Better Understanding Nonverbal Communication English Language Essay

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Did you know that how you say something is more effective then what you are saying? In fact, studies have found that only 7% of a message is sent through words. The other 93% is sent nonverbally, 55% includes your body language and how you look and 38% is how you say it and your tone (Mehrabian, 1986). Researches in communication suggest that many more feelings and intentions are sent and received nonverbally than verbally (Mehrabian & Wienerfollowing)., this means that if you want your message to have meaning, you have to look like you mean it and your voice has to sound like you mean it. Ways that we communicate nonverbally includes obvious behaviors such as facial expressions, eye gaze, haptics, and paralinguistic, and then the less apparent such as appearance, body language and posture, spatial distance. As you can see, it is impossible to not communicate. Everything we do there is a message in it.


Our Facial expressions play a huge proportion of nonverbal communication. Aside from using words, our face is the most important visual clue that humans use to identify one another (Ellis & Young, 1989). Facial expressions like happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are all similar all over the world (Ekman & Friesen, 1975). The facial expressions we make can be either accidentally or purposely done. Sometimes people try to hide what their feeling and emotions are behind a mask. We are all capable of making fake happy or sad faces; however the timing is what can give fake emotions away. We cannot determine when we should keep it longer or the right time to let it go.

On the other hand it's not as easy to hide our feeling with our body language then it is with our face. Body language is a visual form of communication so it means more than spoken word, our body is also can be affected by the presence of noises that may interrupt us. We are naturally more relaxed with our family, friends or when speaking to people of lower status. Posture is also a part of our body language. How you carry yourself and move yourself can convey a great deal of information. Research has found that posture conveys overall liking, while specific emotions are communicated by more discreet, facial and body movements. Self-confidence, energy, fatigue are some examples of indicating posture.

Haptics also known as touch is also an important way of communicating nonverbally. There have been a large number of researches on how important touch is when dealing with infants and early childhood. It has been found that Infants who are regularly cuddled experience faster physical development than those who are not (Field, 1995). Touch is also important because sometimes we judge people by the way someone may shake our hands. Messages are also conveyed by giving hugs, patting on someone's butt, or tapping on someone's shoulder.

Eye gaze or eye contact is especially important type of nonverbal communication. When we see something we like, we begin to blink quicker and our pupils tend to dilate. When looking at someone else it can point out a wide variety of emotions, for example attraction, interest, and anger. Keeping eye contact is very important when holding a conversation. Looking into someone else's eyes, you can indicate a positive or a negative relationship. We tend to look longer at the people that we trust, have respect for and care for, in contrast to people we don't trust or dislike. When we see something that pleases us, for example, if you someone one that you're attracted too, our pupils are visibly dilated.

Our gestures are also an important to communicate. How we use signals rather than words. Studies show that most people start using gestures even before they begin speaking even those that were born blind (Iverson, Tencer, Lany, & Goldin-Meadow, 2000) Waving, pointing and using your fingers to indicate number amounts are common gestures that we use. Using gestures can give better understanding, contradict, or can replace verbal messages. Also they help regulate the flow of a conversation. There are many different gestures that can have a different meaning to different cultures, so knowing the right way to do something is very important when you're interacting with different cultures to avoid a miscommunication.

Proxemics is the study of spatial use. Our "personal space" is also important type of communication. There are different length of distance that we feel we need which are influenced by social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics, and the level of familiarity. Studies show that someone that doesn't desire to play a big role in a group discussion are more likely to sit back, and stay out of the group leaders view (Keyton, 2006).

Paralinguistics is how we communicate using our voice but separate from the actual words. This includes our tone of voice, loudness, inflection, and our pitch. They help bring an idea of what we really mean and what our true feelings are. When you say something with a strong tone of voice, listeners might interpret approval or enthusiasm. However, if you say the same thing with a soft voice, your listeners might show disapproval and no interest in what you are saying (Cherry). The intensity of vocal communication is the amount of energy that is projected. Also the timing and pace of a conversation will reflect if someone is a good listener and their interest in the topic.

The clothes we wear, how we wear our hair, and other factors that affect our appearance is also a type of nonverbal communication. Research has shown that we think attractive people are friendlier, more competent, and more socially skilled than less attractive people (Dion, Berscheid & Walster, 1972). The advantage this is that these people tend to have more confidence and have an easier time meeting new people.

Picking up cues on nonverbal communication that you're receiving from others correctly, requires your full concentration and attention, this can be very difficult at times. High stress levels can lead to you sending mixed confusing nonverbal signals to others. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said. Try to be natural when you are using nonverbal communication and try not to copy others because you don't want to offend others when you are not trying to. It's not easy to overcome your bodies' incapability to lie. When a person tries to bluff and alter body language, it can cause more harm than good. You will send mixed signals and signs of leakage that eventually others will detect one way or another. People sometimes can make wrong accusations based on the wrong observations, which can be very embarrassing and take a long time to overcome.


I have always been interested in studying people by their nonverbal communication that's the main reason I choose this topic. I also chose this topic to strengthen my nonverbal communication skills, because when I first meet people I am sort of insecure sometimes and always try to read what people are thinking about me by looking at their facial expressions and body language. Also I play a lot of poker and I rarely ever try to bluff a hand because I don't have good bluffing skills and when someone is trying to bluff me I usually play it safe and don't ever try to read them. Doing this project not only have I learned more about nonverbal communication but I've also learned a little bit more of what to look for when I am meeting new people, and when playing poker. I've learned what to practice when I am trying to bluff a hand and what to look for when trying to read my opponents.