Nonverbal Communication

Sometimes saying nothing says everything

As you can see by the pie chart, a majority of our daily communication is nonverbal.

Only 7 percent of our messages are delivered through words.  Thirty eight percent are through vocal.  This includes our tone of voice, the pitch, etc.  The remaining 55 percent of the message comes from the person's body language.

Albert Mehrabian, Silent Messages:  Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes, 2nd ed., Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, CA, 1981, pp. 75-80.


The next time you go out in public, do some observation on body language.

Watch as two people are talking.  Even though you can't hear what they are saying, you can guess how each person is feeling.  Look at their body language. 

How are they standing?  Are they standing apart and with good posture or are they close together and hunched together sharing a secret? 

When it is a public conversation, people usually stand straight with an arm's length of space between them.  If it is a private conversation, they move in closer so that they can't be overheard when they talk.

Where are their arms?  People who are open to a your message have their arms down to their side.  Someone who isn't interested in the message or disagrees with the message will likely have their arms crossed in front of them. 

When you are trying to read body language, it is important to pay attention to the entire picture.  What is their facial expression? 

Your eyes have a lot to say.  Eye contact is a powerful communication tool.  When you have good eye contact, you say a lot about yourself.  You are saying that you are confident in yourself and your message. 

Good eye contact is vital for success in the business world in the United States.  Normally, people expect around 5 - 10 seconds of eye contact with an individual.  If it is too short, then you are "saying" that you don't believe in yourself or your message.  If the eye contact is too long, it becomes uncomfortable to the other person.  You are staring at them.

Watch your facial expressions!

Your facial expression is able to communicate thousands of emotions.  But, it isn't always easy to read someone else's facial expression. 

Be sure to smile when you are talking to your customer.  A smile is universal and very rarely misunderstood. 

What is the person in the picture thinking?  We don't know because their facial expression could mean that they are unhappy, angry, or were simply concentrating right before the picture was taken.

If their facial expressions are unclear, ask questions to establish good communication.

Nonverbal communication can make or break a company.  Is your body lanugage and facial expression saying something different than your verbal message?

Be aware of how people perceive your nonverbal communication.  Also, be alert to how you are perceiving someone else's nonverbal communication.  If you are not sure, ask questions.