How to Analyze Non-Verbal Communication

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  • 0:03 What Is Non-Verbal…
  • 1:18 Conscious and Unconcious
  • 2:29 Facial Expressions
  • 3:55 Body Language
  • 4:51 Tone of Voice
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
There is a lot that a person can say without ever having to speak a single word. Through this lesson, you'll explore some of the more common forms of non-verbal communication and gain insight into the various ways that they can be interpreted.

What Is Non-Verbal Communication?

If you've ever had to give a public speech, you probably remember looking out at your audience and thinking, ''Why are they nodding?'' ''Should I be worried that he's closing his eyes?'' ''She looks like she might be confused.'' In cases where the spotlight is shined directly on us, we tend to be a little more conscious of how people are responding, and sometimes we can misinterpret their intentions. Nevertheless, a person's body language and non-verbal cues can tell us a lot if we know what to look for.

Non-verbal communication is the way people communicate without speaking or writing. This is a broad category that includes things like nodding or shaking your head to say yes or no, rolling your eyes to indicate annoyance, or sighing to indicate exasperation or disappointment. There have been many studies indicating that we use non-verbal communication far more than we do verbal.

Most of the time, we know what these non-verbal signs mean because over the years we've learned, either actively or passively, how to interpret them. In behavioral psychology, these interpretations are broadly known as display rules, which are the social and cultural norms that guide the non-verbal expression of emotion.

Conscious and Unconscious

The previous examples of non-verbal communication are, more often than not, intentional or conscious ways to express something to someone else. There are, however, many times throughout our day that we use non-verbal communication without realizing it. For instance, if you were listening to someone give a lecture and were having a hard time understanding what the speaker was talking about, without noticing, you might raise an eyebrow, squint your eyes, or heave a heavy sigh.

It's important to keep in mind that non-verbal communication is generally only one part of communication, and it has to be considered within its context. Quite simply, what a particular non-verbal cue means in one situation could mean something entirely different in another. For instance, if someone handed you their business card, you would probably take it and quickly stuff it into your pocket or wallet. Were you to do this in Japan, the gesture would be considered rude and insulting, as it is customary in Japanese business culture to receive a business card with two hands and treat it respectfully while in the person's presence.

Facial Expressions

Although it would probably be pretty difficult to communicate using only facial expressions, there is much that people can express using just the muscles of their face. For instance, if you're having a deep conversation with someone, eye contact can be a good way to demonstrate that you're listening and interested. Keeping in mind the idea of interpretation within context, under different circumstances eye contact can also be used to intimidate.

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