Back to Basics: Non Verbal Communication

Posted: Dec 24 2014

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It doesn't matter if you are asking someone to pass you the salt or trying to close a huge business deal; communication really is one of life's fundamentals.

Human beings are social creatures, and every facet of daily life relies on and revolves around communication. Case in point: teams at work.

Now, Team Challenge Company have hosted enough team building events to see the impact poor communication can have, which is why we encourage teams to value, encourage and develop communication as a priority.

Of the two main types of communication, non-verbal is the most revealing. It is the backbone of all interpersonal interaction, providing context and meaning.

To learn more about the basics of non-verbal communication and how it works in teams and businesses, read on.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is essential to the overall communication process because it helps to put spoken words into context. Non-verbal communication (or NVC) can be anything from body language, eye contact and facial expressions, to tone of voice and how close two individuals stand to one another.

NVC indicators let us know how people feel, what they want us to feel on receipt of their message and whether or not what they say matches up with what they think and mean.

In commercial settings, NVC can be used to gauge how receptive people are during business meetings and presentations. In the context of a team, it can be used to read the thoughts and feelings behind what is being said, and to identify any underlying issues or communication barriers.

For example, when people don't want to participate in a team activity, their body language will become defensive and closed off. They may also avoid eye contact or fold their arms across their body to create a barrier.

With these kinds of non-verbal signals, even if someone is participating orally, you will be able to sense their reluctance.

Non-verbal communication is the key to understanding verbal messages, and to noticing what is not being said at all.


The pros:

  • Easy to understand, regardless of your job role or educational background
  • Provides clarity and context for what is being said and gives an insight into what is not being said
  • Can be faster than verbal communication; there is no need to elaborate with further discussion, and people tend to respond better  to images than words
  • Can help you to understand quieter team members, especially those too shy to raise issues or express feelings
  • NVC cues such as tone, pitch and facial expressions can help to convey the right message when the verbal message might be misunderstood or misinterpreted

The cons:

  • The cues and their meanings are dependent on culture and upbringing; gestures considered to be positive in one country could be offensive in another
  • Non-verbal cues can leak when you think you are in control; for example, you fidget whilst trying to project confidence during a presentation
  • Without an accompanying explanation, NVC signals can be misread. This can cause further issues
  • Not always a practical option. If you have telecommuters that sound happy on the phone, you may be missing non-verbal tells that they are frustrated or upset
  • The variety of non-verbal signals can become a barrier in themselves, either because they are multi-channel and become overwhelming or because they project a "do not disturb" impression

To learn more about reading your team, verbally and non-verbally, why not look into team development?

Here at Team Challenge Company we offer a range of team building events and activities, all centred on improving team dynamics and communication.

So get in touch to learn more about what our team can offer yours. 

Team Challenge Company 

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