What Percentage of Communication Is Nonverbal?

Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that over 90% of communication is non-verbal through his 1971 research. Nonverbal communication makes up a huge chunk of the way we communicate with others.

Understanding these nonverbal cues can make a big difference in how well we get along with others. This article will give you a closer look at this ‘silent’ communication and share some cool tips on getting better at it.

At a Glance:

  • 90% of communication is non-verbal, based on Dr. Mehrabian’s 1971 study.
  • Nonverbal cues encompass body language, facial expressions, and gestures.
  • Some gestures are universal; others differ by culture.
  • Nonverbal communication often has a greater impact than words.
  • Tips for improvement: awareness of body language, eye contact, open postures, and cultural sensitivity.
  • Digital communication also has non-verbal aspects, like emoticons and clear photos.
  • Mastery of nonverbal cues is crucial for better interpersonal interactions.

What is Nonverbal Communication?

Nonverbal communication is a type of communication that doesn’t involve words. It includes body language, facial expressions, gestures, and more.  It’s important to be aware of nonverbal cues in order to properly communicate with others, as they can sometimes speak louder than verbal messages.

Some nonverbal communication is universal. For example, people around the world smile to show happiness and frown to show sadness. Other nonverbal communication varies by culture. For example, a thumbs-up sign in the US means “okay” or “cool” whereas it is considered a rude gesture in Iran.

What Percentage of Communication is Nonverbal?

There have been multiple studies to determine the percentage of communication that is non-verbal, with different results. One of such is Dr Albert Mehrabian’s research on non-verbal communication which was published in the book “Silent Messages” in 1971.

He concluded that only 7% of communication is verbal, and 93% is non-verbal. Of this 93%, 55% of the message is communicated by facial expressions and body language, and 38% by tone of voice. This means non-verbal cues form a much bigger part of how we communicate than words.

Nonverbal communication contributes to more than half of your message. Cues such as facial expressions, eye contact, and body language often carry more weight than the words you say.

Importance of Nonverbal Communication

In our daily interactions, whether we realize it or not, we’re often “talking” without speaking a word. The subtle gestures, facial expressions, and even our posture can convey a message louder than any words.

Expressing the Unspoken: Nonverbal cues allow us to share emotions and feelings that might be hard to capture with words alone. A hug or a frown can say a lot without uttering a single word.

Clarifying Verbal Messages: Have you ever tried explaining something and used your hands to help? That’s nonverbal communication in action, aiding in emphasizing or clarifying your spoken words.

Crucial in Cross-Cultural Interactions: When you’re interacting with someone from a different culture, nonverbal signals can be both a blessing and a challenge. It’s essential to understand gestures specific to certain cultures to avoid misunderstandings.

A Big Part of Interpersonal Relationships: How we communicate without words is a massive part of our daily interactions, both personally and professionally. It shapes perceptions, making it a vital tool in building relationships.

Often More Trustworthy Than Words: Sometimes, what’s unspoken holds more truth. For instance, if someone’s words say they’re calm, but their clenched fists suggest otherwise, you’d likely trust the nonverbal cue more.

While our words craft the narrative, it’s the unspoken language that often reveals the true essence of our thoughts and feelings. By understanding and harnessing the power of nonverbal cues, we can navigate our interactions more effectively and foster deeper, more genuine connections.

Tips to Improve NonVerbal Communication

Here are some tips on how you can improve nonverbal communication:

1. Be aware

Pay attention to your body language and the body language of those around you, looking for subtle clues that might reveal what they’re thinking or feeling .

2. Make eye contact

Maintaining eye contact helps build rapport and show interest in others. 

3. Use open postures 

Postures such as sitting up straight or leaning forward slightly nonverbal signals such as folded arms and slouched shoulders can convey feelings of hostility.

4. Be aware of your surroundings

External factors, such as ambient noise or distractions, can influence the nuances of non-verbal communication. Recognizing these can help you adapt and respond more effectively.

5. Maintain an appropriate distance from the person  you are talking to

If you stand too close to a person, they may feel your nonverbal communication is threatening. If you stand too far away from a person, then they may feel as though you’re not interested in what they have to say.

6. Be aware of cultural differences: 

Nonverbal communication varies by culture, so it’s important to be aware that what may seem appropriate in your culture may be considered offensive in another.

7. Practice nonverbal communication

Like any skill, refining your non-verbal communication requires practice. This could involve rehearsing facial responses or experimenting with various gestures during conversations to gauge their impact.

8. Pay attention to non-verbal signs 

Nonverbal signals can sometimes speak louder than words. Looking for nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice can help you read others better.

Tips to Improve Nonverbal Digital Communication

With the rise of communication via digital platforms, it is also important to understand the importance of nonverbal communication on calls, emails, and other online channels. Here are some tips to improve non-verbal digital communication.

1. Emoticons

Emoticons such as the smiley face 🙂 can help non-verbally communicate emotions and make your nonverbal communication clear.

2. Limit distractions

For video calls,  always make sure that the call is in a quiet place where communication will be optimal. Put down your phone, close your door and turn off the music. For phone calls, make sure to keep it short and sweet; don’t interrupt the other person, but instead, let them ask questions if they need more information.

3. Slang

Avoid using slang or other non-standard words and phrases because these nonverbal cues won’t be understood by non-native speakers

4. Post clear pictures

Using blurry or unclear pictures that don’t reveal much information about yourself may leave people wondering who you are and what you look like.

Conclusion

Nonverbal communication can play a big role in interpersonal communication. For example, nonverbal communication makes up more than half of the “message” that is being communicated.  It is also key when it comes to cross-cultural interactions where non-verbal cues will be even more significant due to different cultures having varying non-verbally derived non-content knowledge about communicating effectively with one another through non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, body language, gestures, and tone of voice.