Nonverbal Communication – Definition, Importance and Types

Published by: Hitesh Bhasin

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Nonverbal communication is the process of sharing or transmitting and receiving a message, idea, or information through nonverbal signals without spoken or written words. It is often understood body language, as communication is done through body movements, hand gestures, postures, etc.

You can also use nonverbal communication to empower your verbal communication or verbal messages and make it more effective. It refers to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), body language, posture, and other nonverbal communication methods.

What Is Nonverbal Communication? 

Definition: Nonverbal communication is defined as a way of communicating through nonverbal signals without using written or spoken words or other verbal mediums. This form of communication has long been acknowledged as an essential part of interpersonal communication. Your nonverbal communication abilities can make a favorable (or wrong) impression.

Nonverbal communication is almost as crucial as verbal communication while looking for a job or participating in a meeting or just interacting with someone. As per anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell’s study of kinesics, nonverbal communication accounts for 65+ % of all communication. Hence it is clear that non-verbal message accounts for a sizable component of our communication.

Importance of Nonverbal Communication

Every day, we respond to hundreds of nonverbal clues and behaviors, including postures, facial expressions, eye gazing, gestures, and tone of voice, according to experts. Nonverbal cues reflect who we are and influence how we interact with others, from our handshakes to haircuts.

There can be several meanings associated with our body language for instance arms crossed might appear defensive while a downward glance or avoidance of eye contact might show that you are not confident. Poor postures or nonverbal cues might give the impression that you are unprofessional.

Your nonverbal communication cues—the way you listen, look, move, and react—tell the person with whom you’re interacting whether or not you care, whether or not you’re being genuine, and how effectively you’re listening.

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When your nonverbal cues match what you’re saying, it boosts trust, clarity, and rapport. They can cause tension, mistrust, and uncertainty if they don’t. If you want to improve your communication skills, you must become more aware of the body language and nonverbal signs of others and your own.

Types of Nonverbal Communication


The publication of Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872 marked the beginning of scientific research on nonverbal communication and behavior.

Since then, a great deal of research has been done on the many forms, impacts, and manifestations of unspoken communication and behavior.

While these messages are sometimes so faint that we are unaware of them, research has identified nine primary forms of nonverbal communication including facial expressions, gestures, postures, etc. Let us have a look at different types of nonverbal communications here and now-

1. Expressions on the Face

Facial expressions account for a large amount of nonverbal communication.

Consider how much information a grin or a frown may communicate. The expression on someone’s face is frequently the first thing we notice, even before we hear what they have to say.

While nonverbal communication and behavior vary significantly among countries, the facial emotions for happiness, sorrow, anger, and fear are universal.

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2. Gestures

Deliberate gestures and signals are a practical approach to conveying meaning without using words. Waving, pointing, and using fingers to signify numerical quantities are all common gestures. Other gestures are arbitrary and cultural.

Lawyers have been known to use various nonverbal cues in courtrooms to try to affect juror opinions. An attorney may look at his watch to indicate that the other lawyer’s case is monotonous, or he may even roll his eyes at a witness’s testimony in an attempt to undermine their credibility.

3. Paralinguistics

Paralinguistics is the study of voice communication that is distinct from actual language. The tone of voice, volume, inflection, and pitch are examples of such elements.

Consider the impact that a person’s tone of voice may have on the meaning of a statement. Listeners may understand approbation and enthusiasm if spoken in a loud tone of voice.

When the exact words are said in a hesitant tone, they may imply disdain and a lack of interest.

4. Posture and Body Language

Posture and movement may also communicate a lot of information. nonverbal signals

Since the 1970s, there has been a significant increase in body language research.

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However, popular media has concentrated on the over-interpretation of defensive postures, arm-crossing, and leg-crossing, particularly with Julius Fast’s book Body Language.

5. Proxemics

People frequently speak to their desire for “personal space,” which is also a kind of nonverbal communication.

A variety of factors determine the amount of distance we require and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us, including social conventions, cultural expectations, situational considerations, personality traits, and level of familiarity.

6. Eye Gaze

The eyes play a vital part in nonverbal communication, and nonverbal activities such as gazing, staring, and blinking are crucial.

When people contact people or things they enjoy, their blink rate rises, and their pupils dilate.

7. Haptics

Another crucial nonverbal action is communicating through touch.

A large amount of study has been conducted on the role of communication in infancy and early childhood.

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8. Appearance

Color, dress, hairstyles, and other aspects influencing appearance are all considered nonverbal communication.

Color psychology research has shown that various hues may elicit different feelings.

