Since most of our communication is estimated to be non-verbal communication (body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.).
As someone who is deaf, I also depend on those clues and use it as part of the jigsaw when trying to understand what that person is saying.
But anyone can benefit from learning and being aware of the non-verbal communications that exist as it will make you a better overall communicator when you are conversing with anyone, not just those who are deaf.
Feel free to watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcripts below.
If you are struggling to communicate with a deaf person, or for most people, anyone for that matter, there are several different ways that I always suggest that you can do to get your message across.
The most common ways would be to write it down, or type it out on your phone, or even just learn the language that person is speaking. But there are also so many different forms of non-verbal communication that can help you further when you talk to not just deaf people but anyone for that matter.
And by knowing them you’ll be able to reinforce and you’ll be able to make your communication skills better, and you can get your message across even better.
I want to explain what is non-verbal communication, why is important, what are the advantages and disadvantages? What are the different types of non-verbal communication, and how they can help you.
And then on top of that, even though I have already mentioned a separate plays on how you can communicate with deaf people, when you combine the two together on how you can communicate, and all those non-verbal communication and combine it together, you’ll have a much more complete and more effective communications skills, and again, you can use that with anyone.
Hopefully I can help you with this video, and before we get started, don’t forget that you can also support me on my Patreon page, this where I create exclusive content and get to know more people individually by helping each other and also to raise deaf awareness, and you can do that by checking out the link in the short notes.
What is non-verbal communication and why it’s important?
For many people when we think about communication, you mainly think about what we say verbally/orally, and that’s it. But the thing is, we don’t really think about all these little subtle clues that you don’t really notice that because it just becomes normal for us.
Things like facial expressions and your gesture and your body language, they can all play a part and more by helping you to give additional clues, give additional meaning and information to what you’re saying overall.
And that is why there are some estimates that non-verbal communication can actually cover 70 to 80% of what you’re actually saying to the other person, which is huge!
10 different non-verbal communication methods
Let’s get into the different types of communication methods that we can portray non-verbally.
1. Facial expressions
The first and most obvious one would be your facial expression. It’s quite easy to tell when someone is happy, when someone is sad, when someone is tired, or someone is disgusted, or maybe when they are rolling their eyes, etc.
All of this give additional meanings to what you are saying and how you are feeling when you say it.
Gestures is another very popular way of communicating non-verbally, for example, some people might frantically waving (their arms, “no!” Just waving and waving.
And then there are other people who just want to celebrate by saying “yes!”, and you’ve got that fist and you’re clenching your fist, and you just want to celebrate. Again, that gives you additional meaning of how that person is feeling on what they’re saying.
Paralinguistic is another one, and that is related to the tone, the pitch, the loudness of your voice and how you say certain things.
For example, you can say “I’m fine” in different ways. So it could be like:
- [Happy] “I’m fine” 🙂
- [Sad] “I’m fine” 😕
- [Angry] “I’m fine” 😤
See? Three different ways of saying “I’m fine”.
4. “Proximic” (proximity/personal space)
“Proximic” is another one which is related to personal space. So you want to have a comfortable personal space between one person to another, but if a person is too close, it can be uncomfortable. And also if a person is too close, it can be quite intimidating, and it might be quite threatening for some people. So that is a clue for many people.
5. Eye contact/eye gaze
Eye contact, and eye gaze is another one. So if I’m looking at you eye to eye, then I am listening to you, I’m being honest with you when I’m speaking to you, and that is a common thing to do to maintain eye contact.
But if a person is not giving you any eye contact, it could be for many reasons, it could be because that person is lying, being deceptive, that person could be nervous or shy, or that person could just not be really interested in what you have to say.
6. Haptic (physical touch)
Haptic is another one and that is related to physical touch. So little things like when you say to someone, “I am here for you” and you put your hand on their shoulder, or you rub their back – that’s an additional meaning, isn’t it?
So there’s big difference between saying, “I am here for you” but with a bit of body contact ” (where permitted), it can make a big difference to what you’re saying and you mean it in a very deep way. “I’m here for you” and you touch that person shoulder.
Appearance is something that we don’t really think about, and those are things like what you’re wearing and your hairstyle and decent combined, and other factors related to these, they can give you clues. For example, how you dress certain occasions like at a party, or even a job interview can give certain clue to the other person on how they perceive you.
Some people might say that it’s not a good thing to do that, but it’s in our nature, we kind of have that silent judgment and silent idea of what that person is like, based on what that person is wearing.
