Updated: Jun 3, 2021
8 Types of Nonverbal Communication
There are many different forms of nonverbal communication. The main categories of nonverbal cues include:
Kinesics (or body movements): These include deliberate hand gestures and head movements like a thumbs-up or affirmative head shake. This is one of the most easily controllable of the nonverbal forms of communication.
Proxemics (or closeness/personal space): This is the measure of physical distance between people when they communicate. The standard amount of personal space expected by someone varies depending on setting and is somewhat culture-specific.
Posture: The way that you sit or stand and how open your body is to others around you communicates a lot about your attitude and emotional state.
Eye contact: This is one of the primary ways that human beings gauge interest or disinterest. Wavering eyes tend to communicate unease or even dishonesty.
Touch: Many interactions begin with an exchange of physical touch like a hug or a handshake.
Paralanguage: This category covers vocal qualities like loudness or tone of voice. Paralinguistic signals are any aspect of the sound of a voice outside a direct verbal translation of words being spoken.
Facial expressions: Facial expressions are one of the main indicators of someone’s attitude. An emotional expression like a frown or smile can be hard to consciously control.
Physiology: This category includes changes in body physiology like an increase in sweat or blinking rapidly. These are nearly impossible to deliberately control.
4 Reasons Understanding Nonverbal Communication Is Important
Understanding different types of nonverbal communication is important in order to control the messages you are communicating and to decode the emotional states of others. Here are a few of the ways understanding nonverbal cues can make you a more effective communicator:
1. To show interest: Nonverbal signals are a great way to communicate attentiveness and engagement to those around you. Controlling your posture and eye contact will demonstrate to others that you are interested in what they have to say.
2. To convey specific meaning: Many words have multiple different meanings, and the things we say can often be misheard. Learning how to complement your words with nonverbal communication can prevent misinterpretation and miscommunication.
3. To establish connection: Nonverbal communication is a great way to establish connection and trust. It’s no accident that many cultures see some sort of physical gesture like a handshake or hug as necessary in certain types of personal interactions.
4. To demonstrate authenticity: Your nonverbal communication goes a long way in establishing the authenticity of your feelings to those you are speaking with. Complementing your actual words with direct eye contact and confident posture will demonstrate to others that you are giving voice to your true feelings.
3 Tips for Understanding Nonverbal Communication
Here are some ways to improve your awareness of nonverbal cues in your everyday life:
1. Look for inconsistencies. Knowing how to spot signs of nervousness like fidgeting or evasive eyes is a great way to determine whether the person you are speaking with is trustworthy. If nonverbal behaviour seems to run counter to the verbal messaging, it’s likely that the speaker is not entirely comfortable with what they are saying.
2. Be conscious of cultural differences. It’s important to be aware of the different mannerisms and physical gestures that are common in different cultures. Nonverbal interpersonal communication varies around the world. Don’t rush into judging the nonverbal cues you are picking up from someone from a different country or culture, as they may connote something entirely different in their culture.
3. Observe nonverbal signals holistically. It’s important to observe a variety of nonverbal cues that are being communicated to you. Just because someone has a sweaty brow doesn’t mean they are nervous. Similarly, a twitch in someone’s hand may just be an unconscious tic. Try to view nonverbal signals holistically in order to get a fuller picture of what a person is communicating.
What type of communication describes our body language?
1. Repeating – using specific gestures to strengthen a verbal message (e.g. pointing to the object of discussion).
2. Conflicting – when verbal and non-verbal messages within the same interaction send contradicting meaning. Conflicting messages often arise from feelings of confusion, indecision, or frustration (e.g. a friend saying how they had a great time during the party, but his voice sounds flat and his face lacks emotion).
3. Complementing – the accuracy of understanding information is greater when the nonverbal and verbal complement each other. Make sure the body language affirms the verbal exchange (e.g. saying you are happy and joyfully showing it too).
4. Substituting – at times non-verbal behaviour is used as the sole channel for communication. A simple gesture can substitute words (e.g. shaking your head to say no).
5. Regulating – we can use non-verbal signals to regulate speech. Called “turn-taking signals”, these gestures make it possible for us to alternate between speaking and listening (e.g. touching someone´s arm can signal that you want to talk next).
6. Accenting – when we use non-verbal signals to emphasize our words. Good speakers will know when to use strong gestures, deliberate pauses, changes in vocal volume or speech rate, etc. (e.g. someone who is verbally expressing anger may accent the message by speaking very loudly).
Spoken language is normally used for communicating information about events external to the speaker, while non-verbal communication is used to create and maintain interpersonal relationships.
Body language in business communication
One of the most important parts of running a business in any industry is communication.
If you want to achieve great success as a business owner, then you will most assuredly have to learn how to listen attentively. Listening is actually one of the top communication skills business people should learn, as it is useful in so many scenarios and settings, and with so many people.
Active listening – really listening to, and trying to understand, what another person is communicating to you – will help you. You’ll be able to:
• Pick up on current or potential problems earlier on • Mitigate risks • Build relationships • Lead a team • Mediate problems • Negotiate with others
Listening is particularly important when it comes to dealing with customers. After all, every product or service you sell should present a solution to a problem, or provide a person or company with a benefit. By listening to clients, you can more quickly and effectively work out their specific problems and show them how your offerings can solve them or demonstrate how they might receive other benefits.
Business often involves recurring human interaction, understanding the elements of non-verbal cues can be a great asset when working with colleagues, teams, competitors, and current/potential clients.
Employees and team members use their body language to send messages to management and outside the business. On the other hand, Managers will use body language to effectively lead employees and team members.
To build good habits you must practice non-verbal communication and know what gestures are likely to resonate with your speaker (clients and prospects), as to improve the chances of making a good impression.
Practicing non-verbal cues will ensure your skills are up to par. The more often you practise the more likely it will become second nature, and you will feel comfortable while networking.
The less nervous you are, the better communication you will have, both verbally and non-verbally.
Hope you enjoyed this and found some interesting tips to take away! Please share with friends and work colleagues.
Life Coach & NLP Practitioner