The importance of nonverbal communication
We communicate constantly but we don’t always use words. If you’re in a foreign country and only speak a smattering of the local language, you can still get by surprisingly well thanks to nonverbal communication. It’s vital in the workplace and the family too.
What is nonverbal communication?
Hugs, raised eyebrows, smiles, frowns – these are all examples of nonverbal communication.
Body language or nonverbal communication includes:
- Facial expressions – these are remarkably consistent across cultures
- Body movement and posture – someone with a bounce in their step seems happy while someone slumped over a desk does not
- Gestures – pointing, waving, nodding, giving a thumbs-up or a high five.
- Eye contact – an important way to forge a connection
- Touch – tickles, hugs, holding hands, supporting someone as they walk
- Space – someone standing close to you may be welcomed into your personal space because you love them or intruding upon it and making you uncomfortable
- Tone of voice – the volume, pace and inflection of your words are as important as the words themselves.
Why is nonverbal communication important?
Nonverbal communication is important because it has a strong effect on relationships both in the family and the workplace.
Often, it’s the nonverbal signals that show a person’s true feelings. Someone may say they’re:
- Fine but seem tense and edgy
- Not hiding anything but their shifty eyes seem suspicious
- Giving you their full attention when they’re moving around the room and not looking at you
- Not angry when their facial expression and posture show that they’re seething
- Having a great time but keep checking their watch.
So, yes, your nonverbal communication may easily give you away. However, the good news is that you can harness the power of nonverbal communication to improve your relationships.
Nonverbal communication strategies with children
We start communicating nonverbally with our kids the minute they’re born through skin-to-skin contact, cuddles, pats and the gentle cooing noises we instinctively make to babies. As babies grow, they make eye contact, smile and reach out for us. A strong relationship has already been built long before the baby’s first word is spoken.
If you want to improve nonverbal communication with your children, try:
- Bending down to their level, which brings you closer and helps with eye contact
- Looking at them when you or they speak
- Using gestures like nodding to communicate that you understand
- Using facial expressions like smiling to create warmth
- Touching your child often, giving plenty of cuddles (if they like that), shoulder squeezes or pats on the back
- Using nonverbal communication to reinforce your words – a bright smile when you say ‘hello’ makes clear that you’re pleased to see your child.
Your child learns a great deal from your engagement with them. As they become more adept at nonverbal communication, they’re able to recognise when a friend is sad or happy, which helps them deepen their relationships.
Nonverbal communication can also make it easier for parents to tackle difficult behaviour. If you really want your child to listen, try:
- Bending down to their level
- Holding their hand
- Making eye contact
- Using a firm tone of voice.
If your young child doesn’t speak due to a condition like nonverbal autism, verbal dyspraxia or selective mutism, then nonverbal communication is particularly important in building a relationship with them and interpreting their needs.
How SpeechEase can help
If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease and would like help to improve your speech, then we’re here for you.
Some of the SpeechEase staff are trained in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) Loud approach, an evidence-based therapy that helps you increase your volume and ability to be understood.
Please contact us today. We’d love to help you express yourself.
All information is general in nature.