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What is nonverbal communication, and how does it affect your everyday life?

  • Nonverbal communication refers to message components other than words you use to generate and respond to meaning.
  • Nonverbal communication accounts for between 60 and 70 percent of the meaning in a face-to-face message.
  • In everyday life, you use nonverbal communication to express emotions, define relationships, establish power and influence, interpret verbal messages, deceive, and detect deception.

How does verbal and nonverbal communication interact to create meaning?

  • Nonverbal communication differs from verbal communication in that it is more convincing, highly contextual, learned informally, less structured, and continuous.
  • Nonverbal behaviour can repeat, complement, accent, regulate, substitute, and/or contradict verbal messages.
  • Expectancy violation theory demonstrates how your expectations about nonverbal behavior significantly affect how you interact with others and how you interpret the meaning of nonverbal messages.

What types of nonverbal communication should you pay attention to when interacting with others?

  • Nonverbal communication has many dimensions, including physical appearance, body movement and gestures, touch, facial expressions, eye behaviour, vocal expressiveness, silence, space and distance, time, and environment.
  • Physical appearance includes nonverbal elements such as attractiveness, the presence or absence of tattoos and body piercings, clothing and accessories, and hairstyles.
  • Hand movement can be classified as emblems, illustrators, and adaptors.
  • Facial expressions can function to mask, neutralize, intensify, or deintensify an emotion.
  • Proxemics is the study of how the distance between people communicates information about the nature of their relationship.
  • Edward Hall’s four spatial zones—intimate, personal, social, and public distances—are culturally determined.

How can you improve your ability to recognize, use, and adapt to nonverbal communication?

  • By observing others’ nonverbal behaviour and confirming your interpretation of its meaning, you can become more other oriented.
  • Nonverbal immediacy strategies such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, using vocal variety and appropriate body movements, and maintaining close physical distance can enhance your interactions with others.