Nonverbal communication is what we communicate outside of the spoken word. There are 8 types of nonverbal communication. And these are kinesics, haptics, appearance, proxemics, environment, chronemics, paralanguage, and silence.
Let us look at each of the 8 types:
Kinesics: Kinesics comes from the word kinesis which means movement. It is the study of the way in which body movements, gestures & facial expressions serve as a form of non-verbal communication. A great deal of meaning can be interpreted by your facial expressions, eye contact the way you move your hands and legs. For example, if you go to a party and are attracted to someone what type of non-verbal clues do you give the person? On the other hand, if you meet an acquaintance you are not interested in engaging in a conversation with, what type of nonverbals do you demonstrate?
Below are some examples of positive and negative kinesics:
Haptics: is the study of communication through touch. The first form of communication each one of us experienced at the time of birth was a touch. Visualize an old man lying on a hospital bed in pain. His son visits him and holds his hand. How comforting that touch is for him! That is the power of touch.
At the same time touch can be very threatening if used wrongfully to abuse sexually or physically. Children who have suffered the negative touch suffer from the consequences of it throughout their adult lives as they usually are less healthy physically and mentally. We are all told the importance of a firm handshake. A handshake is a very critical method of nonverbal communication.
A week timid handshake demonstrates lack of confidence and puts you on the defensive right at the start of the meeting. There are several types of touch, including functional-professional, social-polite, friendship-warmth, love-intimacy, and sexual-arousal touch. Permissible and non-permissible touch is also very culture specific.
Appearance: This is about how we dress the clothes; we wear our hair style the accessories we use. Everything about our appearance communicates meaning to others Personal Appearance, Objects, and Artifacts are types of nonverbal communication we use on our bodies and surroundings communicate meaning to others. For example, people with more than 3-4 tattoos are generally considered to be in lower paying jobs & associated with lower self-esteem. Short haired women are considered to be more aggressive as shorter hair implies a more athletic and less feminine girl.
Proxemics: is the study of how our use of space influences the ways we relate with others. There are 4 types of personal space zones: Intimate Spaces, Personal Spaces, Social Spaces and Public Spaces.
Public space: is at a distance of 12 feet and above. Usually the communication that happens in this space is formal and impersonal. This is the least personal of the four zones and would typically be used for a formal speech or a public engagement by a celebrity.
Social space: is at a distance of 4 -12 feet and within this distance the communication that happens it is usually in the professional or a casual setting. When you say keep someone at arm’s length this is what you mean, keep them at a social distance. This is the most common setting in the business world. When making presentations you will usually be in a social space with your audience which helps build just enough engagement and bonding with them so as to be able to influence.
Personal space: is at a distance of 1.5 – 4 feet. This space is where you have your friends, family, and close acquaintances. Most of our personal communication happens in this zone
Intimate Space: is within 1.5 feet from our body. This space is for people who are extremely close to us and within adults it usually is for romantic partners. This is a powerful means of communication as being close to someone can be very comforting especially when words fail. Some people are comfortable with being in an intimate space with someone publicly, that is called public display of affection while others are not. So, you must be mindful of culture and society norms.
Environment: Our environments include our spaces like are homes, rooms, cars, or offices. The way you keep your space communicates a meaning. For example, if you use bright red colours it communicates joy cheer high energy levels and openness whereas if you use black and greys it communicates isolation a certain level of stiffness and silence. How you maintain your work desk talks a lot about you. Cluttered messy means chaotic and not organized whereas a nice clean desk indicated organization and planning.
Chronemics: is the study of how people use time. Do you always arrive for a meeting ahead of time? Are you always running late for your appointments? Do you end up missing flights? Do you always arrive on time? Depending on yes or no you are making a nonverbal communication about yourself with the rest of the world. On time is perceived as dependable trustworthy and committed whereas late is seen as someone unorganized, chaotic and not dependable.
Paralanguage: is the non-lexical component of communication by speech, for example intonation, pitch and rate of speech, hesitation noises ummm and ahhhs. These components play a critical role in nonverbal communication. A fast rate of speech indicates anxiety and nervousness. Intonation or modulation in voice keeps the audience interested and engaged whereas a monotonous delivery is boring and puts people to sleep. Speakers having a wide range of pitch are more successful communications that the once who don’t. Similarly using too many umms and ahhs’communicates a lack of proficiency on the subject and disengages the audience.
Silence: As they say ‘silence speaks when words fail ‘. Silence is a very powerful mode of communication. It can convey a lot more than words. Silence has several meanings. You might give the silent treatment to someone and not engage in a dialogue. Silence could also mean approval in some cultures. In diplomacy silence is used as a powerful strategy to communicate a variety of things.