Nonverbal Communication

Essentials in Nonverbal Communication Everyone Must Know About

Whether we know it or not, we are constantly communicating through nonverbal communication. Learn about the different variations of this kind of communication, which are used by us while dealing with known, as well as unknown people.
SocialMettle Staff
Last Updated: Aug 16, 2018
Communicating without words - a simple smile, a friendly handshake, or a warm hug; there is so much that can be said without words.
friends with arm around
The eyes, the hands, the overall body movements of a person always complement the verbal messages of a person, and enhance the communication process. Non-verbal communication is a vast subject, which can be studied extensively.
☛ Proxemics
This concept was first developed by Edward T. Hall, and it pertains to the perception of space. The study of how people perceive the physical spaces around them is known as proxemics. It also takes into account the body spacing and postures as involuntary reactions to sensory fluctuations.
couple taking a walk
According to this concept, the physical distance between two people can be correlated to the relationship they share, be it personal or social.
Intimate distance
couple holding each other
Seen amongst people who share an intimate relationship. This distance includes embracing, touching, or whispering amongst close ones.
Close phase - less than 6 inches (15 cm)
Far phase - 6 to 18 inches (15 - 45 cm)
Personal distance
Two women laughing
Observed between good friends. Includes general interactions among good friends.
Close phase - 1.5 to 2.5 feet (45 - 75 cm)
Far phase - 2.5 to 4 feet (75 - 120 cm)
Social distance
Asian business people
This is observed amongst formal acquaintances, working colleagues, or business associates.
Close phase - 5 to 7 feet (1.5 - 2.1 m)
Far phase - 7 to 12 feet (2.1 - 3.6 m)
Public distance
It is used while interacting with strangers, or also used while public speaking.
Close phase - 12 to 25 feet (3.6 - 7.5 m)
Far phase - 25 feet (7.5 m) or more
☛ Chronemics
Friends at cafe
It is the study of time usage in nonverbal communication. It states that the way in which we perceive time, structure our time, and react to time is a powerful communication tool.
Time perceptions can be expressed through punctuality, willingness to wait, speed of speech, or even the amount of time people are willing to listen. According to Chronemics, the timing and frequency of any action, as well as the tempo of communications within an interaction, contribute to the process of non-verbal communication.
☛ Kinesics
Developed by an anthropologist called Ray L. Birdwhistell in the 1950s, Kinesics is the study of body movements, facial expressions, and gestures. This concept also include the study of following elements.
Posture: It says a lot about a person's degree of attention or involvement, the difference in status between communicators, and also the level of fondness a person has for the other one.
The studies carried out in the field of kinesics reveal that mirror-image congruent postures, where one person's left side is parallel to the other person's right side, leads to favorable perception of communicators and positive speech.
Break at Work
Also, if a person leans forward or a shows a decrease in the backwards lean, it signifies positive sentiment during communication. Posture can be studied through various indicators like direction of lean, body orientation, arm position, and overall body movement.
Thumbs up
Gestures: A thumbs up, or a simple wave of the hand says so much. Gestures form an integral part of non-verbal communication. They allow us to express a variety of emotions and thoughts, like contempt, hostility, approval, affection, etc.
☛ Haptics
High Five
The study of touching as a tool of nonverbal communication. The various forms of touching that can be included in non-verbal communication includes handshakes, holding hands, kissing, back patting, high fives, or even brushing an arm.
Shaking Hands in the Office
Also, someone fidgeting with their own hands, or running their fingers through their hair is involuntarily sending a message about their level of involvement and interest in the communication process, and are referred to as "adaptors".
The meaning conveyed from a touch is however highly dependent upon several other factors like the context of the situation, or even the relationship between communicators.
☛ Oculesics
Eyes are perhaps the most expressive features of human beings. You can say so much from one look that you exchange, be it a positive one or a condescending look, the eyes say it all. Oculesics is the study of the role of eyes in nonverbal communication. A simple eye contact can indicate a lot of emotions ranging from interest, attention, and involvement.
women drinking coffee
A simple gaze comprises the actions of looking while talking, while listening, or even while observing. Other factors that can be studied to correlate them with the purpose of communication is the timing of one's gaze, frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and even the rate of blinking.
☛ Paralanguage / Vocalics
This concept is a part of non-verbal communication, because it is not related to the content or verbal message, but is associated with other attributes of speaking, which include the pitch, tone, volume, tempo, rhythm, articulation, resonance, nasality, and even the accent of the speaker. All these aspects are collectively known as prosody.
Paralanguage is the study of nonverbal cues of the voice. A notable linguist George L. Trager developed a classification system to study the vocal cues, which consist of the voice set, voice qualities, and vocalization.
girls using smartphone
Voice Set: It is defined as the context in which the speaker is speaking. The factors that influence this context are taken into account, which include elements like the situation, gender, mood, age, or even a person's cultural background.
Two chinese businessmen
The Voice Qualities: It is defined by factors like volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm, articulation, resonance, nasality, and accent. These factors actually give every individual, a unique 'voice print'.
woman frowning
Vocalization: This factor takes into account three elements: characterizers, qualifiers, and segregators. Characterizes are emotions that are expressed while speaking like smiling, frowning. or yawning.
A voice qualifier refers to the style of delivering a message. Vocal segregates are like fillers or short sounds, which notify the speaker that a person is listening.