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Non-Verbal Communication

By V P Bhagat

What is Non-Verbal Communication?


we communicate our thoughts without using words, Communication is called non-verbal. The popular aphorism Actions speak louder than words holds a great deal of meaning when it comes to understanding the essence of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal is the way in which we ex press our feelings, emotions, attitudes, opinions and views through our body movements. In verbal communication we use words, in non verbal communication, we use our eyes, hands, face and other body movements to express our thoughts. The body and its movement substitute words.

Non-verbal Signifiers are Like Words

In body language, there are single gestures and cluster gestures. Single gestures like nod of the head are equivalent to single words like, yes or don't know. Cluster gestures like standing, talking using hands to make our point, are equivalent to arrangement of words in a sentence for a meaningful message. For effective message we have to select the right words, arrange the words in a proper grammatical structure, supported by the right tone. Similarly in body language, the gestures have to be appropriate to convey that we have in mind. An angry Face may put off people from approaching you, or a raised voice might suggest that you are either annoyed disapprove the other person's conduct.

Non-verbal Signifiers are Like Words

In real life verbal and non-verbal communication cannot be separated. Our oral speech is accompanied by the movement of eyes, use of hands and pitch of our voice. In written communication, the non-verbal communication signifiers are the use of white space, proper margins, right kind of fonts, right length of sentence, length of paragraphs and line spacing.. A page that has matter condensed closely is usually skipped by the reader or it is rejected. A poor visual appearance of a proposal or a resume will prompt the reader to reject it.

Non-verbal Communication Sub- Disciplines

Scientific study has been made in the following sub-disciplines Kinesics (K) Occulesics (O) Paralanguage / Paralinguistics (P) Proxemics (P) Artifactics (A) Phonemics' (C) Tactilics (T) Registering the different kinds of body movements under the label KOPPACT will help us to associate the nuances of each skill and its relation to the total synchronization of body language Normally human gestures come in clusters and it is these clusters that we need to study for an overall meaning of human behaviour and oral communication. In today's multiculturalism, knowing others as well as one's own non-verbal cues have become essential.

The different ways in which people move their bodies that include postures, gestures, head nods, and leg movements, are called Kinesics. Gestures have been classified in three categories: Emblems These have direct verbal translations, like nodding of head for yes, shaking the head for no or waving the hand for hello or saying bye bye They are used in place of words. Illustrators These gestures naturally accompany our speech and accentuate what we say. Very often, we tend to close our palm in a fist formation or bang the table to suggest our mode of thinking ,often for the purpose of emphasizing our points. Adaptors These are unconscious movements of body that originate from the nervous state of our mind. In an interview , when the candidate is nervous, she/he may unconsciously crack knuckles, shake legs, or tap the foot. All these three types of gestures are natural accompaniments of our speech


This is the science of the movement/grammer of our eyes and of facial impressions. In the science of occulesics began with charles darwin when he published his scientific study Expression of the Emotions in the Man and Animals, in 1872. it is claimed that in the science of the body language, there are 7,50,000 signals, of which 15,000 come from the face alone (Richard Denny). The Power of our eyes The study of facial expression begins with the eyes because they are the most powerful medium of communication we posses other than words. Poets, writing, artists, and film makers have spent considerable time imagining the beauty and grace of human eye and the subtle power they posses. The dynamics of our eye movement have been labelled as EYE GRAMMER. The main ones according to Michel Argyle & other researchers are :- EYE GRAMMER.

Staring eyes Too much eye contact that either shows superiority or lack of respect, a threatening attitude or a wish to insult. 2. Too little eye contact It has multiple interpretations. The gesture indicates dishonesty, impoliteness, insincerity, and also shyness. 3. Withdrawal of eye contact This is considered as a sign of subm. 4. Frequently looking away at people from a distance This is generally an extroverts behaviour, interested in knowing reactions, or to dominate or to influence or scrutinize. 5. Scarcely looking at a person when in close proximity An introvert shows this kind of behaviour, when discussing intimate or difficult topics, or dislike for the other person. The face You can read his face like an open book, is common remark made about people whose facial expressions show a lot of transparency of expressions. Emotional people have a demonstrative face that shows all type of feelings.

This is the science of the vocal cues that accompany our speech. The science of paralinguistics refers to the volume, pitch, tone intonation modulation, and the rate of speech. Accent, stress, rate of speaking, pitch and volume help us to judge peoples age, sex, attractiveness, educational background and level of confidence in the voice, often these micro factors influence us to think whether we should trust a person or not. A high speed of talking in interviews or presentations will not instill confidence in the interviewers or the audience. The raised voice, high pitch. and tone are exploited by politicians to earn quick applause. Alternatively, when pauses are taken, words are emphasized or pitch is kept low, the speaker is definite to show a lot of confidence and maturity in his communication. Hence paralinguistics skills can be seen as extremely influencing and important non verbal skills

It is the study of the distance between people and objects. Proxemics, the science of space, is an important area of study in the non-verbal communication. It was Edward Hall who first coined the term proxemics, and defined the four space zones as The intimate zone ( o-.5 m ) The personal zone ( .5-1.2 m ) The social zone ( 1.2-3 m ) The public zone ( 3 m ) The language of space is important in the context of business as we are always involved with human interactions of a high speed nature. Except for the public zone, very often, the mix up of other three zones can create problems at work. It is important for an individual at work to find out from the non-verbal cues of the person whether he is free to attend to your request. Violation of spaces can create wrong impression.

The non-verbal message signals that an individual sends across through appearance, clothing, perfume, personal objects like pens, cell phones, briefcases, etc. belong to the area of artifactics. These form apart of a your total personality. In interviews or presentations, your artifactics do influence the prospective interviewers or audiences perception of you. The pressing demands for personal grooming and personal hygiene, till now neglected, have become important to a manager for his professional image.

The concept of time its impact on people is the science of chronemics. Like proxemics, chronemics too is culture bound . Time keeping of course, does not mean looking at your watch and keeping time. It means several things: Have you taken appointment if you wish to meet someone ? Do you inform that the meeting is likely to be of certain period? Do you limit your meetings to specific points? Do you intervene and hijack the talk? Are you punctual for your appointments? The way we use time tells others about our personality like clothing, personal hygiene and other personal habits. Unscheduled visits, long telephone chats, absence of time log books, long memos are major time robbers and reduce our efficiency at work and result into poor time management.

Tactilics is the science of touch language, it includes touching self, others, and objects. Research shows two kinds of touch language: Bodily contact - Refers to touches that are accidental and unconscious and any part of the body may be involved in it. Touching with hands - Touching implies that the actions are deliberate, conscious, and made primarily by hands. Human consciously or sub-consciously express through the language of touch because it fulfills physiological and sociological need. Various kinds of touch are: A pat on a shoulder ( assurance/ encouragement ) Holding hands and arms (social gesture of goodwill/ goodbye) Stroking hair or face / caressing (In a close relationship) Touching both palm together to greet a visitor. Touching the feet of elderly people to pay respect.

Neuro- linguistic Programming

It is a science that deals with the way human beings think and process the outer world through their senses. The word neuro refers to our nervous system, the mental pathways of our five senses by which we: hear, feel, taste, see and smell, consciously or unconsciously, and translate our thoughts into experiences. The word linguistic refers to our ability to use: Language, Specific words phrases to mirror our mental worlds, Silent language of postures, gestures, and habits that reveal our thinking styles , beliefs, and opinions. The word programming is borrowed from computer science, suggests that our thoughts, feelings and actions are simply habitual programs that can be changed by upgrading our mental software,