It has been argued that non verbal communication has more meaning than verbal communication itself with most studies claiming that 55% of all communication is non- verbal, 7% spoken words and 38% tone of voice( as shown in Figure 1.1).
But what is non verbal communication? It consists of one’s body language, facial expression, tone of voice, hand gestures, posture which are often done unconsciously to the individual. The same words can be spoken but with different tones and gestures can have completely different meaning. Gestures can emphasise what one is saying such as nodding your head when agreeing with something, smiling when saying thank you.
A person’s posture can often unintentionally give insight into how they are feeling. A closed posture would be someone with their arms crossed and/or legs. Often this may mean they aren’t comfortable in the situation, creating a barrier by closing themselves off or simply cold! An open posture would be someone who sits openly with their arms apart. This may indicate that they are interested in the person’s conversation and open and at ease with the conversation.
It can also define people’s relationship. If someone stands too close to you in the workplace it may be classified as inappropriate invasion of space. But in a social scene it would signify that the people are involved or feel comfortable in each other’s company. Appropriate distance between individuals varies greatly depending on culture, situation and relationships.
It is common for words to be misinterpreted and the meaning behind their words misread. Often you would turn to your friend and say ‘What did he mean by that?’ after a vague conversation. Hoping that they may have overheard the conversation and the analysis of all the possible meanings can begin. The true intention of a person’s words may not be found in their words, but in their non verbal communication. With email and text messaging have such a huge impact on modern society the cues from non-verbal communication are lost and often messages are misinterpreted.
It is important to read a person’s non-verbal communicant as well as listen to their literal words. By correctly reading a person’s signals you can adjust your behaviour accordingly. Likewise you have the power to be more conscious of the signals you are sending and portray yourself the way you want to be seen.
‘Think before you speak’… Think before you act!