Communication is a key component of any workplace, both verbal and nonverbal. Many of us focus on the verbal but make less effort to improve nonverbal communication. Your body language, facial expressions, and even the tone of your voice can speak volumes. In fact, nonverbal communication can sometimes speak louder than words.
So, how can you ensure that your nonverbal responses and cues are sending the right message?
The bad news is, many working professionals struggle with this issue. The good news is that there are practical solutions. By being mindful of your nonverbal cues and making a conscious effort to improve this nonverbal behavior, you can significantly enhance your workplace interactions.
What are 5 examples of nonverbal communication? Let's discuss them and their usage in our everyday lives that you can improve to boost your workplace communication. From eye contact to posture, we’ll cover it all. By the end of this post, you’ll have the tools and knowledge to master your nonverbal communication.
Definition of Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is the process of sending or receiving a message without using words, either written or spoken. It is one of the four styles of communication, along with writing, speaking, and active listening. It typically involves facial expressions, body language, gestures, eye contact, and personal space.
Nonverbal communication is a form of communication that is also significant in conveying messages and emotions because it can:
Add meaning, emotion, and intention to our words
Reinforce, substitute for, or contradict our words
Interpret, respond to, and adapt to others’ words
Each type of nonverbal communication has its own importance and functions. Here are some examples:
Facial expressions: show our emotions and feelings
Body language: show our attitude and mood
Gestures: show our ideas and actions
Eye contact: show our attention and interest
Personal space: show our level of intimacy and comfort
Nonverbal signals can also vary across cultures and contexts. Different gestures and expressions can have different meanings depending on the situation and the people involved. For example:
A smile can mean happiness, politeness, or embarrassment
A nod can mean yes, no, or I’m listening
A thumbs up can mean okay, good job, or hitchhiking
Therefore, it is important to sharpen your nonverbal skills to be aware of the cultural variations in nonverbal communication and to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Let's take a look at five nonverbal communication examples.
Example 1: The Message of Posture - Unleashing the Potential of Body Language
Body language is the use of our posture, movement, and orientation to communicate our attitude, mood, and intention - in other words, our entire body movements. Body cues can have a significant impact on how we are perceived by others and how we perceive ourselves.
For example, research has shown that adopting an expansive posture (such as standing tall with arms spread) can increase our confidence and assertiveness while adopting a contractive posture (such as slouching or crossing arms) can decrease our self-esteem and performance
Some common body language cues and their meanings are:
Nodding: indicates agreement, interest, or encouragement
Shaking head: indicates disagreement, disapproval, or doubt
Leaning forward: indicates attention, curiosity, or attraction
Leaning backward: indicates detachment, boredom, or resistance
Crossing arms or legs: indicates defensiveness, insecurity, or closed-mindedness
Uncrossing arms or legs: indicates openness, relaxation, or receptiveness
Mirroring: indicates rapport, empathy, or similarity
The skill to understand and read the body language correctly is important for effective communication in the workplace because it can help us to:
Gauge the emotional state and attitude of others
Adjust our own behavior and message accordingly
Build rapport and trust with others
Avoid miscommunication and conflict
Example 2: What Lies Behind the Smile - Understanding the Language of Facial Expressions
Facial expressions are the way we use our facial muscles to convey emotions and messages. They are one of the most powerful forms of non-verbal communication because they can reveal our true feelings and intentions even when we try to hide them. People can detect micro-expressions (brief involuntary facial expressions that occur when someone tries to suppress emotion) with high accuracy.
Some insights into different facial expressions and their associated meanings are:
Happiness: indicated by a smile that involves the eyes (also known as a Duchenne smile)
Sadness: indicated by a frown that involves the eyebrows and the corners of the mouth
Anger: indicated by a glare that involves the eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth
Fear: indicated by a wide-eyed look that involves the eyes, eyebrows, forehead, and mouth
Surprise: indicated by a raised eyebrow look that involves the eyes, eyebrows, forehead, and mouth
Disgust: indicated by a nose-wrinkle look that involves the nose, mouth, and cheeks
Contempt: indicated by a smirk that involves one side of the mouth
Reading and responding to facial expressions effectively is important for effective communication in the workplace because it can help us to:
Recognize the emotions and needs of others
Express our own emotions and needs appropriately
Manage our emotions and cope with stress
Enhance our social skills and relationships
Example 3: Speaking with Your Hands - The Art of Gestures
Gestures and hand movements are the way we use our hands and arms to nonverbally communicate ideas, actions, or emotions. They can complement, emphasize, or substitute verbal communication. This is not limited only to sign language.
For example, we can use several types of gestures to illustrate a point or to reinforce a statement without words.
Some different types of nonverbal gestures and their cultural significance are:
Emblems: hand gestures that have a direct verbal equivalent, such as waving hello or goodbye, nodding yes or no, or giving a thumbs up or down. These gestures are often culturally specific and can vary in meaning across different regions and countries. For example, the OK sign (making a circle with the thumb and index finger) can mean “okay” in some cultures, but it can also mean “zero”, “money”, or an offensive insult in others.
