Types of Nonverbal Communication

5 min read

Education & Career Trends: October 6, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS


Nonverbal communication refers to the variety of ways in which humans communicate with one another besides using words.

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When we communicate, we use more than just words. The way we stand or sit, the way we gesture, and even the pitch of our voice help contribute to our message. A famous researcher of body language, Albert Mehrabian, once broke down in-person communication into a 55/38/7 rule. According to this theory, communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% the words you speak.

To become an effective communicator, it is important to understand nonverbal cues. Nonverbal communication tells others more about what you want to say than your words, which is why it is imperative to understand all the cues that contribute to a conversation.

What is nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal communication refers to the variety of ways in which humans communicate with one another besides using words. While this type of communication encompasses nonverbal cues such as hand gestures and eye contact, it is often combined with verbal language.

The importance of nonverbal communication at work:

When it comes to interviewing for a job, negotiating a salary raise, or even simply having a conversation with your boss, nonverbal communication plays a vital role in how people perceive you. In some cases, you might not consciously think about your nonverbal cues, but those around you will use them to interpret what you are conveying.

When you understand how to use nonverbal communication to your advantage, it can help you appear more confident, negotiate deals, and build relationships.

Types of nonverbal communication:

There are numerous ways in which you communicate with others beyond the words you speak. The following are the common types of nonverbal communication:

1. Body language
  • Body language is how you hold yourself while having a conversation.
  • Body language is often a direct reflection of how you are feeling.

Examples:

  • During a serious conversation, you might cross your arms while listening.
  • When discussing a project you are excited about, you lean forward.
2. Gestures
  • Gestures are motions or movements you make when conversing with your hands and arms.
  • They can be used to indicate excitement or to express a point more clearly.

Example:

  • While your coworker gives a presentation, you give them a quick thumbs up to show your support.
3. Paralanguage or Vocalics
  • Along with your body language, how you deliver your words will also play a role in perception.
  • Called paralanguage or vocalics, this nonverbal communication refers to the tone, pitch, and speed of your voice.

Examples:

  • When you feel nervous, your voice cracks.
  • Your speech pace speeds up when indicating excitement.
4. Space
  • The distance between you and others also communicates how you feel.
  • This includes where you stand in a room, where you choose to sit, and how close you position yourself to others.

Example:

  • When brainstorming for an upcoming project, you and your colleagues gather in a small circle to share ideas.
5. Posture
  • Your posture actually communicates your emotions or feelings about a situation.
  • Generally, slouching or slumping indicates someone is disinterested or unhappy, whereas sitting upright and maintaining good posture suggests higher levels of engagement and alertness.

Example:

  • On your first day of college, you sit up tall during orientation as you excitedly listen.
6. Eye contact
  • Good eye contact can help create an understanding between people when communicating.
  • Whether you make eye contact or not is also enough to convey a message to others.

Example:

  • During an interview, you make direct eye contact while telling a story about previous work experience, indicating confidence.
7. Facial expressions
  • One of the most important forms of nonverbal communication is the expression you wear on your face.
  • Facial expressions indicate a lot about our emotions and what we are trying to say.

Examples:

  • As you meet a new coworker, you smile as you greet them, indicating a warm welcome.
  • You may furrow your brow indicating that you are unhappy with some outcome.

How to better communicate with nonverbal communication cues?

Understanding nonverbal communication cues can help you communicate better, as well as aid you in interpreting how others are feeling.

To improve your communication, use the following nonverbal tips:

1. Be self-aware
  • First and foremost, tune into your own nonverbal cues.
  • If you often find that people misinterpret what you are saying, it might be because your nonverbal cues contradict your words.
  • Start paying attention throughout the day to how you hold your body, what your facial expressions might be saying, and what your tone of voice indicates.
2. Practice
  • Whether you are going into an interview or are about to give a presentation, take the time to practice what you will say and how you will say it.
  • You can even stage the setting and record yourself to gain insights into your nonverbal cues.
  • This can help you practice positive nonverbal communication.
  • Through practice, you can improve your posture, speak slowly but confidently, and make eye contact with people in your audience.
3. Pay attention to others
  • In addition to mastering your nonverbal communication cues, learn to pay attention to what other people are indicating through their nonverbal cues as well.
  • This can help you better understand what someone actually means, regardless of what their words might suggest.


Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Psychologist and Psychiatrist: What is the difference?


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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