However, it’s not a bad thing, because you can look at that person and that person is wearing their uniform, and it gives you an idea of what that person is like.
So for example, a white lab coat will give you an idea that person is in a medical field. If someone is wearing an army camouflage gear, then that person is in the army and is a soldier, and so on and so forth.
So it’s not all bad thing when we judge a person by their appear but it can give you a clue.
Similar to appearances, artefacts, and that is again when you’re using tools or objects to help you with that communication. A very common thing to do is when you have an online forum, you have an avatar that displays and characterise who you are.
But just like appearance, uniforms can also act as artefacts and give you clues of who you are.
Humour is not something that people think about in terms of a non-verbal communication method. But it can be like that, it can give you an impression of how that person is feeling, and if that person is laughing, then it makes that person happy, makes you happy, that I’m afraid is light and happier
So the communication is a very positive feeling, is a very positive aura around it. And that can help in a lot of situations.
And then there is another one: Silence. And that can be a positive or a negative thing.
So for example, if you imagine in a classroom, it’s silent, the students are not talking, it’s all silent. That could be a good thing because you might be thinking then that because they are listening and paying attention to the teacher, and that’s a good thing.
But then on the other hand, it could be a bad thing because maybe they just don’t understand what’s going on and they’re not able to follow the instruction.
So even though a silent could be positive or negative, you kind of want to combine that with other subtle clues around that to give you an idea of what is the message out there.
Advantages of non-verbal communication
There are so many advantages of non-verbal communication and I want to go through a few of them.
1. Complements well verbal communication
The first one is that it complements well with what you’re saying. So if you are hugging a person, and you are saying sorry, then they compliment well together, but it’s a certain type of hug. Well, if you’re hugging a person and you are excited, it’s kind of like a different type of hug, but it still complement with what you are saying.
So non-verbal communication like a hug, can complement well when you are saying, “I’m happy for you” or “I’m excited” or “I’m sorry”. They do go well together.
2. Can substitute verbal messages
It can substitute verbal messages if it’s blocked by noise or long distance.
So an obvious thing to do when you see someone far away, and you can see them, and you want them to be quiet, and you just put your finger on your lips, just to say “shhhh!” That kind of means be quiet – “shhhh!” and it’s an obvious non-verbal communication.
And then a simple one, or if you nod “yes”, or shake your head “no”. Again, that’s also very simple if you’re trying to do it in a way that is just silent so it’s a noisy place, but you want to get that message across. That’s easy way of doing it.
3. Can be more effective than verbal messages
It can be more effective than verbal messages.
So for example, you might be in a crowded room and your eyes lock with another person, and you want to approach that person, maybe you want to flirt to that person, maybe a playful wink, it’s more effective than a cheesy pickup line like, “Oh, Heaven is missing an angel, because it’s right here in front of me.”
4. Can help to reinforce what you have said
Another advantage is that it can reinforce your message, so if you frantically nod your head “yes!” then you’re really getting that message across really well – “just yes, absolutely yes!”. And that’s quite different to just a simple casual nod.
Yes, both gets the message across, but the big difference between frantically nodding your head and just a couple of nods, it can provide a feedback to the other person.
5. Sends feedback to the other person
So if you’re looking at that person and you’re listening intensely and you’re eye contact, it means that you’re giving a feedback to the other person that you are doing just that, you’re listening and you’re listening carefully.
At the same time, you could be just wanting to put your hand up slightly and you’re about to speak and that’s a feedback to the other person to say like, “Oh, I just want to say something.”
6. Can be more attractive
Non-verbal communication can be attractive. So especially if you’re doing like a presentation, you want visual images, it could be video, it could be text, it could be photograph, whatever it is, they’re also attractive way of getting the message across.
7. Can be delivered faster
At times the message can be delivered faster.
So imagine you are in one side of room and you want to communicate with the person on the other side of the room to say, “come here!” You do the hand gesture to come here, and that person hopefully will come over.
This is a lot quicker than going from where you are, through the people, to the other side of the room, and you want to say to the person, “Can you come over there?”, “Okay, let’s go back to the other side of the room”, and then you get the message across.
Or can just say “come here” with your hands from across the room instead.
Disadvantages of non-verbal communication
Even though I speak highly of these non-verbal communication method, and it has a lot of advantages, but there are also a lot of disadvantages as well that we should be aware of.
