An essential aspect of human existence is communication. We communicate with one another to express ourselves and also pass across information, whether important or not (Berlo, 1960). Communication is a process of transfer and expression in humans that can be classified into two major kinds; (1) verbal, and (2) nonverbal communication. Verbal communication has to do with oral sounds and voiced words. Nonverbal, on the other hand, has to do with physical/visible and non-physical (examples are tone and voice in paralinguistics) expressions in our interactions with others (Harper, 2013).
In this article, our focus shall be on non-verbal communication, particularly the different types of non-verbal communication we have, from the very common ones to the ones we are quite oblivious of in our day-to-day exchanges with people.
In our conversations with other members of our speech community, we communicate using different other forms asides from the verbal mode. We use gestures to give meaning and place emphasis on our words, paralinguistics to facilitate understanding in our listeners, and so on. We do a lot of things to express ourselves without even knowing it, with our dressing, proxemics (i.e distance and space between us and our conversationalists), etc. Thus, when we do all this without necessarily speaking, we are communicating “nonverbally” (Mehrabian, 1972).
In the next section of this article, we shall be dealing with the types of this kind of communication (nonverbal) based on their different classifications.
Many types of nonverbal communication are usually similar in one way or another with just a few differences in their manner of expression. This is why they are commonly further classified into four, namely; Kinesics, vocalists, haptics, proxemics, and chronemics (Giri, 2009). These types often combine with verbal forms, as well as other forms of nonverbal communication for a complete transfer, modification, and/or accentuation of the meaning contained in the verbal message (Edward and Nemeroff, 2004).
Kinesics has to do with “movement”. When we talk, we cannot do without moving some parts of our body; our legs, arms, hands, head, and even our face (Pease and Pease, 2004; Nageshwar and Rajendra, 2014). The posture these body parts are placed tells a lot to our conversationalists about what we mean and how we mean it. Under this classification, we have the following;
We communicate using hand/leg movements and head nodding to pass across embedded massages in our utterances. This usually occurs when we’re trying to describe things or express emotional feelings to those we interact with. We use gestures to illustrate or indicate an idea, express disagreement or agreement with someone’s ideas using emblems, and so on (Knapp et al, 2014).
● Facial Expressions
Facial expressions are the most obvious communicative modes we have on our body This is because, our body, they have been described, by scientists, as the most expressive part (Ekman, 2003). Our face tells us a lot about how we feel. They are also used to show ones’ agreement or disagreement with another’s opinions or ideas, likeness or dislike for things and people around us (Levine and Adelman, 1993).
● Head Postures and Movements
Head movements and postures are both used to express attentiveness and agreement (Kirch, 1979). They are commonly used to show people we interact with that we are listening or we understand what they are saying. In certain contexts, a simple horizontal or vertical nod of the head could mean a “yes” or “no”. In many cultures, the simple nod of ones’ head is used to signify greetings or salutations.
● Eye Contact and Movements
We often make eye contact with people to show we are listening to whatever they’re saying. It is also used to indicate strong emotional attachments to people we like (Davidhizar, 1992). Those who don’t make eye contact are usually said to be shy or of low self-esteem, while those who regularly move their eyes in every direction when they speak are said to not be trustworthy because when you don’t make eye contact with people, you are either considered a dishonest person; someone not to be trusted or someone with a hidden (and evil) agenda.
Vocalists or paralinguistics have to do with the oral nonverbal aspect of our communication. For special effects in communication, we sometimes change the quality of our speeches and add emphasis on individual words (or parts of a word). We do this by raising or lowering the pitch of our voices, our voice level, and so on. These paralinguistic features of our speech include; intonation, repetition, stress or accentuation, conversational fillers (like hm, huh, etc.), and so on (Edward and Nemeroff, 2004). They are used to express the emotional and cognitive state of the speaker in conversations.
Sometimes, we communicate using touch. This type of communication is chiefly emotional, particularly used in showing those we communicate with that we care about what and how they feel (Giri, 2009; Knapp et al, 2007). Asides from the emotional and romantic functions of touch in communication, it is also used for greetings and salutations. We shake hands, hug, and touch the shoulders of the people within our speech communities as a form of greeting or salutation (Knapp et al, 2007). This type of communication is especially common in romantic relationships where care and love are meant to be expressed physically with touch.
Distance and space also have a lot to do with communication (Wylene, 2019), which is why we use the terms “space”, “distant” and “close” to describe how our relationships with people are or how we want them to be. Our intimacy with people influences our communication (Sluzki, 2015) and most times, they are expressed through social establishments such as age, sex, culture, and race. Generally, the way young people communicate with people between or below their age range will be entirely different from the way they communicate with those older than them. We use spatial elements to express personal, social, and public relationships with people we interact with day in, and day out (Sluzki, 2015).
Chronemics has to do with how time affects our conversations with others, in relation to biological, physical, cultural, and social elements around us. We use chronemics to indicate intensity and also emphatically pass across different meanings in relation to the time and/or context of occurrence (Floyd, 2011).
In addition to the classification above, we also express ourselves or communicate using our dress. The combination of colours and dresses shows to those around us our emotional states and the mental conditions we are in without even having to verbally express them to people. We can also communicate via other forms oblivious to us humans. This is why, as humans, we must try as much as possible not to confuse those we have interactions with because of the way we combine these different forms and modes of communication in a complex manner. We must be explicit and assertive enough with our language of expression to be able to pass across the intended meaning contained in our messages.