Technology

The Science of Non-Verbal Communication

Yuval Heiman

You are giving a presentation to your team leader. You take a look at him and get it right away that he is not very happy with it. You look over to your team members, and they give you a slight nod, agreeing about the boss’s reaction. All of this is communication – each individual is conveying a message, and the other person is responding to it. The interesting part? There are absolutely no words involved.

That’s the power of non-verbal communication. It is a scientifically proven and widely acknowledged occurrence that holds great importance in the real world. Previously, not many people were able to understand this sort of communication. However, with systematic research and interpretation tools, the science of non-verbal communication is no more a myth.

Scroll down to learn all about non-verbal communication and the role it plays in your professional and personal interactions.

What is Non-Verbal Communication?

Non-verbal communication refers to the various ways in which individuals deliver information about their emotions, intentions, needs, approaches, and opinions without using verbal language. It is a message conveyed without words.

Non-verbal communication holds around 80 – 90 percent of the meaning found in human interactions, which is why it has been a center of attraction for language and communication experts since the very start.

In fact, scientific research on non-verbal communication and behavior started in 1872 with the publication of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin. Since then, an ample amount of research has been conducted about the effects, types, and expressions of unspoken communication.

Why is Non-Verbal Communication Important?

One of the primary reasons for humans’ survival and success is their ability to communicate. Our modes of communication are complex, with non-verbal communication being an important interacting tool for our everyday interactions. 

Your non-verbal communication signs convey a lot to the person you are communicating with. It shows your interest and care levels, your honesty, your listening power, and your understanding. In fact, the way they respond to you depends less on what you are saying and more on what you are not saying.

 When your non-verbal communication complements your verbal communication, it leads to increased trust, improved clarity, and a better relationship. On the other hand, if your unspoken words contradict your spoken words, it leads to mistrust, confusion, and stress. Hence, non-verbal communication is really important to building productive, positive, and reliable professional and personal relationships. 

In order to become a better communicator, it is important to become more knowledgeable and sensitive to the non-verbal cues of others and your own.

Non-verbal communication can help you in five ways, according to Edward G. Wertheim:

Repetition: It repeats and reinforces the message you deliver verbally.

Contradiction: If it contradicts the message you are trying to convey, it can indicate that you may not be telling the truth.

Substitution: It can substitute for a verbal message. 

Complementing: It may add to your verbal message, increasing the impact of your message.

Accenting: It may emphasize a verbal message, enhancing the importance of your message.

Different Types of Non-Verbal Communication

The different types of non-verbal communication include:

Facial Expressions

The human face is exceptionally expressive and capable of conveying countless emotions without a single verbal word. Being a universally consistent mode of non-verbal communication, facial expressions achieve a huge proportion of non-verbal communication. Everything you feel is conveyed through facial expressions first, including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust.

Posture and Body Movement

The manner with which you move, and the way you carry yourself deliver a lot of information about you. This non-verbal communication type refers to your posture, stance, manner, and the subtle movements you make.

Gestures

Gestures are deliberate movements to communicate meaning without words. You may often express yourself through gestures without even thinking or knowing about it. Some common gestures include waving, pointing, signaling, arguing, or speaking animatedly.

Eye Gaze

We are visual creatures, and the visual sense is usually dominant for most people. That’s why eye gaze or eye contact is an especially important type of non-verbal communication. Only by looking at someone, you can communicate various feelings and things, such as interest, attraction, affection, hostility, and more. Eye contact also helps retain the conversational flow and for determining the other person’s interest and reaction.

Paralinguistic – The Voice

The speaking manner is another important non-verbal communication, referred to as paralinguistic. It is a communication mode that is different from the language itself, and it mainly includes the tone of your voice, your pitch, how fast or slow you speak, loudness, and inflection.

Proxemics – The Space

Every individual has a need for personal space. The physical space you maintain during an interaction can convey various non-verbal messages, such as intimacy, affection, anger, or authority.

Haptics – The Touch

The way you touch someone while communicating with them can be a very eloquent mode of non-verbal communication. In fact, there has been significant scientific research on the importance of touch during infancy and early child development, where the child can’t understand the language but perceives a lot just with a touch.

Final Thoughts

Non-verbal communication is highly complex yet a critical part of communication skills, personal and professional. However, people often do not take it as seriously as they should or are totally unaware of how their non-verbal behavior affects the outcome of communication. 

According to Psychology Professor and non-verbal communication pioneer Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of our communication is verbal.

Thankfully, we live in a time where the science of non-verbal communication is well-researched, and interpreting this mode of communication is not so complex anymore. Tools like Novacy use technology, AI, and NLP to decipher what people mean through their body language and behavior. Knowing the meaning of non-verbal cues improves the way you interact and understand what the other person expects from you and how he feels, which is the core purpose of any communication.