To communicate means to share information, thoughts, or feelings. It can be said that there are two main types of communication: verbal, and non-verbal.
Non-verbal communication is a wordless form of communication. It is mainly a silent form of communication that does not involve speech or words.
Non-verbal communication is done through eye contact, hand movement, touch, facial expressions, bodily postures and non-lexical components, etc. At times, silence is said to the best form of non-verbal communication.
Below, you will find a discussion of the main types of non-verbal communication.
Types of non-verbal communication.
1. The face and its expressions: smiling, nodding, raising eyebrows and so on have long been very important ways of communicating. Without saying a word, we can speak volumes with a glance at our interlocutor.
2. Movement of Hands: the first treatise on hand gestures was probably that written by the physician John Bulwer in the mid seventeenth century. Bulwer demonstrated that the hands can express so many different things, from prayers to commands – all without the need for words.
3. Dancing: when we dance, we can express so many different emotions. From passion to religious devotion, dancing either alone, with another person as part of a couple or in a synchronized group, can communicate so much. Dancing is something that many of us engage in from childhood and it becomes an important way of socializing and expressing ourselves at the same time.
4. Body language – bodily movement and postures: body language is a language all of its own. Our posture, and the way that we lean forward or back or cross or uncross our legs can speak volumes about us. Very often, we are not even aware that we are communication our thoughts via our body language. That is the reason why, in job interviews and other situations in which we are under scrutiny, it is a good idea to pay attention to our body language. For example, leaning forward can be a sign of positivity, whilst sitting with our arms folded can make us look closed off – as if we have something to hide.
5. Paralinguistic and non-lexical noises: para means beside and linguistic means language. So, paralinguistic noises are noises that occur alongside language, such as laughter, sighs and groans. These are very important ways of communicating and very often they can be viewed as more authentic than words. For example, laughing at a joke is generally seen to be a more authentic way of appreciating that joke than simply stating to the person who has told the joke that we think that their joke is funny.
6. Clothing: what we wear can often communicate things. For example, if we dress up in academic robes, it is clear that we want to communicate to everyone who sees us that we have attained a certain level of academic achievement. We should never judge people by what they wear – however, some types of official garments (such as a judge’s wig, a scholar’s gown or a soldier’s medal) are designed to communicate something about the wearer.
7. Silence: you may have heard of the phrase, ‘the sound of silence’. Sometimes, staying silent can communicate much more than words can. Silence can be powerful, sad, happy or it can simply communicate to others that we do not want to engage with them. Good communicators are able to listen, and to use comfortable silences, to connect with other people. There is no need to think that communication is all about words!
Learning to communicate well with other people is so important, and it is something that it can take an entire lifetime to perfect. However, misreading people’s communications can be disastrous. We all want to be better friends, partners and family members, and better colleagues and citizens too. If we want to achieve this, then we need to be able to communicate effectively with other people in all contexts – formal, informal and spontaneous.
Effective communication, as is abundantly clear from the discussion above, involves not just listening to other people’s words and expressing ourselves in words. It also means picking up on other people’s non-verbal cues. Why not go through the list above and think about which forms of non-verbal communication you are adept at understanding. Are there any ways in which you might improve your non-verbal communication skills? We could all benefit from a little improvement in this area, as it enables us to enjoy deeper and more meaningful connections with other people.