The importance of nonverbal means of communication
My interest in nonverbal means of communication began with the acquaintance of the research by Albert Mehrabian [mǝ ‘rӕ biǝn]1. He is a famous scholar who works in the field of Psychology and lives in the US.
Interestingly, Mehrabian managed to prove experimentally that nonverbal means of communication are responsible for up to 93% of information that we transmit or receive in a communicative act (including 38% in paraverbal means such as volume of speech, intonation, and silence or pauses). Only 7% of information has been shown to be transmitted via the verbal channel (i.e. words).
However, surprising this may sound, nevertheless, it makes sense. Let us consider the following example: a little boy breaks an expensive vase; his mother shakes her head and says “What a good boy…”. What she really means is “bad boy”, but both her son and she can easily deduct the real meaning based on her intonation and other nonverbal means (e.g. shaking of her head). Note that in this case, the verbal component of the phrase (i.e. what the mother is saying) is actually in contradiction with the real meaning; however, the nonverbal cues are trusted more than the words.
It is worth mentioning, however, that the experiments conducted by Mehrabian and the example that I have provided above are based on affectionate communication and the role of nonverbal means of communication may be different based on the context of the situation in which a particular communicative act occurs.
Have you ever been in or witnessed a situation which illustrates the importance of nonverbal means of communication, or on the contrary underlines the role of words?
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1 I have come across many different ways in which other scholars referred to him, particularly in languages other than English. Therefore, in order to avoid potential difficulties or errors, I am providing the transcription. This pronunciation is based on the interview with the scholar which I have recently listened to.