Words are not indeed the only way we communicate with others. Our expression and movements are also how we get our thoughts, feelings, and ideas across. Eighty percent of the time, it is nonverbal communication that communicates what we mean.
Two people can say, “I’m having a fantastic day,” but when you miss the non-verbal cues, you won’t tell if the accompanying smile is genuine, troubled, or even sarcastic. We would otherwise miss a lot of what is getting communicated if we ignore nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal communication includes eye contact, posture, facial expressions, gestures, blinking rate, and even glances.
The other reason that we ought to focus on nonverbal communication is that they cannot be faked. They show the truth about what we are saying or even feeling without attaching words to them.
It is why it’s crucial to focus not just on the words spoken but the cues that accompany them. The importance of nonverbal communication is one of the reasons emojis got created. Again, “I’m having a fantastic day” can mean different things depending on the emoji that accompanies a text.
A smiley face means that you are indeed having a fantastic day, while an eye roll or crying face emoji is an invitation to ask perhaps, “What’s wrong? Do you want to talk about it?”
What happens when verbal and nonverbal communications don’t match? Well, it creates an element of mistrust, especially when in person. It also creates confusion and misunderstanding as the message put across is not clear.
Nonverbal communication is more important than verbal communication because it gives the person’s real intent- you can’t fake it. If your colleague comes to your desk for gossip and they say “you can trust me” all the while they have a sly smile or a monotone, would you trust them?
In this article, we shall look closer into the importance of nonverbal communication to make you all the more aware of it within yourself and when talking to others.
What are the aspects of nonverbal communication?
There various facets of nonverbal communication we can look at to ascertain the importance of the same.
Nonverbal communication is instinctual
Unless a person intentionally (out of place of awareness) expresses nonverbal communication, then one can always look to nonverbal signals to tell us the truth. It is why we are ever told to focus on nonverbal communication because that is where the truth about what a person is thinking or feeling lies.
One shouldn’t focus too much on what is being said, but how it’s being delivered. It is something that we do instinctually, and animals are no different.
It reveals one’s emotions
Nonverbal communication is what helps you know a person’s real feelings, as we’ve pointed out in the examples given in the introduction. They show happiness, sadness, anger, hurt, pleasure, interest, playfulness, and a plethora of other emotions.
The truth about our feelings is that we tend to show them unconsciously most of the time. It is only if you are aware and aim to control them is when you can manipulate how they come across. For example, if you’re doing a business presentation, you want to come across as confident, and you’ll aim to hide your anxiety.
Help show empathy
Empathy is a person’s ability to both understand and share the feeling of another person. If you are to express empathy, then your nonverbal communication, that is, your body language, ought to reflect the same. Being genuinely empathetic comes naturally, as you cannot fake your nonverbal communication.
When a loved one is having a rough day, you will likely reflect the sadness on their face. That is why it’s crucial to observe other people’s nonverbal communication.
You’ll tell if they are genuinely empathetic toward what you are going through or if you need to find someone else to talk to. It is in observing that you’ll know with whom to build a trusting relationship with.
Understanding nonverbal signals indicate high emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, according to the Oxford dictionary, is the ability to be aware of, in control and express one’s emotions and also have the competence to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically and judiciously.
When you can read into people’s nonverbal signals, then you become better at interpersonal relationships. It is crucial when dealing with friends and family but also in the workplace.
If you work a job where you’re required to communicate consistently and you have low emotional intelligence, it is quite likely that your work will suffer. You should be able to read people to communicate effectively, even through our nonverbal cues.
What happens when we misinterpret nonverbal signals?
It is not always easy to interpret nonverbal signals. It varies from person to person and across cultures and groups. It is something that we have to learn from childhood, and it is not something we stop doing as long as we are always interacting with people.
When you’re aware of nonverbal signals, you create a database in your mind where you can easily interpret nonverbal cues to make you a better communicator. You can equally use appropriate words, and as a result, nonverbal signals based in the context you’re in.
When you fail to interpret nonverbal signals correctly, you’ll end up having strained relationships. A perfect example is the running narrative of women saying “nothing” in response to “what is wrong?” The tone in which the word “nothing” gets delivered in, along with other nonverbal signals such as a sign or a frown, ought to let the person know that something is indeed wrong.
Should you take the word “nothing” at face value and ignore the nonverbal signals, then you’re only making the situation worse. In general, when you cannot interpret nonverbal cues, you will indeed create and have problems in relationships that could indeed lead to them coming to an end.
Five main effects of nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication has five effects.
It is when you emphasize or underling specific points in the message — for example, throwing your hands up to show how exasperated you are.
It is when you compliment a verbal message. It could be clutching your chest when you’re in distress or patting someone on the back while using congratulatory words.
Contradiction: When your nonverbal signals contradict your verbal message, then it creates mistrust. It could be of the person’s character, or merely the words being spoken. For example, a person saying “I am fine” while crying is contradictory.
We can use nonverbal signals to reinforce or emphasize what we’ve already said. If you’re expressing disappointment, then your signals should align with the message; otherwise, the purpose gets lost.
You can use nonverbal signals to take the place of words. An example is the use of silence, where it can prove to be more powerful than words when used in the right context.
With time, you can become active in nonverbal communication. After reading this, the purpose of being more aware of nonverbal signals from others. If you’re unsure, insisted on risking misinterpreting someone, you can choose to ask them for clarification.
For example, “you are saying you are fine, but you have a frown in your face; what does that mean?” Don’t be afraid to ask; if anything, it shows that you’re genuinely interested. However, be mindful of the context; you can’t ask your scary boss the same thing.