples of “regulators” are head gestures of nods or short sounds like ‘uh-huh “mm-mm” and expressions of curiosity or boredom. Regulators permit the other party to modify their speech to indicate the level of enthusiasm or acceptance. If they don’t receive feedback, many have difficulty maintaining the conversation. However, this might differ depending on the situation.


Adaptors are non-verbal Behaviour that typically satisfies physical needs or emotional needs. Some examples include adjusting or scratching glasses to accommodate physical reasons and biting your nails when you are nervous. Though they are usually unconscious, adapters tend to be confined in public spaces than in the private lives of people who are more likely to be observed. These behaviors often come with emotions of fear or hostility.

EXERCISE: Identifying the different types of BODY LANGUAGE

In the coming couple of weeks, while you conduct your work, you should observe your body expressions. Take note of at least one of these kinds of gestures. Also, consider:

  • When were you last able to see the word “simple” used?
  • Do you believe that it was done so either consciously or in the subconscious?
  • Was it effectively used, or did it not?


Posture may reflect feelings or attitudes, as well as intentions. Research has revealed a wide range of posture-related signals and their meanings. For instance:

The posture that is Closed and Open

Two types of posture have been identified, closed and open and could reflect an individual’s confidence, status or willingness to be open towards another. A person who is in a closed position could be wearing their arms folded or crossed legs or situated at a slight distance from the person whom they’re interfacing with.

If you’re in an open posture, one could expect to see someone in front of you with their hands straying between the arms of the chair. An open posture could be used to signal the person’s openness or curiosity and a willingness to listen. On the other hand, a closed posture may indicate displeasure or lack of interest.


Take note of how a caring couple interacts with one another. You may want to watch an intimate relationship in person or via television. You’ll notice that the couples’ postures are similar as if one is a mirror image of the other. For instance, If one partner places their arms on the back of the chair, the same thing could happen to the person in the opposite position. If one of the partners smiles, it can reflect on the face of the other person’s expression. Mirroring is a sign of the desire and appreciation between two people.

Space and Closeness Space (Proxemics)

Each culture has its own level of physical intimacy appropriate to different kinds of relationships, and people learn these differences from the community where they grew up. Studying personal spaces is referred to as proxemics. In today’s multi-cultural society, it is crucial to be aware of the diversity of non-verbal codes that are expressed by diverse ethnic groups. If someone is caught at an inappropriate distance, they may be frightened or even defensive. Their actions could be misinterpreted.

Within Western societies, there are four different distances defined based on the relation between the people in the relationship.

Four Main Categories of Proximal Diseases Four Main Categories of Proxemics

  • Intimate distance (touching up to 45cm)
  • Personal distance (45cm to 1.2m)
  • Social distance (1.2m from 3.6m)
  • Public distance (3.7m from 4.5m)

The four distances mentioned are connected to the four primary kinds of relationships that are intimate, personal, public, and social. Each of these distances is divided in two, providing a close and an intermediate phase, resulting in eight distinct divisions.

The intimate distance can range from near touch (touching) up to the distance of 15 to 45 centimeters. In a globalized society, it is often thought to be considered an inappropriate distance to conduct public activities and stepping into the intimate space of someone who you don’t have a strong relationship with can be very disturbing.

Personal distance The ‘far’ portion of personal distance is believed to be the most suitable for those who are having conversations. From this distance, it’s easy to observe the person’s facial expressions and eye movements as well as their body expressions. Handshakes are common within the confines of the distance between the two people.

Social Distance This is the standard distance used for non-personal business-like working in the same space or at social gatherings. It is also crucial to have seating arrangements; the likelihood of communication is higher to be seen as formal when the conversation occurs over the desk. Furthermore, if the seating arrangement is such that one person seems to gaze down at the other and the effect of dominance could be produced. In a setting where there is social separation, the speech must be louder, and eye contact is still vital to communicating, or else feedback could be diminished, and interactions may cease.

The public Distance Public speakers and teachers speak to groups from a public distance. At these distances, exaggerated non-verbal communication is essential for effective communication. Face expressions that are subtle disappear in this situation, so simple hand gestures are frequently utilized as a substitute. Bigger head motions are also typical for an expert speaking public who can recognize the changes in how body language is perceived at long distances.

We could speculate that this is due to the idea that acknowledging strangers in one’s private space can be extremely uncomfortable for most people, and they tend to avoid it. Being aware of these boundaries can allow us to interact with others in a non-threatening, appropriate manner. It is possible to begin to comprehend what others think of them, their views on the relationship, and when appropriate, alter their Behaviour accordingly.

Face and Voice

Face as well as the voice, which are especially important for communication are the eye, facial expressions and voice elements like tone, pitch and the speed at which you speak.

Eye Contact is vital in non-verbal communication

“The eyes represent the only window for the soul” — Anonymous

Eye contact is a crucial element of non-verbal Behaviour. In social interactions, eye contact serves three primary reasons:

  • Feedback to give and receive Eye contact with someone can let people know the recipient is focused on the message of their message. Not maintaining eye contact can indicate disinterest. Communication could not go smoothly in the event that a listener turns their eyes often. It is also suggested that if a person keeps eye contact that is constant, they’re not trying hard enough and could also be lying.
  • To let the other person know when it’s their turn to speak. This is connected to the first point. The eye contact tends to remain constant while someone listens instead of speaking. If someone is done with what they had to share, they gaze directly at the person they are talking to, and it signals that the space is now open. If the person does not wish interruption, eye contact can be avoided.
  • To convey the nature of a relationship between two people. When you don’t like people, you are likely to avoid eye contact, and the pupil size can be reduced. However, maintaining positive eye contact indicates the attraction or interest of the person you are with. The dilation of the pupils can be an involuntary response to the attraction of someone who is attractive, and so the increase in eye contact may be a natural mechanism to make that dilation signal easier to understand for the potential partner.

