The Spoken and Unspoken: 5 Principles of Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication

Most (emotionally significant) communication is through body language. What is communicated with expressions, mannerisms and movement – the non-verbal – is just as important, if not more so, than what’s spoken. While non-verbal cues can add to the meaning and comprehension of a communication, it can also lead to confusion. Here are 5 key points to remember:

1. Culture, Age, and Gender are Important.
Gestures may mean very different things in different countries. Cultural and family norms also impact mannerisms, as well as the way we react to non-verbal cues.

2. Context. 
This is one of the most important principles. If someone has their arms crossed it may just mean they are cold. Before jumping to conclusions, consider the big picture and your broader relationship with the individual.

3. Clusters.
You may have heard the saying, “the body doesn't lie.” Non-verbal communication can reveal one’s “real” meaning and "leaks" through multiple channels. Take note of the entire communication – from head to toe – rather than focuses in on one particular signal such as crossed arms, lack of eye contact, or a furrowed brow. Put the verbal and non-verbal together to understand the entire meaning and intent.

4. Incongruence. 
When words and body language don't match we have a tendency to distrust that individual. Psychological discomfort may indicate lying, it may mean other things, as well. Dominance, ego, rapport, and insecurity are often rooted in a deeper, emotionally-based origin.

5. Trust Your Intuition. 
Intuition is the unconscious processing of information (e.g. subtle body language signs) that is fed back to us in a physical way – an uneasiness or that pit in the bottom of your stomach. Most people have a “sixth sense” when it comes to the lack of authenticity or sincerity. Yet, they often bypass that feeling in the heat of the moment. Practice listening to that inner voice that is picking up on cues perhaps too subtle to ascertain.