Illustrators: gestures that accompany and illustrate verbal communication, such as pointing at something, drawing shapes in the air, or showing the size of something with the hands. These gestures are often used to clarify, emphasize, or demonstrate what is being said. They can also help the speaker organize their thoughts and keep the listener’s attention.
Regulators: gestures that regulate and control the flow of verbal communication, such as raising a hand to speak, nodding to show agreement or encouragement, or holding up a finger to indicate “wait a minute”. These gestures are often used to signal turn-taking, feedback, or interruption in a conversation. They can also help maintain harmony and cooperation among participants.
Adaptors: gestures that satisfy a physical or psychological need, such as scratching an itch, rubbing the eyes, biting the nails, or playing with the hair. These gestures are often unconscious and habitual. They can indicate boredom, nervousness, stress, or comfort. They can also reveal personality traits and emotions.
Using gestures effectively and avoiding misinterpretation is important for effective communication in the workplace because it can help us to:
Enhance our verbal communication and make it more engaging and memorable
Express our ideas and emotions more clearly and vividly
Show our interest and involvement in the conversation
Avoid confusion and misunderstanding due to cultural differences
Example 4: Unspoken Boundaries - Proxemics and Personal Space in Communication
Proxemics and personal space are the way we use physical distance and space to communicate our level of intimacy, comfort, and power. They can affect the quality and outcome of our interactions.
For example, research has shown that physical distance can influence attraction, persuasion, cooperation, and aggression.
Some insights on physical space and interactions are:
Intimate distance: ranges from 0 to 18 inches. This is the distance used for close relationships such as family members, romantic partners, or close friends. It indicates high intimacy, closeness, trust, and affection. It can also indicate dominance or threat if used without consent.
Personal distance: ranges from 18 inches to 4 feet. This is the distance used for casual relationships such as acquaintances, coworkers, or classmates. It indicates moderate intimacy, comfort, and familiarity. It can also indicate respect or politeness.
Social distance: ranges from 4 feet to 12 feet. This is the distance used for formal relationships such as strangers, clients, or superiors. It indicates low intimacy, comfort, and familiarity. It can also indicate professionalism or formality.
Public distance: ranges from 12 feet to beyond. This public space is the distance used for public situations such as speeches, lectures, or performances. It indicates minimal intimacy, comfort, and familiarity. It can also indicate authority or status.
Some insights on cultural differences in proxemics and personal space are:
High-contact cultures: cultures that tend to use smaller personal space and more physical contact in communication. Examples include Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Southern European cultures. They may perceive low-contact cultures as cold, distant, or unfriendly.
Low-contact cultures: cultures that tend to use larger personal space and less physical contact in communication. Examples include North American, Northern European, and Asian cultures. They may perceive high-contact cultures as intrusive, aggressive, or disrespectful.
Maintaining appropriate proxemics and personal space is important for effective communication in the workplace because it can help us to:
Establish rapport and trust with others
Respect others’ preferences and boundaries
Adapt to different situations and audiences
Avoid discomfort and conflict
Example 5: Gazing Into Success - Harnessing the Power of Eye Contact
How we use our eyes can say a lot about what we are thinking, feeling, and wanting. Eye contact and gaze are two aspects of nonverbal communication that involve the use of your eyes.
Eye contact is the act of looking at someone else’s eyes, while gaze is the direction of your eyes. Both eye contact and gaze can affect how you communicate and how you are perceived by others.
For instance, studies have found that maintaining eye contact can make you more likable, trustworthy, memorable, persuasive, and cooperative. On the other hand, the lack of eye contact is often perceived as an indication of lying.
There are different kinds of eye contact and gaze that have different meanings. Here are some examples:
Mutual gaze: This happens when you and another person look into each other’s eyes. It shows interest, attention, connection, and intimacy. It can also show challenge, confrontation, or hostility.
Averted gaze: This happens when you or another person look away from each other’s eyes. It shows avoidance, disinterest, discomfort, or submission. It can also show respect, politeness, or deference.
Gaze aversion: This happens when you or another person intentionally break eye contact with each other. It shows thinking, processing, or recalling information. It can also show lying, deception, or guilt.
Gaze omission: This happens when you or another person do not make eye contact with each other at all. It shows indifference, disconnection, or rejection. It can also show shyness, insecurity, or fear.
Maintaining appropriate eye contact and gaze is important for effective communication in the workplace because it can help you to:
Show respect and interest in others
Express your emotions and intentions clearly
Read and respond to other's emotions and intentions accurately
Build rapport and trust with others
Avoid miscommunication and conflict
Addressing Common Objections and Preconceptions
Some people may be skeptical or have misconceptions about nonverbal communication. They may think that nonverbal messages are less important than verbal messages, that body posture and movements are irrelevant or uncontrollable, that intimate space is only for intimate relationships, that daily life does not require nonverbal communication skills, or that nonverbal communication cues are obvious and easy to read.
