How Silence Becomes a Powerful Non-Verbal Tool of Communication?

Silence speaks when words fall short. Silence uses neither words, nor sounds or syllables. Yet it acts as a subtle means of communication. It is both strength and weakness. This article is about the mysterious power of silence. It attempts to explore how silence empowers one to communicate at a deeper level of communication where even words fail. Let us unravel the hidden force of silence.

Silence is golden‘, is what we have always known but do we also know that silence is a type of Non-verbal Communication?

Keep silence‘ can be seen on signages in hospitals or reading rooms.

Finger on your lips‘ or ‘Pin drop silence‘ are commonly used idioms in kindergarten or primary schools.

In public speaking platforms the anchor always announces ” Ladies and gentlemen, please put your mobiles on silent mode”and while travelling by air we are requested “to put our mobiles on silent mode.”

So whoever said that silence doesn’t speak?

Silence on the bank of a river is tranquility, silence on the hill top is meditation, silence in the lap of mother nature is divine.

Silence in a prayer service is repect, silence in condolence is homage, silence in classrooms is discipline, silence in hospitals is consideration, silence in argument is wisdom, silence in anger is pain, silence in pain is patience, silence in peace is an agreement, silence in solitude is contemplation.

Silence is powerful but silence in injustice is cowardice. Silence is strength, silence is hope but staying silent against wrong is weakness.

Silence is cold, chilling and frightening in fear, misery and death.

In love, silence is beautiful. When the eyes speak and the heart listens silence is bliss. Silence then becomes faith, silence in love becomes trust.

The language of silence is not words , not sounds, not metre nor syllables, it is deeper language of heart and mind. It is an expression of emotions which are strong and profound.

Silence speaks if you have ears to listen and heart to feel. Keep listening!

Some Annoying Non-Verbal Actions that You Should Always Avoid

People do frame opinions about you based on your non-verbal communication. It is upto you that how you want your public image to be framed. Do you wish to be recognised as a sensible, sensitive, responsible and intelligent individual or you wish to appear as an irresponsible, unpleasant, insensitive and foolish person?

The choice is yours. Remember image and reputation management is a necessary marketing strategy in todays competitive environment.

In the previous post I discussed about how Non-Verbal communication plays a pivotal role in the process of communication. Through this post I wish to throw light on some basic and quite commonplace human behaviour which knowingly or unknowingly turns out to be annoying to the onlooker or a keen observer. Most people are blind or ignorant to these gestures as they lack the ability to recognise the implications of these gestures. Here we will devote considerable attention to such common yet annoying behaviour.

  • Bangbang: No, I Have no intention to coin any new theory of evolution rhyming with the one named Big bang. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that many people while making presence in public gatherings like meetings, seminar halls, convocations, examination halls or auditoriums are highly insensitive to opening and closing doors while stepping in and out of the room. They just unintentionally bang the doors behind them , leaving behind a disturbed and annoyed audience. We can show more sensitivity to people by handling the doors more gently.
  • Drumming and whistling in public places : Yes drumming and whistling might be a great idea while enjoying leisure time with your friends but not in a formal setting. In a classroom, formal meeting, Interview or a conference hall, it is best to refrain from such actions. Such actions draw more negative attention than positive appreciation. Drumming could be interpreted as a symptom of anxiety or casual behaviour. Whistling again, may be interpreted as a mocking gesture or lack of self-control.
  • Pushing aside people, while trying to make way for oneself: Very annoying and offensive behaviour is one when people walk/ brush past against you pushing you or hurting you and then act so indifferent as if they did nothing. They do not feel the need to apologise and walk away from the scene. It only shows poor civic sense and people label you as rude and uncultured.
  • Acting funny in response to serious discussion or situations: Some people are so fascinated by the idea of cracking jokes that they try to bring in their characteristic humour in every situation. Irrespective of the fact where they are or in whose company they are sitting, some people are  always absorbed in their own thoughts.  Little do they realise that using humour every now and then in response to serious questions or grave discussions can become a serious offence if used without context and lack of judgement. It shows absence of consideration (One of the 7 C’s of communication) and comes across as an irresponsible behaviour.
  • Diverging from the central theme of discussion to avoid confrontationThere is another special category of people who always try to streamline the communication as per their liking. They override your arguments with illogical explanations simply to divert the flow of communication. They use this strategy as a weapon for self-defense. Such a communication where one tries to mask ones mistakes by using illogical and irrational arguments to divert the attention and escape from the uncomfortable situation is often judged as escapist or arrogant behaviour. It is important to confront the fears instead of trying to hide them under the carpet.
  • Staying glued to ones mobile while someone is talking: Highest form of discourteousness observed in todays mobile generation is staying glued to ones mobile when someone is speaking. This is nothing less than showing disrespect to the speaker. Eye contact is a significant way to send feedback to the speaker. Avoiding eye-contact may send the wrong signal and strain the relations with the speaker and create misunderstandings.

People do frame opinions about you based on your non-verbal communication. It is upto you that how you want your public image to be framed. Do you wish to be recognised as a sensible, sensitive, responsible and intelligent individual or you wish to appear as an irresponsible, unpleasant, insensitive and foolish person?

The choice is yours. Remember image and reputation management is a necessary marketing strategy in todays competitive environment. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal is an indespensible tool in reputation management.

