Let’s Talk About Those 70% Non-Verbal Communication (Verbally)

Talking is verbal, yet today’s digital life brought those 70% non-verbal communication to surface and even to the top of the proverbial iceberg.

If i told you today that i can tell when you’re lying — would you believe me?

The real question is — would you behave differently?, and i assure you, you would. How? simply because i learned and mastered some basic NLP methods and hacks to “hear” the non-verbal communication gestures you make and use it to my will and need.

Now, imagine its the year 1872, and someone suggests you look at animals and how they communicate (without verbal skills), imagine how preposterous it would seem back then. But to Charles Darwin it made sense and that was the year the study of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals first started.

Sociological

In my post about the Supreme generation, i wrote about how my generation (X) will never fully understand — what it is growing up with smartphones and access to all the human data in the world — affects how the next generations (Y,Z) will shape the world.

One key aspect that undoubtedly and profoundly changed is how we communicate, and it is the essence of what made humans progress the way they did. Which, when you think about it, is pretty fucking amazing and it all can be attributed in some way to how we were able to communicate.

Communicate

When i hear the word communication i usually think of most things digital as you may be right now. I’m talking about TV, Radio, InterWeb, Messenger apps, etc. but communication’s definition is:

source: Wikipedia (what else)

It’s broad as it should be because commutation in 2018 IS a plethora of methods and describes many things in various scenarios, still, we will take the intended meanings and mutually understood to explore in this post.

Communication is responsible for everything we do consciously and (even more important) sub-consciously, and it has changed dramatically since social media due to it being an integral part of how we talk, engage, collaborate, do business, fall in love — with people. People.

Before we dive into what a FB ‘Like’ actually means, let’s, as we always do, set some definitions in order to develop a new idea.

Facial expressions and controlled facial expressions

Communicating happiness, sadness, excitement, amazement, etc. is pretty much universal and used in virtually unlimited ways. For example, i can make myself happy to uplift my daughter’s spirit when she’s sad even though i had a shitty day.

Early studies of facial expressions. source: Wikipedia

Controlled facial expressions illustrate how we learned to control this non-verbal communication to convey what we want. A duck face in an instagram photo, an amazement for something that happened in a scripted YouTube video or a bride-to-be “angry” at her bridesmaids surprising her with a trip to Bora Bora. We know exactly what we want to communicate when we make these now-standard expressions.

Gestures

Deliberate movements and signals are an important way to communicate meaning without words. Common gestures include waving, pointing, and using fingers to indicate numeric amounts. Other gestures are arbitrary and related to culture, which now also (same as facial expressions) have become controlled. Like, comment, emojis, are controlled gestures, which we use with a clear association to the product that came with them — FB, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc. each has it’s own digital gestures mimicking, yet evolving on it’s own, familiar human gestures.

Credit: Aphible on Memedroid

Paralinguistics

Paralanguage is a highly used component in non-verbal communication nowadays, to modify and convey emotion in the forms of voice pitch, volume, intonation and prosody.

Writing all caps words and using crazy fonts to tell us that it’s FRI-YAY as if we need to be informed that this person is enjoying Friday more than us.

Proxemics

When you’re imagining yourself retiring and getting a house on the country-side — you probably see yourself reading, being relaxed and not having to talk to so many people or talking only to the people you want to (how fun does that sound?), this is Proxemics, which is defined as the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication, and social interaction, naturally it has a lot to do with how we communicate non-verbally in a packed event, or chilling in the balcony.

Appearance

Clothes. Hype-beast. Fashionista. 
Most if not all of the sophisticated readers here (your on Medium, you love to learn new stuff) will have learned by now that clothing is one of the easiest ways to make an impression which is another way of saying or communicate a message, and a clear non-verbal one — a photo is worth a 1000 words applies here literally, because by wearing a fancy tailored piece suit will go a long way if i’m meeting a corporate business partner in that industry, and vise-versa wearing it to a beach in Sri-Lanka will not make me better fitted with the surfers there.

Eye contact

It is the primary nonverbal way of indicating engagement, interest, attention and involvement. Beyond that it’s the “window to the soul” as many civilizations both ancient and current state. The hardest part of mastering “mind reading”, NLP — like for example what the brilliant Lior Suchard does — is reading the eyes to know what you’re actually thinking without your ability to hide the truth.

Kinesics

The term “Kinesics” was first used (in 1952) by Ray Birdwhistell, an anthropologist who wished to study how people communicate through posture, gesture, stance, and movement, yet another type of controlled/un-controlled non-verbal communication.

Image result for kinesics
From a great post by Scott Finkelstein

Haptics

Touch among humans that can be defined as communication and includes handshakes, holding hands, kissing (cheek, lips, hand), back slapping, high fives, a pat on the shoulder, etc.

Something that has clearly made it’s way to how we communicate:
 😊 🤣 😱 🤯 👊 👍 🕺

Chronemics

This is an interesting one to explore as it became super tight on one hand — FOMO, yet completely organized in one device or several.

Some people are Monochronic while some are Polychronic. The way we communicate ourselves also entails how to treat time, take for example a picture of a middle-aged woman having her third child last week and he’s already on her laptop while she works — she is Polychronic (or wants to be portrayed as one).