1. Can be vague and lacks precision
They can be vague and lack precision, especially if someone doesn’t do well. So for example, if you don’t have any facial expression and you’re not giving any messages or signals away while you are waving your hand, then are you waving your hand to say “hello”, or “goodbye”?
2. You might miss other clues
You might miss other clues if you focus too much on one gesture. So if you focus only on the eyes, you might miss important hand gestures that will give you subtle clues to what that person is saying.
3. You can get lost in translation
It’s very easy to get lost in translation because certain hand gestures are not universal across the world.
For example, it is quite obvious for many of us that the thumbs up turn gesture is a positive sign. It’s like good, or could be okay. It could be anything, you might assume that it applies all around the world. But that’s not the case.
In places like Iran and Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, it’s not a great thing, it can be the same thing as giving a middle finger – “flipping the bird”.
In places like Bangladesh, it could mean something idiotic as well. So you just have to be careful that certain hand gestures is not universal, it can easily get lost in translation.
4. Not always understandable
Because of that, it’s very difficult for some people to understand what you are saying. And I remember one time in university at the early days, people used to do the hand gestures of keep your chin up by using the back of your hand and tap the bottom of your chin…“chin up”.
But also without saying anything, and I remember that time I’m thinking what the hell are they saying. And then gradually over time, I realised they meant chin up, and then keep their head up.
But again, if you use that in other countries, it’s not going to be obvious for a lot of people. So it’s difficult for many people to understand what you’re saying.
5. Not possible to have long conversations
It’s quite obvious as well that you can’t have a long conversation when you’re just focusing on non-verbal communication. Unless it’s like sign language, then yes, of course, you can
But if you’re not speaking in your oral language, or sign language, and you’re just using non-verbal communication that I’ve talked about, it’s quite tricky.
Regardless of all of that, it has its place. And there are many ways on how you can also improve your own non-verbal communication skills by being aware of it, but also just a few tips that I want to share with you.
- Be an effective listener – and I’m not talking about just listening to the other person, just your body language, how you focus on another person, eye contact, only think can make a big difference.
- Think before you react – remember, some hand gestures could be offensive in certain places and certain time. So think before you even think about using the thumbs up in certain countries.
- Observe others – take the time to observe other people’s way of communicating their messages non-verbally, what you’ve learned from them, and how you can also incorporate that and just see if you can learn the same skill, and that can help you as well.
- Record yourself – You can also take a time to record yourself, not just on a video camera, but also audio as well. And that will give you an idea of what hand gestures you’re doing, are you doing over the top? Or should you slow it down? Are you doing certain things wrong? Or are you getting the wrong information across, just record yourself, and it can give you a lot of information
- Be self-aware of your actions – the general theme of it is just be self aware. Be self aware of your own acting, your own behaviour, how you speak, how you stand, how you set your posture, only thing, be aware of your own behaviour and that will go a long way.
Learn sign language to help your non-verbal communication skills
Finally you can do one thing that people don’t really think about, which is to learn sign language.
What are the benefits of learning sign language?
18 different reasons why everyone should learn sign language
The reason I say that, because sign language is more than just learning how to sign specific words. A huge part of it, it’s about your facial expression, your body language, they play a massive part of getting the message across to the other person.
Maybe you can use that not just when you communicate in sign language, but also when you communicate in orally as well to the other person, and that can go a long way.
So think about it. Why don’t you give a shot? Why don’t you consider learning sign language as well.
But even if you don’t learn sign language, like I said earlier, if you use the method of pen and paper, or you type out the method on your phone to show another person who is deaf, what you want to say, even if you combine that with non-verbal communication, that can really help to get the message across.
So regardless of what you do, I suggest you learn sign language, but if you don’t still having nice messages in terms of non-verbal communication methods will go a long way to get that message across. It makes you a more effective communicator, and it will help you to do many things like build relationship and just have good conversation, and people will look at you in a good way, you will be able to give off a good impression. What are the disadvantages of doing that? There are no disadvantages of being a good communicator.
So hopefully you’ve learned a lot from this. Let me know if I missed on anything. Let me know if you think it’s useful, and any other tip that you have, I’d love to hear from them.
Comment below, it’d be great to learn more from what you have to say. Don’t forget as well to make sure you like and subscribe, whatever platform that you are in, and I appreciate you taking the time to check it out.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- “Which sign language should I learn first?” – My thoughts - May 5, 2021
- “There should be a universal sign language…” – My thoughts - April 27, 2021
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