How well do you communicate nonverbally?

A significant percentage of our communication happens nonverbally. Nonverbal communication remains a powerful means for letting people know our attitudes and emotions. Following Albert Mehrabian’s research findings* (1972), it is widely believed that 55 percent of communication is through nonverbal means (body language; facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.), 38 percent relates to the tone of voice and only 7 percent is verbal (actual words).

Of course, the findings received several criticisms for its lack of ecological validity and relevance to real-life situations. 

Phil Yaffe calls it a myth and says that it is a misinterpretation of a scientific experiment.

Indeed, various factors influence our communication patterns and hence we cannot precisely quantify the extent of verbal and nonverbal communication. Factors such as environment, attitudes, feelings, and emotions influence communication.

However, we can say with certainty that nonverbal communication plays an undeniable role in people’s lives. Even with the increasing usage of social media, people communicate so much nonverbally. The wonder of emoticons makes communication both easier and nonverbal.

Types of Nonverbal communication

There are different types of Nonverbal communication. These include:

Facial expressions

People express so much through their smile, frown, or just by seeing a person. We can express our anger, sympathy, love and much more through our expressions.

Body Movements (Kinesics)

This refers to using hand movements or making gestures to communicate our feelings and thoughts. Examples include waving, fiddling with objects, looking at mobile phone and so on to express excitement, boredom etc.


We transfer loads of emotions and feelings through the way we stand, sit, and use our hands across of body. The way we keep our hands crossed across chest, sitting crossed legs, sitting on the edge of chair, etc. are few ways by which we try to communicate.

Eye Contact

Making eye contact is a powerful way to express our interest or hatred. We can make a person get uncomfortable or intimidated with a stare or be embarrassed when our eyes say that we are attracted. It helps in understanding if a person is being honest. In fact, we will be able to reach a person’s soul through eye contact.

Personal Space (Proxemics)

People value personal space and set their limitations and those of others. We try to communicate the extent of friendliness or detachment through our preference of personal space. We allow proximity for a selective few, whereas draw clear boundaries with others.


These are vocal but non-verbalized. They refer to the tone of voice, pitch, volume and vocalized pauses or fillers. Generally, we will be able to judge the strength or the weakness of others’ message through their use of paralanguage.


Communicating through touch is a strong means of showing our affection, concern, and support. People value the comfort of security and moral support. Sometimes, touch can also be threatening or abusive. Hence, understanding the message through touch is important to discern friendliness-enmity, warmth- hostility, or support-oppose.

In conclusion, nonverbal communication is complex but interesting. We may be involved verbally, but our nonverbal communication may be saying something else in total contrast. Thus, to have control over our nonverbal communication, we need to be self-conscious and put them to effective use.

Do you use gestures and body language when communicating with others? Do you believe that you are able to make your points strong by using nonverbal communication? How good are you in nonverbal communication?

Check it out with this questionnaire.

Questionnaire - Nonverbal communication

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