Nonverbal Communication: How Body Language & Nonverbal Cues Are Key (2023)

Every day we communicate with our family, friends, colleagues and even strangers, but only a small percentage of what we communicate during each of these conversations is verbal. Research shows that the vast majority of what we convey through our interactions with others is innate and instinctual, known as nonverbal communication. Nonverbal behavior like body movements and posture, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures and tone of voice all contribute to how we communicate and understand each other. Often, we are unaware of our participation in interpersonal, nonverbal communication because these actions are inherent to how we converse as humans and ingrained into our daily lives.

For business professionals, clearly and effectively communicating with clients, customers and teammates is vital to the success of the company. Yet, all too often business is conducted via phone, chat and other forms of communication where these nonverbal context clues are lost. Conversely, using high quality, face-to-face video conferencing technology guarantees that nonverbal communication is maintained during business-critical conversations.

Nonverbal Communication: How Body Language & Nonverbal Cues Are Key (1)

What percentage of communication is nonverbal?

There have been a number of studies on the complex topic of nonverbal communication with varying results. However, most experts agree that70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.

(Video) The Power of Nonverbal Communication | Joe Navarro | TEDxManchester

One of the most well-known research projects on nonverbal communication was led by Dr. Mehrabian in the 1960s. In his first experiment, subjects were given three recordings of the word “maybe” — one to convey disfavor, one to convey favor and one to convey neutrality. Participants were then shown photos of female faces expressing the same three emotions and were told to determine the emotions of both the recordings and the photos. The subjects more accurately guessed the emotion conveyed in the photos by a margin of 3:2.

In a second study, Dr. Mehrabian’s subjects listened to recordings of nine words. Three were designed to convey affinity (“honey,” “thanks” and “dear”), three were meant to convey neutrality (“oh,” “really” and “maybe”) and three conveyed dislike (“don’t,” “terrible” and “brute”). The recordings were of speakers reading each word three times, each with a different tone: positive, neutral and negative. The result? A subject’s response to each word was dependent more on the inflection of the voice than the connotation of the word itself. These studies led Dr. Mehrabian to devise a formula to describe how the mind determines meaning. He concluded that the interpretation of a message is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent visual. The conclusion was that 93 percent of communication is “nonverbal” in nature.

7 Examples of Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace

“Imagine your co-worker storms into her office after lunch. She’s red-faced, tight-lipped and speaks to no one. She throws her briefcase on the desk, plops down in her chair and glares out the window. You ask, ‘Are you all right?’ She snaps back in an angry tone, ‘I’m fine!’ Which message do you believe: Her nonverbal signals (behavior and voice tone), or her verbal one (words alone)? Most likely, you believe the nonverbal message,” says Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results. Price says studies show that when messages are mismatched, most recipients will believe the nonverbal message over the spoken words. That’s why being aware of nonverbal cues, especially in the workplace, is so important to effectively communicate with your colleagues, partners and clients.You need to be able to pick up on certain nonverbal cues and mannerisms in the workplace for effective communication. Here are seven forms of nonverbal communication in the workplace and how you can use them to improve your communication skills.

1. Vocal Tone

Speaking style, pitch, rate and volume all contribute to understanding the speaker. Changes in vocal tone during a conversation are also a noticeable nonverbal cue that contributes to your understanding of the person speaking. For example, during a friendly conversation with your boss, you ask her if you can take next week off. She says “Sure. Take all the time off you need,” but her tone of voice went from warm and sweet before your question to cold and sharp when she replied. Although her words seem positive, her tone of voice indicates she is not happy about your request.

2. Fidgeting

Are you shaking your knee, biting your nails or playing with your pen very noticeably as someone else talks in a meeting? This may express to the speaker you are bored or nervous or are disinterested. According to Jim Blythe, author of Consumer Behaviour, fidgeting is a displacement behavior and external release for whatever you are feeling within.

(Video) Body Language

3. Facial expressions

Since facial expressions are closely tied to our emotions, they reveal what we are thinking and are perhaps our biggest nonverbal communicatorsin everyday life. Imagine pitching a new product to a client with a fearful and worried look on your face or with a lack of eye contact.This would convey to your client that you have little faith in the product. Instead, if you really want to sell your product, show positive energy and enthusiasm with your facial expressions by allowing your face to be animated and smiling as you talk. The excitement on your face will help get the customer excited about your new product.

