We explain what non-verbal communication is, what are its characteristics and elements. In addition, how it is classified and examples.
What is nonverbal communication?
When we talk about nonverbal communication we mean all those forms of communication that do not use language as a vehicle and system to express themselves . That is, all those means of transmission of a message that do not require words or verbal language.
We must not confuse non-verbal communication with non-oral communication, that is, the one that does not pass through the spoken voice. One can write on paper or use sign language (such as the language of the deaf and dumb) and be using the language but through different media or representation systems .
Nonverbal communication has to do with gestures, sounds, movements and other paralinguistic elements , that is, they usually accompany the use of verbal language to clarify and channel it. So much so that it is possible not to verbally convey a message contrary to what is expressed by words.
Animals also exercise a certain type of nonverbal communication . Only the human being is capable, instead, of a verbal language.
Characteristics of nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication does not follow the same basic rules as verbal, so it does not have a syntax (a specific order of appearance of the signs) but is articulated based on context and circumstances . There is a certain margin of conventionality in some cases, such as in the movements of the head to indicate a “yes” or a “no”, but even those gestures are not universal and in some cultures they are interpreted backwards.
On the other hand, it is a form of non-discretionary communication , which depends on the capacity of the sender and the receiver to capture and interpret the message in an appropriate manner, since there is no common or universal code that intermediates. In this type of communication, non-logical aspects of our mind, such as emotionality and empathy, have a greater predominance .
Elements of nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication complies with the communication circuit of any kind: it has a sender, a receiver, a message, a channel and a certain code (since there is no conventional language to turn to). That means that the messages are made through other senses and using other parts of the body, such as:
- Transmitter. He uses his eyebrows, his smile, his mouth (to make faces), his eyes and the direction in which he looks, his body posture, his brow, his distance from the other, when not his voice ( rhythm and tone, nothing more) or Your manual gestures.
- Receiver. Whoever receives the message mainly uses his sight and his ear, although he does not receive words, but tones and sequences.
In that sense, nonverbal communication is much more versatile than that spoken , since it has a more free set of meanings and signs to elaborate and can even incorporate contextual elements: point to an object or direction, take an object, or perform a mimicry or imitation of an action that you want to transmit.
Types of nonverbal language
When we talk about nonverbal language, we mean:
- Gesture Movements of the hands, all limbs or displacements of the head, which can be more or less complex and more or less specific, according to the intention. We often use them together with language as a form of accompaniment to achieve greater precision.
- Facial expressions. There is a certain congenital conditioning in the human being that allows us to recognize facial expressions from very early ages: a smile, a frown, a rabid face. A whole range of emotions are expressed more or less instinctively in our countenance.
- Body posture. Depending on how we position the body, we can also convey emotions, sensations or inspire the other certain feeling. This also has evolutionary reminiscences, which associate size with force, submission to dejection, etc. Many animals communicate this way.
- Physical appearance. The complex code of fashions, clothing, accessories, haircuts and a whole communicative aspect (which in many cases can be unconscious) also constitutes nonverbal language.
- Paralanguage Here, non-linguistic sounds are classified: not words or expressions of language but sounds that refer to sensations or information in a non-verbal way due to their tone, speed or volume, or to the emotional association made with certain sounds . The crying of a baby, for example, goes into these types of communicative acts.
- Haptic It refers to the physical contact we make with whom we communicate, either to reinforce a verbal message or to communicate something without having to say it. Touching is a strong message broadcast and not in all cultures is well seen or allowed.
- Proxemic It refers to the management of the space between sender and receiver, through which intimacy, aggressiveness, passion and other information can be suggested.
Kinesic nonverbal communication
Kinesic or kinetic is another name for verbal communication through body language, that is, through limb and torso movements that have an expressive, appellative or communicative meaning, and that can go alongside verbal language or its replacement. In that sense, it belongs to the parallel languages: the forms of nonverbal communication available to the human being, which are more or less codified in culture, without losing a certain instinctive sense.
Examples of nonverbal communication
Some examples of nonverbal communication can be:
- A tourist travels to China and decides to buy street food. As he does not speak the language, he points to the seller the product he wants and shows him two extended fingers (the index and the ring finger). The seller understands how many he wants to buy.
- The players of a soccer team win a match and, at the end, raise their arms and shout in unison. Thus they express their joy to each other, without having to mediate.
- A woman tries to seduce a man in a bar and for that it promotes eye contact, smiles a lot and makes gestures that invite him to look at her. All this is part of a nonverbal communication whose purpose is to promote romance.