Dealing With The Endless Types Of Nonverbal Communication

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.

The endless types of nonverbal communication have been the subjects of numerous good writings. The larger part of our communication is totally nonverbal.

Using the popular breakdown of fifty-five percent of our communication being nonverbal cues and thirty-eight percent being tones of voice, right there we have ninety-three percent of our communication being nonverbal. The seven percent left is verbal.

Within that nonverbal communication is where we find the types of nonverbal communication. The human individual responds to constant nonverbal cues and projections from one another. These silent signs and wonders can often make or break our communication since they actually speak louder than words.

These non verbal cues are silent statements about current or immediate situations or relationships not verbalized, that clothe our words either constructively or destructively. They often reveal emotions and attitudes people hold toward their own selves and others.

Nonverbal messages may qualify the words people use or they may betray discrepancies between the words and true feelings. For example one may say one thing but really mean another altogether. And this may even be unconscious on the part of the one saying it. Well, unconscious until they are made aware of what they are doing.

I remember the financial partner of a training company telling his staff there was no money to buy needed shelving for training materials, which they had been asking him for. Yet he took off every Friday in his Mercedes Benz to take his kids to Wonderland playgrounds. Actions speak louder than words.

There was also the owner of a small publishing business, I recall, telling of his disappointing experience when he went up to shake the hand of a motivational speaker he admired greatly. The speaker scanned straight passed him throughout the crowd, ignoring his admirer's handshake and complimenting words. Actions speak louder than words.

So, right here we could name these actions as being types of nonverbal communication: 'saying one thing and doing another' (the nonverbal part here is that which lies behind the words spoken), 'ignoring the person you're shaking hand with' (here it would be the behavior which is demonstrated).

Researchers have found that some specific acts have specific meanings. Head and facial movements, tone of voice and gestures give information about the type of emotion being expressed; body position and tension reveal the intensity of the feeling.

For example, I noticed a lot of people actually grimace while listening to someone laboring to express feelings or ideas. They are really saying "what are you saying", "why can't you tell it fluently" or "come on get it out", which can be condescending and offending. Rather they should patiently wait for the person to express him/herself in the best way he/she can.

Another type of example is someone dozing off during a speaker's presentation; this says something about the feelings of that participant toward the presenter or the company represented by that speaker. Or it simply tells about him/her own negative attitude.

To list the types of nonverbal and verbal phenomena which may be acoustic or non-acoustic (vocal or gesture), is often difficult. Research has shown that nonverbal communication is a lot more subtle and difficult to neatly categorize then what it was thought to be in the seventies.

We can make up a popular list of nonverbal types of communication such as, facial expression, gesture, attitude, posture, behavior, action, tone of voice, personality traits, cultural innuendos, appearance, presentation, stress, emotion, style -- all of these are only a partial list.

But within these types are also added their adjectives: smiling, frowning, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, signals, waving, pointing, loudness, pitch, inflection, strength, weakness, enthusiasm, depression, hesitancy, boldness, interested, disinterested, defensive, offensive, expectations, interpretations, ethical, situational, perceptional, spatial, social, normal, abnormal, familiarity, unfamiliarity, formal, informal, casual, looks, stares, blinks, friendliness, hostility, touch, contact, deficiency, abundance, hairstyles, clothing, color, mood, etc. etc.

Realistically, there will also be points of overlap -- behaviors that fit some aspects of one category and some aspects of another. So interpreting the endless types of nonverbal communication requires a meticulously careful and trained analysis in order to recognize and judge constructively./dmh
Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.

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