What is nonverbal communication?
Communication is comprised of the verbal and nonverbal aspects.
The verbal component is words; the nonverbals are the facial expressions, voice patterns, gestures, body language (including the amount of space between people), locations and breathing.
Often each culture has their own language (verbal) and their style of delivery (nonverbals). The concept of “culture” is not limited to nations. Every person has several identities (think: parent, spouse, sibling, professional, community member, at home vs. work), and often each identity has its own culture.
We have recorded people and asked them to talk about their responsibilities… after 2 minutes, we ask them to talk about another arena of their world. When we play back the footage, it is clear that their eye contact, how often they blink, voice speed, intonation, undulation, frequency and amplitude of gestures, sitting up straight vs. leaning forward is markedly different.
Surprisingly, the single most important nonverbal component is breathing. Neuroscience indicates high, shallow breathing releases chemicals of fight with every inhalation.
How do I communicate better nonverbally?
Research shows that people respond much more to the nonverbal aspects (80-90%) of communication than the literal words.
We all have been impressed with the statement, “Bond, James Bond!” The way the actor has his voice curl down at the end conveys confidence and competence; the pausing between words indicates the comfort and credibility of the speaker.
If you think such traits are limited to acting, watch the Hudson River Plane Landing video and just listen to the pilot landing the plane. To communicate well non-verbally, you have to have the ability to recognize, label, predict the effect, and respond to non-verbal patterns of communication.