The Characteristic Of Nonverbal Communication English Language Essay

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What is nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is all messages sent by ones except for words in a communication. These messages are for example, tone of voice, facial message, eye contact, spatial message and many more. Nonverbal communication usually conveys more meaning than verbal communication. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, nonverbal communication is 93% of overall daily communication. This statistic shows that nonverbal communication is very important in our daily life. When we speak, we usually not just talk with word, nonverbal message convey more messages than talking. Therefore, we can conclude that verbal and nonverbal work simultaneously in communication. In the following paper will be showing the importance of nonverbal communication based on example and the types of nonverbal communication.

Characteristic of nonverbal communication

There are about five characteristic of nonverbal communication:

Nonverbal communication occur constantly

In every daily life, we have to make communication. Eye contact, smile, frown, or totally ignore someone, you are actually communicating something. For instance, when you having conversation with someone, you are not just saying it, it will be include your tone of voice, body language and facial expression. Nonverbal communication can convey a message through both verbal and with correct body signals. The way you listen, look, and react in a conversation, make other person know how you care about the conversation.

Nonverbal communication depends on the context

Your direct eye contact to a stranger can mean entirely different from the direct eye contact with your friend. When you talk to your friend, your relaxed tone of voice, eye contect, and posture reveal how much you value for this relationship. These happen because nonverbal communication is interpret within the context of your friendship and is complemented by casual and personal conversation.

Nonverbal communication is more believable than verbal communication

Consider this conversation between a mother and her daughter regarding her daughter's husband:

"What's wrong with you and Chad?" asks Jess's mother.

(Stare and frown) "Whatever, I'm not upset, why should I be?" respond Jess.

"you seem to be in funk, and you are avoiding talking to me. So what's wrong? Did you and Chad have a fight?" asks Jess's mother.

"I said nothing is wrong! Leave me alone! Everything is fine!" (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011)

Throughout the conversation, we can feel that Jess is upset and sending a message that she has a fight with her husband. Nonverbal message is more difficult to be control compare to verbal message because nonverbal cues represent our emotion which is more difficult to control. Beside this, "nonverbal is often suggest as unintentional and subconsciously generated" (Seiler, W. J. & Beall, M. L. , 2011).

Nonverbal communication is a primary means of expression

We are easily able to detect emotion like anger, frustration, sadness, or anxiety without people telling it because nonverbal cues are so powerful. Almost all our feeling can be expressed through our nonverbal behavior.

Nonverbal communication is related to culture

Different culture contributes different view in nonverbal behavior. For example, the forming of an O with index finger and thumb, which means OK or good work in America, may have insult meaning in other country (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011). Still some innate behavior such as smiling is a universal nonverbal cue giving people a sign of friendly feeling.

Function of nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication adds our exchanges by complementing, repeating, regulating and substituting for our words. Sometimes, we even use it to deceive others (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011). Table 1 shows the function as well as importance of nonverbal communication.

Table 1





To complete, describe, or accents a verbal message

When you saying "I'm happy to meet you" with a welcoming smile and a warm handshake.


Express a message that are identical meaning to verbal one

A motion of your head and hand to restate your verbal "let's go."


Controls flow of communication

Shaking your head left and right to indicate that you have no interest on the thing.


Replace verbal message with nonverbal cues

Signal "OK" with a hand gesture.


Nonverbal cue that purposely mislead to create false impression

When playing cards, one will showing the 'poker face' to mask their facial expression, not revealing how good or bad their hand is.

The channels of nonverbal messages

The basic of nonverbal communication consists of facial expression, body language, eye contact, spatial message, touch message, tone of voice, silence and artifacts. Following are detail that explains each nonverbal cue that related to the importance of nonverbal communication in our daily life.

Facial message

Facial movements are able to do at least eight emotions: happy, surprise, anger, fear, sad, disgust, contempt, and interest (Ekman, Friesen, Ellsworth, 1972). These emotion are universal regardless any culture. Of overall body motion, facial expression conveys the most information and is reliable when decode. But from time to time, human had learned to conceal our real feeling from others. There is some technique on facial management. You will mask yourself when your friend receives a scholarship and you don't, even though you think you deserve it. When you visit a distant relative's funeral, you will be look completely sorry as you losing someone tonight. But instead you not really feel the sadness because you are not close to him. These kinds of actions are required as to have a polite interaction with other people.

