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Nonverbal Communication - An Overview

Maya Pillai Mar 14, 2019
Nonverbal communication is a powerful form of communication that speaks louder than words. It is known as communication without words or wordless communication. Here is a brief overview on the subject at hand.

Mind your language!

According to a study by the BBC, there are about 7,000 recognized languages in the world, out of which about 46 have just one speaker!
There are scores of instances in our daily lives that substantiate the theory that actions speak louder than words. A fantastic song by Ronan Keating, When You Say Nothing At All, would perhaps make sense to the romantics.
Whereas people who are firm believers of God would relate to what the Bible says - Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13) For those who require concrete facts to further this theory, the following content should help.
Often times, when we meet a well dressed person, we subconsciously form an impression about the individual, without a single word being exchanged. On the contrary, we would take time to digest the words of a learned and wise teacher who chooses to dress himself in rags.
We can relate towards pain in the eyes of someone who has suffered a tragic loss than someone who speaks volumes about the sufferings that he/she has had to endure. Even nature seems to portray this very fact as it is always lightening that strikes first, and thundering comes in later.
Our lives are no different, and often our actions, body language, tone, and pitch of our voices say a lot more about the way we feel than spoken words.


Humankind, being the social animal that we are, needs to communicate with fellow beings. Even dolphins call out to each other, that too by names. So, what is it that makes us humans any different?
We are blessed with the ability to analyze things and better understand situations without the use of so many words. For instance, your friend might say that he is alright, but you know that not all is okay, the moment he doesn't make eye contact with you.

Types of Communication

  1. Verbal
  2. Nonverbal
  3. Written
Here, we will only focus on the nonverbal type in detail.

Why is It So Powerful

This form of communication has the power to break or create a relationship. For instance, a bond can be created between a teacher and students, if the teacher has the ability to strike a balance between nonverbal language of students and himself.
If the teacher can read the nonverbal messages sent by the students, then it helps him to render his lectures accordingly. The ability of a teacher to decipher the nonverbal behavior will make the class more interesting and fun.
Wordless communication speaks volumes. The nonverbal cues can be read by experienced communicators. Often, you say something but your body communicates something else. Your facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), body language, and gestures convey a lot more than you think. These are areas from where your nonverbal behavioral cues are read.

Types of Nonverbal Communication

There are a number of ways that we can communicate with one another, without using so many words.

Body Language

Perhaps one of the most powerful ways (often even more than words) of communicating with people, is through body language.
Often we are not even aware of how our bodies give out signals about our actual state of mind. There are people who are good at reading them and can actually give an entire character sketch of a person just by observing him/her for a little while.
There are a lot of self-help books and materials readily available that groom us to have a better body language, and exude more positivity.

Eye contact

We all have the ability to almost read a person's mind, just by gazing into his eyes.
Of course, how accurate these observations are depend upon just how much you interact with the person, and how well that person can hide the emotions. The eyes of even the biggest liar are always a giveaway of the truth, provided you can sense it right.
Research shows that people tend to avoid eye contact when they are lying or hiding something. Also, it has been observed that our pupils dilate when we lie.

Facial expressions

This form of communication may not be accurate, as some show even the smallest emotions on their face, whereas there are others who carry the same plastic expression, no matter what the circumstance.
If you are observant, and watch out for even the subtle changes in expression, you can easily make out what is on someone's mind.


The sense of touch is perhaps one of the most commonly used forms of communication, and also amongst the most effective.
At times, a warm hug to a grieving friend, does a lot more than a million consoling words. We are capable of reaching out to someone, and making a connection, without needing to say a single word. We can convey myriad emotions, all with the power of touch.

Tone of voice

The most obvious way of deciphering the actual meaning of something said is by paying close attention to the tone of voice of some, rather than focusing on the actual words said.
We need not use harsh words, or say too much, just a stern voice is good enough to send across a strong statement. Not all people are able to modulate their voice according to the situation though, and more often than not, are misunderstood.
Each of these methods can be worked upon and perfected. However, no matter how hard we try, depending on a situation, we are bound to react instinctively and portray our emotions. Understanding someone is simple, if you only observe them and their behavior rather than solely relying on what they say.
It's only when verbal communication is complemented with good nonverbal communication that we can reach out and express ourselves effectively.