Communication can be broadly divided into two categories:
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
When words are used as tools of interaction between two or more individuals, it is termed as verbal communication. It can be oral or written. Verbal communication provides with meaningful interaction between people, information and direction. It is a fundamental requirement for life.
Researchers have noted that on an average a person spends 10 to 11 hours every day in verbal communication that is, reading, speaking, writing, or listening. Some common forms of verbal communication are conversations, speeches, letters, newspapers, magazines, telephonic conversations, etc.
Non-verbal communication or body language, accounts for more than 70 percent of communication while words account for just about 10 percent. Thus, non-verbal communication is very important in human interaction. Gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, posture and body orientation, distance are some of the non-verbal ways of communicating.
Non-verbal communication helps to:
- create impressions beyond the verbal element of communication
- reinforces what has been said
- helps to express our emotions and interpersonal attitudes
- helps to convey power, affection, dominance, respect, etc
- manage and regulate the interaction with others
- allows self-presentation
There are various channels of non-verbal communication. However, non-verbal communication is influenced by culture; hence it must be understood with reference to the culture. Kinesics or body language deals with physical movement, while gaze or eye contact deals with the eyes (fixed gaze or a lot of eye movement).
Proxemics involves the use of social distance between people. It is estimated that following pattern of distance is maintained in different contexts: intimate space (0 - 18 inches), personal space or informal distance (18 inches - 4 feet), social distance or formal distance (4 feet - 12 feet), and public space (beyond 12 feet).
Haptics refers to touch as another channel of communication which is a function of culture. Usually North Americans and North Europeans touch less, but people from Asian Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures employ more social touching.
- Direct eye contact indicates confidence.
- Looking downwards shows respect, listening carefully, or guilty.
- Single raised eyebrow indicates doubting.
- Both raised eye brows indicates admiration.
- Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward indicates that one is approachable, receptive and friendly.
- Facing each other indicates interpersonal closeness.
- Smile is a powerful cue that indicates happiness, friendliness, warmth, liking and affiliation.