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Non-verbal communication or most commonly known as body language is the unspoken language of the body which is shown through our bodies to show our true intentions and hints of our feelings to the people whom we are conversing with. When we are conversing with others verbally our bodies simultaneously give out and receive signals which are transmitted by our bodies. This signal's consists of the gestures we make, how we sit, the intonation and speed of how we talk, the distance we stand when talking and the amount of eye-contact we make while conversing. All this transmits vital non-verbal messages of oneself to another. These non-verbal messages still get across to the people around even when we are silent. The verbal message and body language very frequently contradicts which leaves the listener to choose which one to believe. Usually they will choose the body language. This is the reason why our body language should send a message which is congruent to what we are saying verbally. "It is one of the biggest misconceptions to think that what is being said is more important than how it is being said. In reality only 7% of information is sent through words, the remaining 93% of communication is non-verbal. If you fail to read and de-code non-verbal messages, you set yourself up for constant misunderstandings and various communication problems". (Arina Nikitina, 2009)
Sometimes the amount of attention we give towards the person who is talking can also be portrayed by our body language. The listener will increase their trust when our body language matches what we are saying but if it doesn't, the listeners will begin to develop tension, mistrust and be confused. In order to enhance what we are saying verbally, we have to be conscious of our body language to prevent sending out a wrong non-verbal message which might misinterpret what we are saying. For example, I had a classmate in secondary school which had problems catching up with his lessons in class. This was because he was suffering from some sort of mental retardation which affects his academic performance. When teacher questions him, he would apologize but the teacher would get even more furious with him and will not accept his apology. At first I thought the teacher was insensitive but then I realized that my classmate was at fault too. This is because he did not apologize in the proper manner. His arms will be folded and while looking somewhere else he would apologize. In this case, the boy was apologizing but because of his improper body language the message he wanted to send across to the teacher was misinterpreted and the teacher thought that my classmate was being arrogant. In this scenario, the most appropriate way for my classmate to express his apology to the teacher is by looking into the teacher's eyes with his arms down and saying "sorry" with a tone full of remorse. This real life example which happened in front of my eyes clearly demonstrates the importance of body language. This also clearly demonstrates the importance of nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal communication can play five roles in speech:
Source: The Importance of Effective Communication, Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D.
The Seven Known Types of Nonverbal Communication
Although people come from different parts of the world with different cultures, they all still have the same facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust. These expressions are almost universal. For instance, if one was to attend a wedding ceremony with a sulky face, this clearly shows that he or she is unhappy with the ceremony or simply just had a bad day.
Body movements and posture
The perceptions of us from others are affected by how we sit, talk, stand or even by shaking or holding their hand. For example, when a person is in an interview with the human resource executive and starts fidgeting with his or her fingers or an object, this clearly sends a body language to the human resource executive showing that the candidate is feeling restless and in secured with his or her given credentials. This will make the human resource executive think twice before hiring this candidate.
Gestures are practically incorporated into our daily lives. Some gestures occur during our subconscious state of thought. However gestures vary from each culture to another. We must heed to the listener's cultural norms to avoid misinterpretation. In some cultures, the gesture of pointing the finger at a person is disrespectful but to another culture is perfectly fine.
The human eyes can portray someone's interest, affection, hostility or attraction towards the opposite sex. Eye contact is also another tool to show clarity of the speaker.
An example of touch as a form of nonverbal communication is a handshake. A handshake is used to convey a mutual agreement or when someone meets a new person. Besides that a warm hug is used to convey affection toward the particular person is being hugged. A pat on the back or shoulder is used for encouragement or to acknowledge someone's presence.
The distance the speaker is standing or seating towards the listener can be used to indicate the type of relationship they are having. According to Wikipedia there are four different levels of distance: intimate distance, personal distance, social distance and public distance. Intimate distance is the space for embracing each other, touching and whispering. Whereas, personal distance is the space for interactions among friends and family. On the other hand, social distance is the space for acquaintances or people whom you meet randomly or even mutual friends. The public distance is for public speakers who deliver their message to the masses to convey their thoughts and ideology. For example, politicians and professor who is giving a lecture in front of a huge number of students in an auditorium.
Saying something doesn't really make a great impact but instead the way you say something really has the potential to captivate your audiences. For example pauses can be used to show power and superiority. On the other hand, the intonation n rate of speech and enhance the understanding of the listener. For example, if one was to speak really fast I am sure that the listener would only manage to understand the gist of what the speaker was saying. This is the reason one should say what he intends to say by saying it with the proper intonation, pauses and tone to deliver his message clearly to the listener in order for him or her to understand what the speaker is saying.
The Common Misconception
Some people feel assume that they can fake body language to hide their feelings. This is a total failure; this is because the more a person tries to fake their body language the more obvious it will look completely unnatural. This will definitely portray a sense of insecurity towards the person whom he or she is conversing with. The truth, body language is the bodily reaction towards a feeling felt by the body of a person and its completely natural. This is why one cannot successfully fake his or her body language. What is said by the person runs congruently with the body language of the person. This is another well-known reason behind why nonverbal communication is just as equally important as verbal communication.
The Basic Importance of Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication can be used to gain trust from the people whom you converse with. This is because, through the body language projected, one can simply read it and if you are lying or saying the truth. Instead, if you manage to portray a confident body language, this will automatically tell the person whom you are conversing with that you are a trustworthy and honest person telling the truth. When you have gained their trust, the message which you would like to send across would be successful. Businessmen who are well of this are very successful in their courier simply because they have gained the trust of the buyer. Relationships sometimes fail because the partner is able to read the body language of his or her other half. When a person cheats on his or her partner they tend to lack eye contact frequently and appear tense and agitated as in always fidgeting with their hands. But if one wasn't cheating but it's simply his or her character to act in such a way then it will send a wrong message across to the partner. This is another importance of the knowledge of nonverbal communication in daily live.
Nonverbal communication is clearly as important as verbal communication. Basically, if everyone had more knowledge about the importance or simply just the context of nonverbal communication I am sure that the world we live in would be a more understanding and peaceful place to live in. This is the reason why institutions should promote the importance of nonverbal communication to their student to create some sort of awareness among the students and to understand the importance of nonverbal communication.