The biological foundation for contact with the eye?

Researchers have discovered that there might be a biological reason for the significance of eye contact when it comes to human interaction. A study that was published in 2007 revealed that specific aspects of the iris, particularly the way the lines radiate away from the center and curve towards the edges, were associated with certain characteristics of personality. This could be considered Eugenics. However, the authors of the study speculated that the findings could result from the exact same gene responsible for the development of the iris as well as the frontal cortex within the brain, which is the brain area that is associated with personality. It sounds plausible but surely requires more study before it can be accepted as a theory. However, it does provide a clue to the reasons we appreciate being capable of making steady eye contact when speaking with someone else.

Para-language, also known as Voice Signals

Para-language is a term used to describe all aspects of voice that aren’t strictly part of the spoken message, such as the pitch and tone of the voice as well as the volume and speed that a message is communicated, as well as interspersed pauses and delays between phrases. These signals could be used to express feelings about the message being spoken. Invoking specific words or the use of specific tones of voice could indicate the degree to which feedback is needed.

For instance, in English, as well as other non-tonal languages, the ascending tone towards the conclusion of a sentence may signal a query.


One of the main reasons it is difficult for those who speak atonal languages, such as English, to master tonal languages like, say, Mandarin is because most of the expressions and non-verbal communication used in English is through the tone. In tonal languages, however, the tone alters the meaning of words and not only the non-verbal aspect and cannot, therefore, use to communicate a different meaning. Anyone who has tried to deliver a speech or talk in public while nervous is aware of certain impacts on the voice that come from certain emotions and emotions. For instance, nervousness results in physiological changes like the tightening of the larynx or voice box, which can tend to raise the voice in frequency. People who are anxious tend to speak faster and also.

In contrast to some elements of communication that are nonverbal, particularly facial expression, it is totally possible to master these elements of speech. It is the first thing to create awareness of them within your own mind, which is a crucial aspect of getting rid of the nerves that cause presentation.

Facial Expressions

The most effective displays of facial expressions are facial expressions or gestures that convey the emotions we experience.

The displays of emotion are usually not intentional and may be in conflict with the words being spoken. These expressions provide clear clues about the emotional state of an individual and are generally used in conjunction with words when there’s a difference between the two.

Learn to conceal emotions – and the importance of telling Certain people. For instance, professional players of cards have been trained to manage their facial expressions to ensure that they don’t display excitement or give details about their emotions, such as when they hold an impressive hand. The majority of people are believed to exhibit a ‘tell’, an expression that twitches or conveys excitement. This implies that it’s very difficult to conceal emotions, and facial expressions are an essential element in human interaction.

Positive and Negative Body Language

Expressions of facial expressions, body language, and even voices can be utilized in a positive or negative way.

Positive body language reinforces verbal communication. It’s designed to create connections and strengthen connections with two to more persons.

Negative body language can be intentional or accidental. The effect is to indicate that you are not interested in the other person and is likely to make communication less effective.

Body language that is positive refers to:

  • Maintain Eye contact with those to whom you’re speaking.
  • Smile (if appropriate) but particularly as an expression of greeting or when you are parting.
  • Sitting in a square position on the chair and leaning slightly to the side (this signifies that you are playing).
  • In agreement, nodding.
  • A strong handshake.
  • The exterior is calm and calm.
  • Are you interested?

Body language that is negative is:

  • Do not look at someone while speaking.
  • Tapping afoot or hand. * Rocking forward and backwards.
  • Scratching.
  • Keep cleansing your throat.
  • Playing with earlobes, hair jewelry, jackets, glasses, etc.
  • Picking at fingers or fingernails.
  • Yawning.
  • You are constantly looking at your watch or your timer in your room.
  • Being too close to other people.
  • Paying attention to someone who is speaking.

Exercise: impact of body language with negative meanings

This task requires the participation of a colleague or friend. Request your friend to appear that they’re completely uninterested in what you’re speaking about and to display a lack of interest in your body language while you use your voice.

Talk about something that you are enthusiastic about, like your football team maybe, or a particular sports or hobby or your family. Check how you feel and how long you are able to keep talking even in the face of your friend’s lack of interest.

Human Communication is The Sum of Its Parts

One of the main reasons people complain about telephone and email as well as social media is because they don’t permit any form of non-verbal communication. It means that a large portion of the meaning could be lost. When you call, For instance, you need to be more careful in expressing the emotion you feel with your voice since your face isn’t easily visible. In the world of social media and email, we’ve embraced emoticons or emojis to show our emotions. While you might find emoticons amusing, funny or annoying, they are simply used to emphasize the importance of non-verbal communication.

An understanding of basic non-verbal communication techniques, which go over and beyond what actually gets said, can be helpful to improve communication with other people. Knowing these signals can be used to help encourage people to discuss their issues and help to create a more mutual understanding, which is, after all, the goal of communication.

In unit-6 we see the importance of Personal Presentation and Appearance in effective communication.