Importance of Non Verbal Communication

The use or application of non verbal communication is as important as the verbal communication is in different areas of our life. Different non verbal cues are widely used, separately or along with the verbal messages. The importance of non verbal communication can be discussed through its various uses and applications as follow:

Instant Effect: All non verbal methods have almost instant effect as the receivers perceive them quickly. For example, it takes less time to see a color or picture and to hear a horn or bell than to speak out and understand or to read and understand words and sentences. This quality of being speedy in conveyance and response makes non verbal methods extremely useful in many situations.
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For traffic control: For traffic sings and signals, non verbal communication is absolutely essential because there must be instant response from the drivers or pedestrians. There is no time or scope to read sentences, it is the red or green signal that tells the drivers and the pedestrians that when they are safe to cross the road and vice versa. None other communication except the non verbal one is effective here.

Aid to verbal communication: Non verbal methods are extremely useful as an aid to verbal communication. Maps, charts and graphs are absolutely necessary for conveying ideas related to geography, locations, data and most of the sciences. Beside these, non verbal methods can present a large amount of complex data in a compact form a single page can contain materials which would several pages to convey in language.

For illiterate people: For the illiterate people the only method of conveying important information is by non verbal symbols. Bottles and containers of poisons are market with skull and crossbones as a warning’ illiterate drivers can manage with the non verbal traffic signals and signs. Films are used to explain processes to people who may not follow oral explanations easily.

Arousing stronger response: All human beings respond more powerfully to pictures, colors and plain sounds than to language. A cry of agony arouses a much stronger response than a tale of woe, a film showing the actual events or representing a story is more effective than the verbal representation. News on the TV is more interesting, effective and realistic than on the radio. The audiovisual media like the cinema and the television which combine all possible methods of communication are the most powerful media.

Pictorial presentation for mass communication: Pictorial presentation is best for mass communication. In a country like India, with a large number of illiterate and semi-illiterate people, pictorial symbols are more suitable for mass communication. They are universally accepted and more easily understood. Graphs and charts are used as pictorial representations of statistical information. Signs and signals are also used as representation of something.

So, it is found that nonverbal communication is very important for us. We use different non verbal cues to mean different things on different occasions.

Advantages and disadvantages of non-verbal communication

There is a proverb “Actions speak louder than words.” In essence, this underscores the importance of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is especially significant in intercultural situations. Researches in communication suggest that many more feelings and intentions are sent and received non-verbally than verbally. Meharabian and wiener following suggested that only 7 % of message is sent through words, with remaining 93% sent non-verbal expressions (depending on author, verbal part goes up to 35%). It has multiple advantages or functions:

  1. Complementary: Non-verbal cues complement a verbal message by adding to its meaning. You can pat someone you offended at the back as you say sorry to him or her.
  2. Easy presentation: Information can be easily presented in non-verbal communication through using visual, audio-visual and silent means of non-verbal communication.
  3. Substituting: Non-verbal message may substitute for the verbal message especially if it is blocked by noise, interruption, long distance etc. for example: gestures-finger to lips to indicate need for quite, facial expressions- a nod instead of a yes.
  4. Accenting: Often used to accent a verbal message. Verbal tone indicates the actual meaning of the specific words.
  5. Repeat: Used to repeat the verbal message (e.g. point in a direction while stating directions.)
  6. Help to illiterate people: This type of communication use gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, proximity, touching etc. and without using any spoken or written word. So, it is very much helpful for illiterate people.
  7. Help to handicapped people: Non-verbal cues of communication greatly help in handicapped people especially to deaf people. Deaf people are exchange message through the movements of hands, fingers, eye ball etc.
  8. Attractive presentation: Non-verbal communication is based on visual, picture, graph, sign etc. that can be seen very much attractive.
  9. Reducing wastage of time: The message of non-verbal communication reached the receiver very fast. For this reason it reduces the wastage of valuable time of the communicator.
  10. Quick expression of message: Non-verbal cues of communication like sign and symbol can also communicate some messages very quickly than written or oral messages.

Disadvantages or limitations of non-verbal communication:

Despite of advantages of non-verbal communication, it is not free from its limitations or disadvantages which are:

  1. Vague and imprecise: Non-verbal communication is quite vague and imprecise. Since in this communication there is no use of words or language which expresses clear meaning to the receiver. No dictionary can accurately classify them. Their meaning varies not only by culture and context but by degree of intension.
  2. Continuous: It is possible to stop talking in verbal communication, but it is generally not possible to stop nonverbal cues. Also, spoken language has a structure that makes it easier to tell when a subject has changed, for instance or to analyze its grammar. Nonverbal does not lend itself to this kind of analysis.
  3. Multi-channel: while watching someone’s eyes, you may miss something significant in a hand gesture. Everything is happening at once and therefore it may be confusing to try to keep up with everything. Most of us simply do not do so, at least not consciously.
  4. Culture-bound: Non-verbal communication is learnt in childhood, passed on to you by your parents and others with whom you associate. A few other gestures seem to be universal. Evidence suggests that humans of all cultures smile when happy and frown when unhappy. However, most nonverbal symbols seem to be even further disconnected from any “essential meaning” than verbal symbols. Gestures seen as positive in one culture (Like the thumbs-up gesture in the USA) may be seen as obscene in another culture.
  5. Long conversations are not possible: In non-verbal communication, long conversation and necessary explanations are not possible. No party can discuss the particular issues of the messages.
  6. Difficult to understand: Difficult to understand and requires a lot of repetitions in non-verbal communication. Since it uses gestures, facial expressions eye contact, touch etc. for communicating with others which may not be understandable for the simple and foolish people.
  7. Not everybody prefers: Everybody not prefers to communicate through non-verbal communication with others. Sometimes it cannot create an impression upon people or listeners. It is less influential and cannot be used everywhere. It is cannot be used as a public tool for communication.
  8. Lack of formality: Non-verbal communication does not follow any rules, formality or structure like other communication. Most of the cases people unconsciously and habitually engaged in non-verbal communication by moving the various parts of the body.
  9. Costly: In some cases non-verbal communication involves huge cost. For example, neon sign, power point presentation, cinema etc are very much costly compared to others form of communication.
  10. Distortion of information: Since it uses gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, touch, sign, sound, paralanguage etc. for communicating with others, there is a great possibility in distortion of information in non-verbal communication.