4. Head movements

Head movements are especially rich conveyors of communication and one of the easiest nonverbal cues to understand. Certain head movements tend to be culture-specific, such as nodding in agreement for within western cultures. For example, when presenting in a meeting, you can gauge participants’ understanding and interest in your presentation by observing their head movements. If they are shaking their head in a “no” manner, you may need to pause and ask if anyone has any questions to try to understand if they are confused or in disagreement with you. Conversely, if meeting participants are actively nodding their heads in a “yes” manner, it is a good indication they are engaged and understand what you’re trying to communicate.

5. Hand gestures

Hand gestures punctuate the spoken word and can offer useful context about both the speaker and what they are saying. Sometimes hand gestures give clues to the speaker’s emotional state. Trembling hands could mean the person is anxious or lying. Animated, grand hand gestures could indicate the person is excited or passionate about what she is discussing. Other times hand gestures give literal meaning to the spoken words. Your boss may give you very detailed verbal instructions about a task with added hand gestures to reinforce his spoken words. For example, he says, “I need three circular objects placed over there.” As he speaks these words, he gestures with his hands by holding up three fingers, followed by drawing a circle in the air and finally pointing to where he wants them.

6. Body posture

Body posture can be used to determine a participant’s degree of attention or involvement during a conversation. Bad posture, like slouching, may indicate the listener is bored or uninterested in the conversation. In contrast, if the person you’re speaking to is standing or sitting still, upright and leaning forward, they are signaling that they are focused, attentive and engaged in the conversation. Body posture can also give hints about personality characteristics, such as whether a person is confident, happy, friendly or submissive.

7. Physical distance

Physical distance between people can set the tone for the conversation. An employee who comes extremely close to speak with you while you’re seated at your desk may indicate they have something confidential to say. Other times, getting extremely close or touching someone as you speak could be considered intrusive or even hostile. However, physical distance can be misleading since different cultures require different amounts of physical distance for communicating in the workplace. Most North Americans prefer at least 18 inches of personal space. Anything closer is viewed as too intimate in a work environment. A coworker from South America, on the other hand, may be comfortable getting much closer to talk.

(Video) A Beginner’s Guide To Body Language & Nonverbal Communication with Joe Navarro

How Nonverbal Communication Skills Can Make or Break Deals

Understanding the importance of nonverbalcommunication with a client or potential customer helps increase trust and clarity and add interest to your business-critical conversations — or does the exact opposite. If prospects think you are bored, distracted, annoyed or anything that is off-putting, they could decline your contract. Commonly, people are not aware they are giving off negative nonverbal cues that others notice. On the other hand, displaying positive nonverbal communication that increases your credibility and trustworthiness could help you land the deal. Clients want to see your actions and facial expressions align with your words. However, your efforts are wasted if you’re on an audio-only call during these critical conversations since clients or prospects have no way of reading your nonverbal communication. In contrast, face-to-face video conference calls allow you to have more of an “in-person” interaction and pick up on important nonverbal cues.

6 Tips to Perfect Your Nonverbal Communication for Video Calls

Companies that conduct business primarily by phone or email are leaving a large percentage of their message open to misinterpretation. Imagine the money that’s being thrown away because of inefficiencies and miscommunications from using subpar communication tools. Video conferencing ensures that no inflection is missed and that facial expressions, hand gestures and body language are seen and understood. It engages both visual and audible aspects of communication in one format and puts you in control of shaping your message. Here are six tips to help you effectively communicate with your clients, colleagues and business partners using video conferencing technology.

1. Remember you’re being watched

When on a video call, it’s easy to forget that someone else is on the other end seeing everything from your camera. You may be using a small device like a tablet or phone during a conference call, but people on the far end may see you on a large, ultra-high definition TV in a conference room. Without realizing it, your nonverbal communication is amplified on screen to everyone in the meeting room.

2. Be mindful of your body language

Being present and engaged during video conference calls allows you to notice subconscious body language like leaning, slouching or stretching. Even if you are not the presenter during the video call, it’s important to be aware of your body language and what it is saying to the speaker and meeting participants. Show that you’re actively listening by remaining attentive, sitting erect with good posture and giving occasional head nods.

3. Put your phone down

During a video call make sure your cell phone and other distracting devices are silenced and away from your line of sight. Even a single notification can draw your eyes away from the business at hand, making you appear to be distracted and uninterested.