9. Artifacts

Objects and visuals can also be utilized to communicate nonverbally.

For example, in an online forum, you may choose an avatar to reflect your identity and transmit information about yourself and what you like.

Roles of Nonverbal Communication

From many different types of functions, nonverbal communications primarily play five different roles and they are-

1. Complementing

Nonverbal signals may supplement or add to your vocal message. If a supervisor pats an employee on the back in addition to praise, it will amplify the effect of his or her message.

2. Repetition

Nonverbal cues generally help in the repetition and enforcement of the message you’re conveying orally.

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3. Substitution

Different types of nonverbal communication can be used in place of vocal communication like your facial expression might frequently transmit a considerably more powerful message than your words.

4. Contradiction

The nonverbal signal might contradict the message you’re attempting to express, implying to your audience that you’re not speaking the truth.

5. Accentuation

Non-verbal communication can emphasize or underscore a spoken statement. For example, when parliament members pound of the table, it would emphasize the significance of your statement.

How to Enhance Your Nonverbal Messages?

How to Enhance Your Nonverbal Messages

To increase your nonverbal communication skills, follow the steps:

1. Take some time to grin

A grin might make others around you feel more at ease. It gives the impression of being welcome and pleasant, and it encourages others to listen to you.

2. Be vivacious

Maintain a competitive advantage at all times. An erect stance conveys professionalism and piques the curiosity of others. Others will undoubtedly perceive you as an inspiration if you are attentive and energetic.

3. Examine your body language

Observe your body language for a week as an experiment. During meetings, presentations, and informal interactions, pay attention to your posture, facial expressions, and body language.

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4. Recognize how your emotions affect your physical health

Emotions affect both the mind and the body. Frustration, boredom, strength, and joy all have varied effects on your body. When you are nervous, you may sense a tight stomach.

5. Nonverbal communication should be done with the intention

When interacting with people, use caution when utilizing body language or facial expressions. When you are aware, open, and content with your surroundings, try making a good gesture.

6. Find and employ alternative effective nonverbal skills

Observing individuals around you and how they interact nonverbally might help you figure out what works successfully in your workplace. You can enhance your nonverbal communication by mimicking a body language style or a facial expression that you find effective. For example, if you observe someone nodding their head to indicate approval, you can nod your head as well.

7. Learn Right Nonverbal Communication Skills

Nonverbal communication is a very complicated yet essential component of total communication abilities. People, on the other hand, are frequently wholly unconscious of their nonverbal behavior. To brush up on your nonverbal communication skills, you should try to incorporate the right nonverbal ways of communicating.

Examples of Nonverbal Communication Skills

Some of the examples of right nonverbal communication skills are-

  1. You should avoid slouching, plus you need to eliminate fidgeting and shaking of limbs
  2. You should introduce yourself with a smile and a firm handshake, plus your palms must be dry
  3. It is important that your hands are away from your face and hair, plus you should listen carefully and do not interrupt.
  4. It would be good to maintain open arms, as folded arms might convey defensiveness
  5. You should modulate your vocal tone for expressing excitement and punctuating key points, plus you should use nods to demonstrate understanding
  6. Try to stay away from smiles or laughter when messages are serious, plus you need to focus on the conversation
  7. Using some animation with your hands and facial expressions will help you in projecting a dynamic presence
  8. You should not bring your phone or a drink or anything else that might distract you during an interview or meeting
  9. You need to make frequent but not continuous or piercing eye contact with the speaker or listener, plus when you are participating in a group interview, you should shift eye contact to the various speakers
  10. It is good to observe the reaction of others to your statements, plus you should read the nonverbal signals of others
  11. You need to refrain from forced laughter in response to humor, plus you should avoid looking at the clock, or phone, or any other signs of disinterest
  12. You should respect the amount of personal space preferred by your communication partners, plus you should shake hands firmly without any excessive force
  13. You should stay calm even at times when you’re nervous, plus you should stay away from monotone delivery


Nonverbal communication is vital in conveying meaning and information to others and has been a significant force behind successful personal, professional, and business communications.

Interpreting the behaviors of people around us is the usual human tendency, and therefore, we must be aware of our nonverbal behaviors while communicating with someone.

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What a person says something, his or her emotions, look, and tone of voice may reveal a lot about what that person is attempting to communicate.

How effective do you consider nonverbal communications for optimizing the results of a communication process? Share your opinion with us in the comment section below.

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Article by:

Hitesh Bhasin

Hitesh Bhasin is the CEO of Digiaide and his vision is to make business knowledge accessible to everyone.