Nonverbal Communications - Body Motion - Smell - Paralanguage - Touching - Classifications

Let’s further examine probably the most important way we communicate. It’s not writing, it’s not speaking, but it’s nonverbal communication. Some believe that as much as 85 percent of our communicating is done nonverbally. What is nonverbal communication? The best way to describe it is to list the classifications of nonverbal communication.


Body Motion — Using your body to communicate. Examples would be shrugging your shoulders, crossing your arms, kicking the dirt, and pounding your fist on a desk. This is typically what we think of when we talk about nonverbal communication.

Proxemic — The use of space. Whether someone stands close to you or not and whether you want him/her to stand close to you or not sends a message. We value our personal space—and if someone we don’t want near us stands near us—it sends a message of intimidation.

Olfaction — Smell. If someone uses too much perfume or cologne, it sends a “notice me” message. If someone’s odor is unpleasant, it implies that his or her physical hygiene is not good.

Paralanguage — This includes sounds, but not words—for example, yawning, laughing, and crying. Also, it includes voice inflection. You can give the same words different meanings by bringing your voice up or down in pitch, softer or louder, etc.

Touching — When someone touches us it sends a message—either we like it or not, we feel comfortable with it or not, etc.

Artifacts — These are physical factors like the clothing we wear, the color of our hair, how tall we are, etc.

One of the most important times that a person should be aware of nonverbal communication is in a job interview. As much as we might think, “I’m not removing my nose ring for the interview, employers should accept me for who I am.” Dream on!!!

There are acceptable nonverbal workplace practices related to such things as how you dress, how you sit in a chair, how you wear your hair, the words you use, your attitude, etc. We shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that workplaces accept every kind of nonverbal message. For example, many businesses have guidelines about visible tattoos. I am aware of a bank that will not allow any employee who has an exposed tattoo to deal directly with customers. You might think, “Oh, come on,” but companies are allowed to set up nonverbal guidelines that are appropriate for the workplace.

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