(Video) The Power of Nonverbal Communications | Joe Navarro (Keynote) | CMX Summit West 2015

4. Look into the camera

There’s nothing more important than eye contact when it comes to showing confidence, interest and trustworthiness. Maintain eye contact during the conference call by looking directly at the camera, not at your computer or TV screen, when you’re speaking.

5. Avoid excessive movements and dramatic hand gestures

During a conference call try to keep your body movements calm and relaxed. Avoid fidgeting with your pen, excessively shaking your legs or doing anything else that conveys nervousness or boredom. When speaking you can use your hands to gesture, but avoid being overly animated. Dramatic hand gestures can be distracting for meeting participants, especially on a video conference call where you are sitting close to the camera.

6. Be aware of your facial expressions

Last and most importantly, be aware of your facial expressions throughout the entire video call. Unlike other forms of subtle nonverbal cues, the emotions shared through facial expressions are universal and are often the strongest nonverbal communicator during a conference call. In long meetings, especially if you are not presenting, it’s easy to let your face frown or look bored without realizing it. Try to maintain a positive or neutral facial expression with an occasional smile throughout the meeting. A pleasant, friendly smile lets the speaker know you’re engaged and enjoying the meeting.

Conclusion

Nonverbal communication plays an important role in how we convey meaning and information to others, as well as how we interpret the actions of others during conversations. For business professionals, giving off the right nonverbal cues is extremely important. When your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice match your spoken words, your message is reinforced and helps clients, coworkers and prospects better understand you. However,your efforts are wasted if you’re on an audio-only call, or if you’re trying to write a blog post that communicates complex ideas, because during these critical conversations, clients or prospects have no way of reading your nonverbal communication. audio only calls or text-based tools for communicating leaves your message open to misinterpretation since studies show that up to 93% of all communication is nonverbal. Without these indicators, the totality of a person’s statement is impossible to interpret and understand. If meeting in person is not feasible, use video conferencing technology to meet face to face and pick up on important nonverbal cues. Lifesize’s lifelike 4K video quality can help take your business-critical conversations to the next level.

FAQs

How are nonverbal cues or body language essential for effective communication? ›

Your nonverbal communication cues—the way you listen, look, move, and react—tell the person you're communicating with whether or not you care, if you're being truthful, and how well you're listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you're saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport.

How is body language used in nonverbal communication? ›

Body language is a range of nonverbal signals that you can use to communicate your feelings and intentions. These include your posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Your ability to understand and interpret other people's body language can help you to pick up on unspoken issues or feelings.

What is the 7 %- 38 %- 55 rule and why is it important to our work? ›

The 7-38-55 rule indicates that only 7% of all communication is done through verbal communication, whereas the nonverbal component of our daily communication, such as the tonality of our voice and body language, make up 38% and 55% respectively.

What are 3 key characteristics that serve to define nonverbal communication? ›

3 Key Elements of Nonverbal Communication
  • Body Language. Body language is the most obvious form of nonverbal communication, and it can convey much about ourselves and our level of interest. ...
  • Eye Contact. Making eye contact lets the speaker know that you think what he or she has to say is important. ...
  • Tone of Voice.

Why nonverbal cues are so powerful in communication? ›

Nonverbal communication is perhaps the most powerful form of communication. While a lot of attention is paid to the words we speak, frequently a look or a gesture can say a great deal more. Facial expressions, eye contact, ges- tures, posture, and the tone of our voice convey our interest, comfort, sincerity and mood.

What is the importance of gestures and body language in communication? ›

Body language is a range of nonverbal signals that you can use to communicate your feelings and intentions. These include your posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Your ability to understand and interpret other people's body language can help you to pick up on unspoken issues or feelings.

What is an example of nonverbal cues? ›

Waving to a friend, pointing to a restaurant menu item, and indicating how many apples you want by holding up three fingers are all examples of gestural non-verbal communication.

How much body language is used in communication? ›

It was Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, who first broke down the components of a face-to-face conversation. He found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only.

Who is the father of body language? ›

Albert Mehrabian

Who invented body language? ›

Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950's, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only) and 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds) and 55 percent nonverbal. It's how you looked when you said it, not what you actually said.

