At the very beginning let’s make out what the word “nonverbal” exactly stands for when it describes communication. If we refer to its etymology (or origins) and put aside the prefix “non”, we will find out that it comes from Latin “verbum” which actually means “word” (but not “verb” as it may seem at first sight). As you can see, the modern English adjective “verbal” implies everything connected with words. So, it is not difficult to guess that if we have something non-verbal, it is not about words, but about something different.
But can you imagine communication without words so instantly? You will be absolutely right if you say that communication is about all those speeches, news, the Internet, and just everyday talks at home, in class, in the supermarket and even in taxi, etc. How can it be nonverbal then? Well, it can be and it is. What is more, its nonverbal aspect sometimes implies much more senses than words can express. And now we are going to consider in detail how it works!
Learn More About Different Systems of Signs
Words are integral elements of our language though still there is no clear definition for the term “word”. Nevertheless, the language, in its turn, originally provides us with the possibility to express our thoughts in speech or writing, share our knowledge and receive new information. It is also considered that any language is a complex system of signs, whether we imply letters or hieroglyphs, in which we code the message we want to transmit. If the receiver of this message manages to decode it in a right way or in the way we expected, the communicative act is successful.
Now think if you have ever seen how mute or deaf people communicate. They also use special signs, which correspond with those of their native language, in order to express their ideas and exchange information. These signs are not words but they still carry an absolutely clear message. And when you are speaking (yes, let’s note that here we are considering the speech only), you cannot help applying gestures or adopting a particular posture. Again, these are not words, but signs which accompany your speech and influence on its effectiveness.
Various nonverbal signs add much to your initial verbal message. Despite the fact that there are actually loads of them, they can be classified according to the main mechanisms of their manifestations. Actually, each of the five groups of nonverbal signs below introduces a separate system with its unique patterns. In the communication process a person normally applies several different systems.
They help you express (or hide) your true emotions and attitudes towards the essence of your message. In everyday life you hardly pay attention to them, but they play a very important role in your speech. The brightest paralinguistic features are the tone and pitch of your voice. Indeed, they differ very much when you are excited, or worried, or irritated. Just listen carefully to yourself and the people you are talking to. You will find it really interesting to understand what your and their feelings are.
They include the speed of your speech, the duration of pauses you make and even the way you cough or laugh. Even if you sound very natural and sincere while you are speaking, a specific low-voiced laugh, for example, can reveal sarcasm concealed in the message. However, it is another question whether you want it to be revealed or not.
Eyes are mirrors of the soul. This is a too well-known cliché, but it is so true in terms of communication. However, eye contact is quite a tricky thing. Maintaining confident eye contact with a big audience is vitally essential in any case. It means that you trust them and, what is more important, that you trust yourself and you are sure of what you are saying. But when it comes to having a tête-à-tête with someone, you should pay significant attention not only to the eyes, but also to the nationality of your interlocutor. In different cultures interpersonal eye contact or its absence has very different meanings.
It should be understood as the study of different body movements, including mimics, gestures and posture. In different cultures kinesics has different features, however some similarities can still be noticed. For example, a sincere smile is always the sign of positive feeling and emotions. Clenched fists imply self-control, in case of both anger and worries. Open and straight posture means that you are ready to talk and welcome your interlocutor’s ideas.
Put simply, proxemics means the study of spatial distance set by the conditions and circumstances of a communicative act. You can definitely hug your mum, your close friend or your second half with great pleasure. However, you are unlikely to hug a new teacher or your boss. Besides, if you think of yourself as an introvert, you certainly prefer longer distances between you own self and people around you. So, you see that even such factor as your personal space can determine the style and result of your conversation with others. Usually, the bigger this space, the colder and more formal are your relationships with the interlocutor.