Nonverbal Communication: Definition, Types, Importance (Explained)
The nonverbal way is the most commonly used communication medium in the world in culture.
Sometimes we may not know the exact name of those but we use them almost every time.
Nonverbal behaviors enjoy close to zero formality, however depending on the situation.
What is Nonverbal Communication
Non-verbal communication occurs without using any oral or written word.
Instead of written or oral words, it relies on various non-verbal cues like physical movements, tasks, colors, signs, symbols, signals charts, etc. to express feelings, attitudes or information.
Although no word is used in non-verbal communication, it can effectively communicate many human feelings more accurately than verbal methods of communication.
Common types of nonverbal communication are; eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture and body orientation, body language, touch, para-linguistic, silence.
Types of Nonverbal Communication
- Eye contact,
- Facial expressions,
- Posture and body orientation,
- Body Language,
- Space and Distance,
- Personal Appearance,
- Visual Communication.
Eye contact, an important channel of interpersonal communication, helps regulate the flow of communication. And it signals interest in others.
Eye contact with audiences increases the speaker’s credibility. Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth, and credibility.
The face is an important communicator. It is commonly said that the face is the index of the mind.
It expresses the type of emotions or feelings such as joy, love, interest, sorrow, anger, annoyance, confusion, enthusiasm, fear, hatred surprise, and uncertainty.
Facial expressions are indicated through the mouth (open, wide or closed), eyelids (raised or lowered), nose (wrinkled or relaxed), cheeks (drawn up or back) and the forehead (lowered or raised).
Within the facial area, eyes are especially effective for indicating attention and interest. However, interpretations of facial expressions differ from culture to culture.
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits:
Thus, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable.
Smiling is often contagious and students will react favorably and learn more.
If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring, stiff and un-animated.
A lively and animated teaching style captures students’ attention, makes the material more interesting, facilitates learning and provides a bit of entertainment.
Head nods, a form of gestures, communicate positive reinforcement to students and indicate that you are listening.
Gestures are movements of the arms, legs, hands, and head.7 Some authors opine that gesture is the deliberate body movement because they express specific and intentional meaning.
a wave of the hand has a specific meaning-“hello” or “good-bye”; a forefinger and a thumb touching to form a circle have the meaning -“ok”.
Alike facial expressions, interpretations of some gestures also differ across cultures.
For example, in Europe, raising thumb is used to convey that someone has done something excellent while in Bangladesh the same gesture means something idiotic.
Posture and body orientation
You communicate numerous messages by the way you walk, talk, stand and sit.
Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicates to students that you are approachable, receptive and friendly.
Interpersonal closeness results when you and your students face each other.
Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided; it communicates disinterest to your class.
Body language is another widely recognized form of non-verbal communication. Body movements can convey meanings and messages. Body language may take two forms of unconscious movements and consciously controlled movements.
When a person is bored, he may gaze around the room rather than look at the speaker or he may shift positions frequently.
When a person is nervous, he may bite his nails or mash hair. These are usually made unconsciously. On the other hand, leaning forward toward the speaker to express interest is the case of conscious body movements.
Space and Distance
Space and distance are significant non-verbal tools in the case of organizational communication.
A spacious and well-decorated room indicates a person’s position in the organization hierarchy and external people get a message about his importance and authority only by visiting his room.
Distance is another communication tool, which expresses the degree of intimacy and individual acceptance.
Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with students.
You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading students’ space. Some of these are:
- Leg swinging
- Gaze aversion
Typically, in large college classes space invasion is not a problem. There is usually too much distance.
To counteract this, move around the classroom to increase interaction with your students.
Increasing proximity enables you to make better eye contact and increases the opportunities for students to speak.
This facet of nonverbal communication includes such vocal elements as:
For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice.
One of the major criticisms is of instructors who speak in a monotone. Listeners perceive these instructors as boring and dull.
Students report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to teachers who have not learned to modulate their voices.
Humor is often overlooked as a teaching tool, and it is too often not encouraged in college classrooms. Laughter releases stress and tension for both instructor and student.
You should develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage students to do the same. It fosters a friendly environment that facilitates learning.
Adequate knowledge of the subject matter is crucial to your success; however, it’s not the only crucial element.
Creating a climate that facilitates learning and retention demands good nonverbal and verbal skills.
Touch is a widely used form of non-verbal communication tool.
