Non-Verbal Communication | About Gestures That Matter

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Gestures play a huge role in our lives, although we are not always aware of it. With a raised, open hand, we can say hello to a friend, blinking an eye allows us to establish an understanding with someone, and sticking out the middle finger … Well, maybe we will skip this gesture. Nevertheless, non-verbal communication (or non-verbal speech) offers a wide range of possibilities for communicating information and establishing contact with other people. Mastering it will allow you to communicate more effectively with people – both in private and professional life.

Non-Verbal Communication – The Key to Understanding Others

Most of us think that words have the greatest communicative power. And although, of course, correct speech is of great importance, the messages that we convey without their help play a much more important role. According to the American psychologist Ray Birdwhistell, as many as 65% of messages are transmitted through non-verbal speech, and the anthropologist Albert Mehrabian even stated that in the process of interpersonal communication, words transmit only 7% of the information, and non-verbal behavior and the tone of voice the rest.

Nonverbal communication – What else?

Non-verbal communication makes it possible to convey (and read) emotional states, intentions, character traits, and temperaments. Usually, we broadcast these messages subconsciously. Thanks to numerous studies, it is possible to get to know the meaning of many gestures or non-verbal behaviors, and thus skillfully use and read them in everyday life.

Forms of Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication takes place on many levels, and we can express our emotions, views, or intentions in various ways. Which forms of non-verbal communication are among the most important?

1.    Pantomime (Gestures)

Gestures are the elements of non-verbal communication that we use most often – both consciously and unconsciously. They can express various emotional states, replace words, or help us describe various situations. We divide the gestures into:

  • Emblems – non-verbal ways of replacing words, e.g. A thumbs-up saying “ok” or a “v” sign made of fingers, meaning “peace” or “victory”,
  • Affectators – indicators of emotions that reflect the type and intensity of emotions – e.g., Manifested by facial expressions or a change in body position,
  • Illustrators – designed to illustrate the words spoken, often supporting us in the spoken messages,
  • Regulators – behaviors that allow you to synchronize the course of a conversation, e.g., Confirming or denying it with a nod.

2.    Facial Expressions

Mimicry was the first to arouse the interest of researchers and is also best perceived by the interviewees. Thanks to this, our face is a great source of information for interlocutors. You can read several dozen different facial and head expressions from it, which allow for intensifying, neutralizing, or masking emotions. The lips, eyebrows, forehead, and eyes play a very important role. Eye contact alone allows you to determine your attitude towards your interlocutor, and a narrowing or dilating pupil can tell you a lot about your interlocutor’s mood.

3.    Proxemics (Spatial Relations)

It is a field of study that focuses on the social perception of personal space. Thanks to it, we can learn, for example, how to read the distance between two interlocutors and how it determines their relations. One can conclude from it, for example, that the closer two people are to each other, the closer they are. At this point, it is worth getting acquainted with the four zones of communication distance, which include the following spaces:

  • Intimate – about 45 cm around our body,
  • Personal – 45-120 cm around our body,
  • Social – 120-360 cm around our body,
  • Public – over 360 cm around our body.

4.    Paralinguistic Factors

We are talking here primarily about such factors as timbre and tone of voice or the pace and fluency of speech. A warm timbre of voice will win people over and build a positive perception of the speaker. The tone and loudness of speaking can express an emotional state. Lack of fluency in speech and frequent breaking of sentences may indicate the speaker’s lack of competence. All these elements of non-verbal communication are very important and can also be controlled – both at the level of private and professional life.

5.    Social and Personal Factors

The non-verbal factors also include superficiality. We are talking about appearance, clothing, and even smell, which may indicate, on the one hand, the social status and, on the other hand, the self-image of a given person. It also has a huge impact on interpersonal communication.

Functions of Non-Verbal Communication

It is also worth saying a little more about the functions of non-verbal speech – according to Scherer and Wallbott. So, we distinguish the function:

  • Semantic, which aims to modify a verbal message – we are talking here primarily about emphasizing, creating references, denial, etc.,
  • Syntactic, which on the one hand serves to mark the phases of the conversation (e.g. Making eye contact to start a conversation), and on the other hand is used to synchronize the interlocutors (e.g. Ensuring comfort by shortening the distance or proper body positioning),
  • Pragmatic, which allows influencing the behavior of the partner and emphasizing belonging to a given group (e.g., Appropriate outfit or gestures, characteristic for a given environment),
  • Conversation regulation that aims to organize the conversation. Payday loans Ohio no credit check can also help.

Of course, there are also other divisions and different, different functions of non-verbal communication have been distinguished. It is worth getting to know them to better understand the meaning of gestures, facial expressions, and other elements of non-verbal speech.

Non-verbal communication matters!

By gaining knowledge about non-verbal communication, we have the opportunity to use gestures, facial expressions, or paralinguistic factors to achieve specific goals. We gain a chance to properly construct messages and convey information properly, as well as recognize the emotional state or credibility of our interlocutor


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