Non-verbal communication is communication that takes place without the words, either oral or written. It is deals with body movements, space and voice used for communication. It can be intentional and unintentional. Non-verbal communication is critical because it is difficult to hide or fake non-verbal cues.
The various components of nonverbal communication include body language, gestures, spatial arrangement and paralanguage. They influence the way in which messages are perceived and understood.
Body language is the movement of body used to communicate with people and it depends on a person’s attitude or feelings. Body language includes expressions, eye contact, posture and gestures. For example, a person may sad when he droops his head and walks slowly. Humans don’t have to say anything to show how they are feeling. Even the color of a person’s skin may show how he feels, when his face becomes red with embarrassment or anger. Body language can be voluntary or involuntary. However, for the most part people have limited control over their body language. Gestures are used widely in our day to day communication, whether it is shaking hands to say hello, waving goodbye or pointing to indicate direction. Gestures are also developed to aid the differently abled to communicate better.
Another element of nonverbal communication is spatial arrangement, it is not only used to communicate, but also has a great influence over the communication. The interior design of a room can exude comfort or can be very formal and will be used depending on the type of communication. Whether your boss asks you to occupy the comfortable sofa or the chair across his table will depend on what he wants to communicate.
Voice or paralanguage also has an impact on the communication. The tone, pitch and rate of speech may indicate the level or urgency of the message or the emotions that the sender is going through.
Of these, body language and paralanguage are considered to be of greater significance. The reason for the importance of body language and paralanguage in communication are that they define the underlying meaning of a message. Since we have limited control over them it is important to analyze it to understand the true meaning of a message. However, understanding body language poses certain challenges, since expressions and gestures are greatly influenced by culture and are not same everywhere in the world. Like the “thumbs up,” which is a positive gesture in some cultures, may mean something very different in other cultures. In Nigeria, the thumbs up gesture is a rude insult. This means that understanding cultures is critical to understanding true meaning of nonverbal communication. Even the tone of voice and rate of speech are influenced by culture.
Learn more about Body Language and nonverbal communication through Strengthscape.