By touching, one can express a wide range of emotions. However, the accepted modes of touch vary depending on the gender, age, relative status, intimacy and cultural background of the persons.
For example, in the context of our culture, when one touches you from the back of the examination hall, your understanding is that he wants to know something.
Silence is a powerful tool for communication. It may have a positive or negative meaning.
In a classroom, silence indicates that students are listening carefully and attentively. In the same way, through silence one can communicate his lack of interest or a failure to understand.
For example, silence often indicates that a person receiving instruction does not understand the action required or sometimes silence indicates consent.
Appearance is also an important non-verbal communication tool. Appearance includes dress, hair, jewelry, makeup, belt buckles and so on.
Appearance indicates the degree of importance or interest a person conveys to an occasion. Through uniform, we can identify a student, a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, etc.
In an organization, one’s dress is keenly observed to see whether it conforms to accepted standards of appearance. As an example, workers may wear different clothes when they are on strike than they do when they are working.
A symbol is something that represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning.
For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for “stop”.
On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose symbolizes love and compassion.
When communication occurs using any visual aids, it is known as visual communication.
Thus, communication that occurs through facial expression, personal appearance, gesture, posture, printed picture, sign, signal, symbol, map, poster, slide, chart, diagram, graph, etc. is called visual communication.
For example, to indicate ‘danger’, we use red sign; to mean ‘dangerous’, we use a skull placed between two pieces of bone put in crosswise fashion; to indicate ‘no smoking’, we use an image showing a lighted cigarette with a cross mark on it.
Importance of Nonverbal Communication
Some important points expressing the importance, necessity, advantages or functions of non-verbal communication are discussed below:
Well Expression of the Speaker’s Attitude
Various non-verbal cues of the speaker like physical movements, facial expression, a way of expression, etc. play an important role in expressing the inner meaning of the messages in face-to-face conversation and interview.
For example, the facial expression of the speaker indicates his attitude, determination depth of knowledge, etc.
Providing Information Regarding the Sender of The Written Message
The format, neatness, language and the appearance of the envelope used in a written message send a non-verbal message regarding the writer’s tests, choice, level of education, etc.
Expressing the Attitude of the Listener and Receiver
Sometimes the appearance of the listeners and receivers conveys their attitudes, feelings, and thoughts regarding the messages they have read or heard.
Gaining Knowledge about a Class of People
Clothing, hairstyle, neatness, jewelry, cosmetics, and stature of people convey impressions regarding their occupation, age, nationality, social or economic level, job status, etc.
For example; students, policemen, nurses, etc. can easily be identified through their dresses.
Gaining Knowledge about the Status of a Person
Non-verbal cues also help to determine the relative status of persons working in an organization. For example, room size, location, furnishings, decorations, lightings, etc. indicate the position of a person in the organization.
Communicating Common Message to All People
In some cases, non-verbal cues can effectively express many true messages more accurately than those of any other method of communication.
For example; the use of red, yellow and green lights and the use of various signs in controlling vehicles on the roads.
Communicating with the Handicapped People
Non- verbal cues of communication greatly help in communicating with the handicapped people.
For example; the language of communication with the deaf depends on the movements of the hands, fingers, and eyeballs.
Conveying Message to the Illiterate People
Communication with illiterate people through written media is impossible. There may also be some situations that do not allow the use of oral media to communicate with them.
In such situations, non-verbal methods like pictures, colors, graphs, signs, and symbols are used as the media of communication.
For example; to indicate danger we use red sign and to mean dangerous we use a skull placed between two pieces of bone put in a crosswise fashion.
Quick Expression of Message
Non-verbal cues like sign and symbol can also communicate some messages very quickly than written or oral media.
For example; when drivers of a running vehicle are to be communicated that the road ahead is narrow or there is a turn in the road ahead, we generally use signs or symbols rather than using any written or oral message.
Presenting Information Precisely
Sometimes quantitative information on any issue may require a lengthy written message. But this quantitative information can be presented easily and precisely through tables, graphs, charts, etc.
To improve your nonverbal skills, record your speaking on videotape. Then ask a colleague in communications to suggest refinements.
Non-verbal communication can take many forms depending on the situation, the ability of communicators, etc.
According to one estimate, there are more than 0.70 million forms of non-verbal communication. The most common forms of non-verbal communication are as follows.