Who defined non verbal communication? ›

"Psychologists Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen (1969), in discussing the interdependence that exists between nonverbal and verbal messages, identified six important ways that nonverbal communication directly affects our verbal discourse." "First, we can use nonverbal signals to emphasize our words.

Which is the key element of nonverbal communication? ›

There are three main elements of nonverbal communication: appearance, body language, and sounds.

What is the most effective nonverbal communication? ›

Eye contact

This is one of the most powerful examples of nonverbal communication. Eye contact can tell the other person you are engaged and interested in what they have to say. However, eye contact can also be a way of showing dominance.

What are the 7 functions of nonverbal communication? ›

7 Aspects of Nonverbal Communication
  • Facial Expressions. Without a doubt, the most common—and telling—nonverbal means of communication is through facial expressions. ...
  • Body Movements. ...
  • Posture. ...
  • Eye Contact. ...
  • Paralanguage. ...
  • Proxemics. ...
  • Physiological Changes.
5 Apr 2016

Are non verbal cues important? ›

Nonverbal communication is important because it gives us valuable information about a situation, including how a person might be feeling, how someone receives information and how to approach a person or group of people.

What is the most important advantage of nonverbal communication? ›

With non-verbal communication, you are able to relay messages more quickly and effectively than verbal. Moreover, non-verbal communication is a powerful way of connecting with others. You can use non-verbal messages to express what you are thinking or feeling without having to talk about it.

What is the importance of non verbal cues at work? ›

Why is nonverbal communication important? By accurately interpreting the nonverbal cues of your coworkers, you can gain a shared understanding of their feelings, emotions and attitudes toward certain situations.

What is an important use of body language and active listening? ›

Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening can also help you to pay attention. Try to respond to the speaker in a way that will encourage them to continue speaking, so that you can get the information that you need.

What is the effective method of using the body language effectively? ›

Try several different ways of using your arms, hands, and facial expressions. Match your gestures to your words. You should be compelled to gesture and make facial expressions when your thought requires such action. In short, body language must complement and reinforce your words, never overpower them.

How important are movements and gestures when we are communicating face to face? ›

Gestures make you a better speaker

The movement draws attention to what you're saying and draws attention to the important parts of your speech. Hand gestures often help to emphasize certain points of speech and strengthen the speaker's message as well.

What are the 4 types of body language? ›

All people express their body language in one of four ways: a light and bouncy movement, a soft and fluid movement, a dynamic and determined movement, or a precise and bold movement.

What is the impact of non verbal communication? ›

Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in our lives, as it can improve a person's ability to relate, engage, and establish meaningful interactions in everyday life. A better understanding of this type of communication may lead people to develop stronger relationships with others.

What is the importance of body language? ›

Body language assists us in understanding and decoding what the person is saying. That is the importance of body language. It also helps us to interpret others' moods and emotions. Moreover, it enhances our conscious understanding of people's reactions to what we say and how we say it.

What non verbal communication means? ›

Nonverbal communication refers to the ways in which beings convey information about their emotions, needs, intentions, attitudes, and thoughts without the use of verbal language.

What is the most important body language? ›

Smiling is perhaps one of the greatest body language signals, but smiles can also be interpreted in many ways. When evaluating body language, pay attention to the following mouth and lip signals: Pursed lips.

What is body language called? ›

Body language is a type of nonverbal communication where physical behavior is used to convey information. As opposed to words, such physical behavior often includes facial expressions, gestures, body posture, eye movements, and touch. The scientific study of interpreting body language is referred to as kinesics.

How often do we use nonverbal communication? ›

What percentage of communication is nonverbal? There have been a number of studies on the complex topic of nonverbal communication with varying results. However, most experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.

How is body language created? ›

The term was coined by Ray Birdwhistell in 1952, an anthropologist studying how people communicated with each other using non-verbal signals. He made films of people and analysed them to spot patterns of behaviour in various social situations.

Is body language a type of language? ›

Whereas verbal language is built of phonemes (a unit of sound), he argued that body language is built of kinemes (a unit of movement). To answer the central question of this article, researchers don't think of body language as an entirely separate language. Instead, it merely supplements meaning.

Does body language affect communication? ›

According to experts, nonverbal communication like body language makes up around 70-93% of all communication. This means, although we use our verbal communication (words) to share and speak our opinions, our body language will often communicate even more to our audience than we realise.