Body language

Body language is often refer as kinesics which means 'any movement of face or body communicate a message' (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011, p.122). Body messages consist of body movement and general appearance of body. Table 2 shows the characteristic of body movement and its example.

Table 2





Body gesture directly translate into words or phrases

The OK sign, the thumb-up for 'good job', and V for victory.


Accent, reinforce or emphasize a verbal message

When referring to left, your hand showing to direction of left.


Monitor, control, coordinate or maintain the speaking of other individual

Eye contact, nodding of head, looking at wristwatch.

Affect displays

Body movement that express emotion

Slouching, jumping up and down


Gesture that satisfy some personal need

Scratching, smoking, smoothing hair

Eye contact

Eye message sometime known as oculesics, which means 'study of eye behavior' (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011, p.122). According to some researchers, during interactions, people spent about 45% of time looking to each other eyes (Janik & et al. , 1978). Eye contact is an important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Eye contact is important in maintaining the flow of conversation and observes for other person's response.

Spatial message

Proxemics is 'study of the use of space and of distance between individuals when they are communicating' (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011, p.130). According to Edward T. Hall's four distance zone, relationship between people can be classify into four group namely intimate space, personal space, social space, and public space. Each zone have different distance maintained. Another aspect in proxemics is territoriality, a possessive reaction to an area or particular objects. Basically we are usually in three types of territories: primary territories, secondary territories, and public territories (Altman, 1975).

Tone of voice

The term paralanguage refer to vocal but nonverbal aspect of speech. It is based on how you say something, not what you say. Paralanguage includes the rate (speed), volume (loudness), and rhythm of voice. If u speaking the same word, but differ in speed or volume or rhythm, will convey different meaning to people who perceive it.


Silence is also a part of nonverbal communication. Silence allow speaker to think, organize his or her speech or even to grab attention from people in a seminar. Sometimes, silence is necessary in some situation for example in funeral and in a speech. Silence can be use to prevent some certain topic from surfacing or to prevent someone saying something that he or she might regret.


Artifacts are personal adornments or possessions that communicate information about us. For example, color, clothing, jewelry and decoration of space. Different culture has different interpretation on color. Take black color as example, in Thailand means old ages; in parts of Malaysia means courage; in much of Europe, death (DeVito, J. A. , 2011, p.143). How do you react to people who have body piercings and tattoos? Based on the artifacts on a person, it will sent different message to us. Take this example, a person wears a suit to interview and a person wearing sweater and jeans to interview sent different message.

Touch message

Touching is one of the most primitive and sensitive ways of relating with others. Touching is referred as either tactile communication or haptics. Haptics means tactile or touch, communication; one of the most basic form of communication (Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011, p.128). Touch play significant role in encouraging, expressing care, showing support and is often more powerful than words. Touch divided into five category namely, functional-professional, social-polite, friendship-warmth, love-intimacy, and sexual arousal.Table 3 shows the category of touch and the respective examples.

Table 3




A doctor touches a patient during physical examination.


Two people shake hand or kiss in their culture to greet other people.


Two men or two women meet at airport, hug, and walk off with their arms around each other.


Two people hug, caress, embrace and kiss.

Sexual arousal

Sexual touch behavior includes foreplay and intercourse.

(Seiler, W.J. & Beall, M.L. , 2011, p.129).


Nonverbal communication encompasses everything that we communicate to others without using words. Nonverbal message is more important than verbal message because it convey more meaning than verbal does. Try to imagine a person talking with a monotony voice and saying that he is happy because he found back his lost thing. It is not what we say but how we say it with our tone of voice, body movement, use of space, touch, and appearance, all which competent communicators understand. Nonverbal cues are very useful to our daily life to enhance and deliver our emotion to other people. Still, nonverbal message should be working simultaneously with verbal message as they worked best with each other.