However, these objections or doubts are not valid. Nonverbal communication is an essential aspect of communication that can affect our personal and professional lives. Here are some evidence and additional examples to support the effectiveness of nonverbal communication:
Nonverbal messages can convey more information than verbal messages. According to a study of nonverbal communication by Albert Mehrabian, 55% of the meaning of a message comes from nonverbal cues, 38% from vocal cues, and only 7% from words.
Body posture and movements can influence our thoughts and feelings. Amy Cuddy did a study that revealed adopting a power pose (such as standing tall with arms spread) can increase our confidence and performance, while adopting a low-power pose (such as slouching or crossing arms) can decrease our self-esteem and performance.
Intimate space can affect our interpersonal communication. According to a study by Edward Hall, there are four zones of personal space: intimate (0 to 18 inches), personal (18 inches to 4 feet), social (4 feet to 12 feet), and public (12 feet to beyond). The distance we use with others can indicate our level of intimacy, comfort, and power.
Daily life requires nonverbal communication skills. According to a study by Peter Andersen, we use nonverbal communication cues in everyday situations such as greeting others, expressing emotions, making requests, giving feedback, persuading others, flirting with others, lying to others, and detecting lies. We can sense whether or not someone is telling the truth by his/her nonverbal communication and behavior.
Nonverbal communication cues are not obvious and easy to read. According to a study by Paul Ekman, six universal facial expressions convey basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. However, there are also subtle facial expressions that reveal hidden emotions, such as micro-expressions (brief involuntary facial expressions that occur when someone tries to suppress emotion) or blended expressions (facial expressions that combine two or more emotions). These expressions require careful observation and interpretation to decode their meanings.
Therefore, it is clear that nonverbal communication is a valuable skill that we should not ignore or underestimate. Combined with the tone of voice, nonverbal communication can help us direct the flow of conversation more effectively and achieve better outcomes in our personal and professional lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the meaning of nonverbal communication?
A: Nonverbal communication refers to any type of communication that is not expressed through words. It includes facial expressions, body language, posture, gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, and other forms of expression.
Q: What are the different types of nonverbal communication?
A: The different types of nonverbal communication include body language, facial expressions, eye contact, posture, gestures, touch, tone of voice, and proxemics (use of personal space).
Q: How does nonverbal communication play a role in our ability to communicate?
A: Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in communication because it can convey a message more effectively than words. It helps to deepen the meaning of a sentence and create a better understanding of the message being communicated and provides insight into the emotions and thoughts of the communication partner.
Q: What is the importance of nonverbal communication?
A: Nonverbal communication is important because it is universally present in every culture and can have a significant impact on how messages are interpreted. It helps us to be better at reading people and to create a more meaningful connection between individuals and helps to build trust and relationships.
Q: What are 5 examples of nonverbal communication?
A: The different forms of nonverbal communication include body language, facial expressions, eye contact, posture, gestures, touch, tone of voice, and proxemics.
Q: How can you communicate nonverbally if you’re engaged in a conversation?
A: You can communicate nonverbally by using hand gestures, maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and positioning your body towards the other person.
Q: Does nonverbal communication have more meaning than verbal communication?
A: Nonverbal communication can have more meaning than verbal communication because it provides insight into the emotions, thoughts, and intentions behind the message being communicated.
Q: What is the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication?
A: Verbal communication is the use of words and language to convey a message, while nonverbal communication refers to any form of communication that is not expressed through words, such as body language, facial expressions, and gestures.
Q: Is nonverbal communication a learned behavior?
A: Nonverbal communication is both a natural and learned behavior. Some forms of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions are universal and instinctual, while others are learned through cultural and societal norms.
Q: Does nonverbal communication vary depending on the culture?
A: Yes, nonverbal communication can vary depending on the culture and societal norms. For example, eye contact can be viewed as a sign of respect in some cultures, while in others, it can be seen as a sign of disrespect.
Unlock the Power of Non-Verbal Communication: Your Secret to Professional Success!
The thought of mastering non-verbal communication might have seemed daunting at first. You may have doubted whether it's worth the effort or if you have what it takes. But the rewards are truly remarkable. Whether you're a freelancer or an office worker, you can improve your nonverbal communication skills,
Imagine effortlessly commanding attention in the boardroom, leaving a lasting impression on potential employers, clients, and colleagues alike. Picture yourself confidently navigating social interactions - either formal or casual conversation - with ease, exuding charisma and influence. With these 5 powerful examples of non-verbal communication at your disposal, the possibilities are endless.
So go ahead, embrace the subtle art of non-verbal communication, and unleash your full potential. It's time to take center stage and watch your professional world transform.