What are the main components of body language? ›

Body language is a type of communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space.

What are the characteristics of nonverbal communication? ›

These nonverbal communication types are facial expressions, gestures, paralinguistics (such as loudness or tone of voice), body language, proxemics or personal space, eye gaze, haptics (touch), appearance, and artifacts.

What are the 4 main types of nonverbal communication? ›

Here are seven types of nonverbal communication and how they may be used in the workplace:
  • Vocalics. Vocalics, also referred to as paralanguage, includes the way you speak, such as your tone of voice. ...
  • Proximity. ...
  • Gestures. ...
  • Touch. ...
  • Physiological changes. ...
  • Facial expressions. ...
  • Attentiveness.

Which non verbal aspects makes the most impact in verbal face to face communication? ›

Aspects of the face and voice that are particularly important to communication include eye contact, facial expression, and elements of voice such as pitch, tone, and speed of speaking.

How many types of nonverbal communication are there? ›

Nonverbal communication can be categorized into eight types: space, time, physical characteristics, body movements, touch, paralanguage, artifacts, and environment.

How does body language affect effective communication? ›

Body language is the use of physical behaviour, expressions, and mannerisms to communicate non-verbally. Non-verbal behaviours can allow people to be at ease, build trust and connections with others. However, they can also confuse others, generate tension, and even create an uncomfortable environment.

How are verbal and nonverbal cues used for effective communication? ›

Verbal communication uses language, words, sentences, and voice as the medium of communication. Nonverbal communication uses body language, facial expressions, tone, and pauses in speech as the medium of communication.

How can you use body language to help you communicate more effectively? ›

Using Body Language to Communicate More Effectively
  1. Make eye contact. Without question, this is first on the list. ...
  2. Be a mirror. ...
  3. Walk with energy. ...
  4. Let people see your hands. ...
  5. Use encouraging body language. ...
  6. Slow down. ...
  7. Have a great handshake.
14 Aug 2017

How are verbal cues used for effective communication? ›

For verbal communication to be effective, it should be clear, relevant, tactful in forming phrases and tone, concise, and informative. Presentations or conversations that have these factors included usually bear good fruits.

What are the most important factors of body language? ›

Five Aspects of Body Language That Affect Business Communication
  1. Eye contact. It's one of the first levels of connection that you share with another person. ...
  2. Facial expressions. Too often people forget that facial expressions are critical to competent communication. ...
  3. Voice. ...
  4. Posture. ...
  5. Gestures.
19 May 2015

Why do you think non verbal communication is important? ›

Nonverbal communication is important because it gives us valuable information about a situation, including how a person might be feeling, how someone receives information and how to approach a person or group of people.

How important is body language in social interaction? ›

Research has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from nonverbal behavior, making body language a crucial part of social interaction. Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person.

What nonverbal cues are used in the speech? ›

Through the use of eye contact, vocals, body posture, gestures, and facial expression, you enhance your message and invite your audience to give their serious attention to it—and to you. Your credibility, your sincerity, and your knowledge of your speech become apparent through your nonverbal behaviors.

How can we avoid misunderstanding using non verbal communication? ›

Four body language tips to avoid misunderstanding
  1. Watch people's hands and adapt your behaviours. ...
  2. Be present during conversations. ...
  3. Be aware of people's personal space. ...
  4. Look out for defensive body language signs.
19 Sept 2019

Which of the following is used for effective nonverbal communication? ›

Body language is a type of non-verbal communication since it does not involve any spoken words.

How much does body language contribute to communication? ›

The 55/38/7 Formula

It was Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, who first broke down the components of a face-to-face conversation. He found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only.

What part of the human body is most important in conveying nonverbal messages? ›

Facial expressions are responsible for a huge proportion of nonverbal communication.3 Consider how much information can be conveyed with a smile or a frown. The look on a person's face is often the first thing we see, even before we hear what they have to say.

Videos

1. Body Language Decoded: How Non-Verbal Communication Actually Works | ENDEVR Documentary
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2. The Best Guide to Body Language and Nonverbal Communication
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3. The Importance of Nonverbal Cues as told by "Friends"
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4. A Fun Guide to Nonverbal Communication and Body Language
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5. Verbal Vs Non-verbal Communication: Difference between them with examples & comparison chart
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6. Types of Nonverbal Communication (Body Language) - Introduction to Communication Skills
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