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Non-verbal communication

We, humans, interact with other humans on a daily basis in different ways be it – verbal communication, digital or written, but have you wondered about the most credible form of communication? In case you didn’t know, it is non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication for a layman, is the method of communication that conveys the mood or feeling of a person by nonverbal cues – expressions, body posture, tone of voice, eye contact – that take place automatically or spontaneously and are shown physically.

Understanding the subject matter with the help of a case study:

This case study is from 2011 by Liangguang Huang who is a professor in an English college in China. He observed the effects of non-verbal communications in a classroom which contained mostly body posture, touch, eye contact, and paralinguistics. Huang expressed that keeping lively expressions on their face and a soft smile can engage students to interact in the class by making them feel free and secure and not being under any pressure, making constant but short eye contact with students, and gestures like nodding head while explaining things or while listening to them create a sense of connection and trust between the teacher and the students. He added that using facial gestures like raising or contracting eyebrows when a student is wrong about a statement instead of directly denying their answer and completely rejecting it would lead to demotivation and grudges against the teacher and in return results in counterproductive behavior.

Huang explains the importance of eye contact as teachers get to know what the students are feeling and know their needs which should be catered to them.

Another factor that Huang emphasized was using gestures like hand movements which make the learning interesting and engaging – Psychological explanation for this can be explained with the help of the fight or flight response of our brain which tends to perceive something in speed or movement as a potential danger, therefore heightening one’s senses – leading to a more interactive environment.

Fight or Flight:

It is an automatic response to a frightening or threatening situation activated by our

sympathetic nervous system, this response taps the body into a vigilant mode i.e. stay and fight or flee. There are psychological and physiological effects of this response-

Psychological Effect:

Your brain gets activated and is more focused and reactive and can easily figure out threats. Another effect of this response can be negative – people perceive this response as a panic attack.

Physiological Effect:

Physiological responses can be the increase of blood flow because of the heart beating faster resulting in more oxygen supply to the muscles which there leads to more physical performance in life or death conditions.

Lungs increase the oxygen intake and flow which is provided to the blood.

Pupil’s size increases/dilates which allows more light to enter the eyes so that they can look out for the threats in the environment.

Skins go pale because the heart provides more blood to the muscles and supplies less to the non-essential organs.

Later Huang found the impact of touch on his students, the touch is a light touch or pat at appropriate places which should be executed carefully to avoid touching at places the student might feel uncomfortable. Normally these touches are on the back, arm, or shoulder. Students felt at ease and more attentive when Huang was in a relaxed posture while teaching, he stated that keeping a stiff or rigid posture while teaching can create a sense of tension and stress unlike when being at ease and in a relaxed position which rather gives a warm and comforting vibe.

Lastly, Huang touches upon the vital importance of paralinguistics and using it in the right way in the right situations to convey the right thing. Paralanguage of nonverbal communication does not include words but nonverbal cues such as raising the tone or dropping it to create curiosity or excitement, taking a pause, and going silent to create that silent treatment when the class is too disturbing.

Concluding this case study with how nonverbal cues make a massive difference in communication with efficient results.

What exactly is paralinguistics?

Paralinguistics in nonverbal communication mostly includes the change in volume, tempo, rhythm, range, tone, and pitch. It is a form of nonverbal communication that requires verbal speech but not exactly words, sounds like an oxymoron, right?? Let us understand this in a little depth:

The flow of speech when a person speaks whether fluent or interrupted shows confidence or anxiety.

The pitch and volume of the voice indicate emotions such as anger or frustration. Taking pauses while speaking conveys different things in different scenarios.

Pauses in a speech:

-Taking a pause before answering a question helps in recollecting and forming the right words to answer and not being repulsive.

-Sometimes a pause before saying a major term in a continuous sentence emphasizes and gives weight to the word.

-A sudden pause during chaotic conversations helps stabilize the situation.

Importance of nonverbal communication in the workplace

Since it has been briefed on what nonverbal communication is and its types, this article will now touch upon the importance of nonverbal communication at the workplace. Nonverbal cues play a significant role in shaping up your personality so that you can form a stunning first impression right off the bat whether it is your boss or your colleagues.

Here are a few aspects of nonverbal communication that people observe and perceive an impression about an individual in their own ways!

Grooming and presentation:

You wouldn’t want your boss to see your shabby outfit in which half your shirt looks ironed while the rest is crippled, or your tie not done properly and hair not neat. Therefore, it is important to present yourself decent and fresh with the right color combinations of your office wear and not wear something that stands out. Keeping your desk and cabin clean and neat can convey a lot about what kind of a person you are.

Verbal communication:

Yes, verbal communication says a lot nonverbally. Now you don’t want to speak or write emails the way I’m writing this article right? So keep the choice of words appropriate in different settings and an energetic tone so that people feel interested and motivated to talk to you.

Using the right expressions and gestures:

It is very necessary to use the right expressions when in a conversation to send the right cues and to avoid misunderstanding. For example, nodding your head gently and keeping a mild smile when someone is talking to you.

Body language and eye contact:

Keeping a good posture when at work or interacting sends a strong signal of confidence, determination, and discipline. You probably would not want to slouch in front of your boss and get your proposal declined!

It’s a researched and proven fact that humans feel reassured and accepted when there is appropriate eye contact maintained. Imagine talking to your seniors or approaching them with a problem and they don’t look at you and instead are looking at their phone or the monitor, it feels like you're talking to a wall doesn’t it? So that’s why eye contact is a game changer.


Hope you found this article helpful. If you or your organization is interested to learn more about such attributes and behavioral skills at the workplace, feel free to get in touch with us at RGB Training Services!

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