What Changed And Why It’s a Problem

Now that we have a basic idea of what those 70% of non-verbal communication means in our day-to-day lives, let’s review the problems in each one and maybe find some opportunities in some.

Facial expressions

Because there is no eye gazing “into the white of the eye” (a literal Hebrew idiom), people feel more comfortable criticizing and expressing what they feel more open, because they are not intimated by the eyes. Seriously, eye contact can go as far as shutting your body down, even serial killers admitted they had to cover their victims eyes otherwise they couldn’t “do” it.

Take away the effect that eye gazing can have on our communication and what are you left with? tons of hatred as it turns out, people can easily hide to behind a keyboard. And the results are as we see are not that great.

Credit: INSTAGRAM/KATJA CHO
To learn more about the true meaning of Selfie facial expressions visit here

Gestures

While we think most gestures are globally understood you can very easily get hurt by using the wrong gesture in certain parts of the world, but thats not point as now we have controlled gesture all over social media and it even penetrated other areas where a gesture would be considered as our attitude towards an idea, message or someone.

The problem with digital gestures is they are sometimes completely avoided of their inherit meaning, this is easily exemplified by mandatory likes. you know those likes: “I’m getting married!”, “I aced college”, “i sold my company” the gesture is “I like that” technically but the notion behind it can be completely the opposite — so what are we communicating here?

Paralinguistics

Writng HELP in all caps is not the same as screaning HELP in the middle of the street, and that’s a big problem.

We so overused all the paralinguistic tools at our disposal in every communication channel where they are fit, to a point again that we lost track of the actual meaning or it got mixed up with other meanings not necessarily intended. SALE! signs will not make me come into the store.

Proxemics

Another interesting one. Since the internet made earth a global village and we communicate most of our time online, the boarders and space occupancy of people doesn't really matter, but the lack of physical contact absolutely affects our communication skills

Appearance

The problem, with appearance is that it is too controlled and figured out. Technically we have enough understanding about clothing and appearance (including international culture greeting styles) so that we can achieve the result of this non-verbal communication in almost every case.

As much as we can say with confidence that cloths make the person, we can say that clothes doesn't reveal anything about a person.

Eye contact

There is not enough eye-contact in all of 2018’s communication methods. That’s the problem, and it will keep being like that because of the way we design products today, for personal usage.

Kinesics

The problem here is no one believes people look like they do in their instagram photos all the time, it’s just not happening, yet the effort many of us to to pose in the right way is controlled and by choice of conveying certain non-verbal messages. Again, it lost its meaning and now we just do it not realizing it can hurt us as much as it can benefit us.

Haptics

Like with eye contact — there not enough touching when we touch our phones and screens all the time.

Chronemics

We are always pressured to do more because everyone around us seems to do more, and while it may be true in some cases (yes, right now there people all over the world working harder than you) it became a burden to not grasp the full time it took people to make the Youtube video or beautiful instagram photo.

We are losing 2 things here: 1. losing time thinking people are better or busier than us and 2. we lose track of how to perceive time and effort to achieve something, because we only see the end result.

Culture Shaping

After all the examples i gave above for non-verbal cimuncations used all around us mainly digitally, it is considerd a very young, even a baby when it comes to human communcation history.

Here is an example of how it already shaped us:
(From Liraz Margalit here):

One tragic example involves a mother, Sharon Seline, who often exchanged text messages with her daughter, who was away at college. One afternoon, they ‘chatted’ back and forth, with mom asking how things were going and daughter answering with positive statements followed by emoticons of smiles and hearts. Later that night, the daughter attempted suicide. The signs of depression were there, but could only have been interpreted through face-to-face communications and the sharing of her emotional state.

Inferring from context

Human, social, personal, interaction ‘activates’ a specific set of brain areas. These regions are in charge of making inferences about other human minds.
One of the distinctive attributes of human social cognition is our tendency to build models of other minds, which helps us make inferences about the mental states of others. When interacting with other people, we automatically make inferences about them without even being consciously aware of it. We cannot help but ponder what they are thinking about, what their facial expressions mean, what their intentions are, and so on.

You see, interacting with computer or online services such as FB are technical, meaning how they communicate with us is pre-determined based on what we do and we alone. The computer is reacting to our input and we can shape it however we want, its easy for us. On the other hand, making the effort all those non-verbal signals and inferring them on the spot based on our life experiences can be daunting at times and overall how minds prefer the easier job due to simplicity.

Proactive: What can we do with this information?

Ok, so we know we communicate in so many ways operating under the illusion we know and control all of them, but can we use is? can it be used on us?

Yes and yes, it is being used around us all the time. 
It’s used by big companies in ways that are so sophisticated and accurate that we need a master in communications to understand how, when and why.

And to sign off with a message you can’t ignore:

When children use digital communication extensively, it can curtail the face-to-face experiences necessary for them to develop and master important social skills (Giedd, 2012).

More reading materials:
How to Read Body Language to Reveal the Underlying Truth in Almost Any Situation

Use This Body Language Cheat Sheet to Decode Common Non-Verbal Cues

Top 10 Nonverbal Communication Tips

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I’ll see you next week :) ‘Till then have a look at this fun video:

Cheers,
RT