Imagine you’re in a work meeting and a colleague is making a presentation. She is animated and uses her hands a lot to make a point. What do you focus on? Obviously, you listen carefully to her words to make sure you understand what she’s saying.

But that isn’t all. You probably also pay attention to her body language–including posture, gestures, and facial expressions–as she speaks.

Many think that communication is just about the spoken word. But verbal communication is not the only form of communication. Nonverbal communication is equally important.

We communicate our thoughts, ideas, and plans to other people through both, verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal and nonverbal communication in humans are the outcome of thousands of years of processing and perfecting the art of communication.

Verbal communication consists of getting your message across using sounds, words, and languages, while nonverbal communication involves unsaid things like eye movement, body language, and tone. Think about it: a lie is visible in the eye, nervousness can be gauged from shaking hands or legs, and happiness is easily understood from the tone someone uses when speaking. When you are talking to someone face-to-face, you tend to use verbal and nonverbal communication at the same time.

Most people use both verbal and nonverbal communication every day of their lives. Think of the last conversation you had with someone. What was spoken aloud, and what was conveyed using nonverbal cues? You will be able to come up with at least one prominent example of verbal and nonverbal communication.

Let us look at the differences between verbal and nonverbal communication:

Verbal CommunicationNonverbal Communication

Medium of communication

Verbal communication uses language, words, sentences, and voice as the medium of communication.

Nonverbal communication uses body language, facial expressions, tone, and pauses in speech as the medium of communication.

Channels of communication

Verbal communication uses a single channel of communication, the human voice, which speaks a single word at a time.

Nonverbal communication uses multiple channels of communication including your entire body, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

Examples of communication

Verbal communication can take place over a phone call, in a face-to-face conversation, over loudspeakers, through audio recordings, and so on.

Nonverbal communication can only occur when all the parties in the conversation can see each other. This helps them properly understand what they are communicating nonverbally.

Mode of communication

Verbal communication is linear and voluntary. You set out to say something, gather your thoughts, form your sentences, and then start delivering your message. It is a well-thought-out process in which the speaker focuses on communicating their message effectively.

Nonverbal communication is a continuous process. It is not well-thought-out and is largely involuntary, although you can train yourself to use it more purposefully. Unlike verbal communication, nonverbal communication is not linear. It depends more on how one uses their body language and other cues to respond to external stimuli.

Consciousness in communication

Verbal communication is a conscious process. It involves thinking, processing, and articulating.

Nonverbal communication happens on an unconscious level. One doesn’t really think about it actively

Decoding the communication

Verbal communication is fairly easy to decode if you understand the language and the words being used. When you pay close attention to the person who is speaking, you will understand what they are saying.

Nonverbal communication is a little harder to decode than verbal communication. You have to pay attention to many factors including the speaker’s body language, facial expressions, and tone to decode what the other person is trying to convey.

To effectively communicate with another person, it is crucial to master both verbal and nonverbal communication. You can master verbal communication by reading about communication techniques, practicing how you speak, and listening to other people.

Likewise, you can master nonverbal communication by practicing to use the appropriate facial expressions, body language, and tone when interacting with others. You also need to observe other people more closely to see how they respond to certain things, how they react, how they close off or open up so that you can decode their nonverbal cues effectively.

Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course will ensure that you have all the right tools to connect with your listeners using both verbal and nonverbal communication. The Listening Actively course will provide you with the tools to become a better listener.

Now that you have understood the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication, you can use them effectively at work.

Explore blogs on topics such as what is communication, the importance of nonverbal communicationbarriers to effective communicationforms of communication, and verbal communication in our Harappa Diaries section to make your world of work better.

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