One of the famous quotes is that about 93% of communication occurs non-verbally, and only 7 per cent takes place through the verbal content, called 93/7 Rule.
But most of us know this is unlikely because language choices and grammatical forms carry far more weight in so many situations. However, people rely heavily on nonverbal elements to express themselves and to interpret the interactions they face, even though nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding as well as understanding.
Plenty of studies show that adults usually trust nonverbal messages over verbal ones and rely on nonverbal cues to judge another’s feelings.
‘It is everything we do except the words that we use in our face-to-face interactions, so it includes facial expressions, gestures, eye contact … even our artefacts, the clothes that we wear, the rings and jewellery that we carry around with us. – Greene (Nonverbal Communication. Routledge. 2016)’
- It includes all the visual cues: body language (handshakes, facial expressions, gestures, postures), distance (personal space) and physical appearance.
- Speech contains nonverbal elements: voice quality, pitch, loudness, speaking style, rhythm, intonation and stress.
- Written texts have nonverbal elements: handwriting style, the arrangement of words, and the physical layout of a page (the blog’s, too).
- To this list, I would add the pictures you upload on social media, and I also heard that the background in the pictures reveals something about you. It’s very interesting!
All these elements function as non-verbal communication, deliver individual motives and convey your emotions and empathy. Your visual cues transmit messages, just like we use emoticons to show mood states to others.
I wasn’t aware of this, but it’s true that many of us tend to focus on physical appearance, speech style and document layouts when preparing for important events such as formal meetings, conferences and job interviews.
When I had the fortune to meet a lovely businesswoman in Hong Kong, we talked about an interesting topic: How could you back yourself up linguistically to enhance your own self-confidence in a business meeting?
I raised the importance of the first few minutes of the meeting to engage in establishing rapport and raising open and semi-open enquiries, “How are you doing?”, “How are things?”, “Tell me about…”
This brief “general” conversation was unable to impress her because she knows so many situations where there are higher tensions or a faster pace of negotiation in business meetings. Listening to the client requires considerable time sometimes, and if you don’t have time, you’ll immediately judge the client and his or her confidence in themselves through their nonverbal signs.
I find it really interesting that any visual cue is a message of your sensitivity, feelings and care for them, which is often unintentional. We send it and interpret it, which can sometimes be a misunderstanding, but does help to build trust.