Non-Verbal Communication 

If words are the basic unit of a dialogue, the aspects of non -verbal communication are the supporting pillars that impart value to the process of communication. 

There are twofold benefits of Non-verbal communication.First, it helps the sender to communicate effectively,second it offers significant information to the observant receiver about the sender’s intent and potential. Non-verbal communication performs five important functions in the process of communication:
1. Helps to reinforce the spoken or written words
2. Helps to regulate the flow of communication
3. Helps the receiver to retain information

Communication is a process of creating meaningful conversations and Speak With Conviction, Lead with Confidence
connections through the medium of language. Language is the basic tool of communication. Language encapsulates the meaning, purpose, tone and emotions of the communicator.

Language may be classified as definite language or indefinite language. A definite language is one which is structured , which has a distinct sound system, a fixed vocabulary, a syntax to govern the rules of sentence and structure and an evolved system of semantics and pragmatics. Hindi,English, Sanskrit, German, French etc. are examples of definite language. Indefinite language relies on clues, signs, symbols, gestures, postures , abstract images, and para-linguistic features to develop a system of meaning. The sign language hieroglyphics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieroglyph) used by ancient Egyptians in their writing system can be considered as an example of such type of language. Meaning in non-verbal communication is interpreted on the basis of sharp judgement and rehearsed reading of body, mind and images as it goes beyond the spoken or written  words to define an idea.
If words are the basic unit of a dialogue, the aspects of non -verbal communication are the supporting pillars that impart value to the process of communication.

There are twofold benefits of Non-verbal communication.First, it helps the sender to communicate effectively,second it offers significant information to the observant receiver about the sender’s intent and potential. Non-verbal communication performs five important functions in the process of communication:
1. Helps to reinforce the spoken or written words
2. Helps to regulate the flow of communication
3. Helps the receiver to retain information
4. Offers significant insights about the personality, emotional state, intention and competence level of the participants
5. It can be a valuable source of feedback for the sender

Have you ever wondered why we use punctuation marks in written communication? Why do we not write in a plain style without using Periods (.), commas (,),Question marks(?) or Apostrophe (‘)? Punctuation marks are a way to make the reader aware of the opening and closing of ideas. A comma is an indicator of a pause, a semi-colon. Punctuation marks give intended meaning to the language. Wrong placement of punctuation marks can completely mislead the reader and result in a disaster for example;

Let us eat, daddy. 
Let us eat daddy.

In the first sentence daddy is being called for dinner. However, in the second sentence, daddy himself has become an item to be eaten.

Similarly, in spoken communication we use Para-linguistic features such as voice, pitch, tone, speed and rhythm to make our message more clear and impressive. These features reveal unspoken facets of the speakers personality like understanding of subject-matter,   confidence, sincerity, leadership, social intelligence, persuasive skills and consideration for the audience. If your voice is too soft, it is suggestive of low level of confidence; if it is too harsh it suggests over-confidence or lack of civic sense. If the tone is flat with no rise or fall, it reflects poor or average communication skills and lack of emotional dynamics in the message. Tone variation (Intonation) https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/speaking/intonationis essential to stress or emphasize a particular point or idea. Moreover, it makes the message engaging and entertaining to the listener. The speed of your message delivery should be moderate, that is neither too fast nor too slow to connect to your audience. You want the audience to listen and respond to your message rather than to be put off by your fast speeding speech or slow, mundane expression.

Non-verbal communication is not restricted to just these para-linguistic features or Vocalics.

The other types of Non- Verbal ways of communicating include:

  • Kinesics:  This is one of the most crucial factor in the study of non-verbal communication. It is the study of body language. It is further classified into postures and gestures. Posture is related to the position of your back-bone and gesture is related to your limb movements. The  study of various eye movements and facial expressions is also included under this branch of Non-verbal communication.
  • Proxemics: It is the study which explains how space is used by people to communicate at different levels. The distance that we maintain while communicating with others defines our level of comfort, intimacy and  also our cultural identity. This study was conducted by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the year 1960. On the basis of this study the concept of space is broadly classified into four zones namely,
  1.           Public zone
  2.            Social zone
  3.            Personal zone
  4.            Intimate zone
  • Haptics: It is the science of touch. Touch is a sensitive tool of communication and should be used judiciously and by keeping in mind its cultural connotations. A pat on the back may communicate sympathy, support or encouragement. Various types of hand shakes may be studied under this branch of communication. Touch can be healing and therapeutic. It can be harmful or offensive too.
  •  Chronemics:  is the study of the role of time in communication. It reflects the way in which person perceives and values time. Time perception communicates an individuals punctuality and willingness to wait. It plays a huge role in non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication is a broad area and covers a wide range of major and minor elements which have not been discussed here. To gain a detailed insight into the fascinating world of gestures, postures, symbols and images keep reading.  There is more to what meets the eye. Your appearance, choice of clothes you make, the colours you wear and the accessories that you carry, they all leave a unique impression and give away valuable information about you  and your character to the observer. So be careful of what you wear and how you look.

It is worth mentioning that only 35% of our communication is through words. This means that 65% of our communication is constituted of Non-verbal means of communication! This factAAEAAQAAAAAAAA2fAAAAJDZkOGRlZDAwLWUzZGMtNDUxNS05MmRhLTA5YTQ3NGU0ODIxOA itself speaks of its role in our lives.