Communication is a process of creating meaningful conversations and
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 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, of meaning, of emotions associated with words. A comma is an indicator of a pause, a semi-colon also separates the clauses and marks the end of the complete clause or tells us that there is something more to follow.. Punctuation marks give intended meaning to the language. Wrong placement of punctuation marks can completely mislead the reader and result in a disaster.
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) is 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,
- Public zone
- Social zone
- Personal zone
- 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 of study that covers a wide range of expressions and emotions that should be considered along with the spoken words to get a better understanding of the message .To gain a detailed insight into the fascinating world of gestures, postures, symbols and images keep your ears and eyes wide open .
There is more to what meets the eye. Tone of a speaker can betray his words, a smile can be wicked, a laugh sarcastic, a praise unworthy, a reward non-deserving, a fear baseless, a chide harmless.
Your physical appearance, clothes, the colours you wear and the accessories that you carry, they also leave behind an imprint of your personality and give away valuable information to the onlooker about you. So never ever dress up shabbily for a formal meeting, interview or even a social gathering. Dress according to the occasion. At workplace dress up in formal attire. Your party clothes or casual clothes should not be worn in formal settings just the same way as you cannot go to the gymnasium wearing your loungers or go to a swimming pool in a football jersey. Similarly, observe the dress code to workplace to avoid being out of place. Wearing clean clothes, combing your hair, maintaining good personal hygiene, a smart posture, all give you an identity. They speak about your culture, background and grooming. Non-verbal communication is a reflection of your psychology, upbringing and attitude towards people and situation.
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 testifies to the role and importance of non-verbal communication in our lives.