Nonverbal Communication

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Running head: NONVERBAL

Nonverbal Communication

Ben Agnes

Mayville State University

Author Note

This research paper is being submitted on October 17, 2013, for Rhonda Nelson’s BUSN 334 course at Mayville State University by Ben Agnes.

Nonverbal Communication

Most people view communication as spoken words, or the correspondence you get through texting or emailing. People tend to forget that communication is much more than that. A statistic shows that during face to face meetings, 93% of people's judgments of others are based on non-verbal input (Krueger, 2010). This is why it is important to understand the different variables that are involved with nonverbal communication.


Although the words you say are verbal communication, the words might not be what you actually mean. Paralanguage is “the nonverbal voice qualities, voice modifiers and independent utterances produced or conditioned in the areas covered by the supraglottal cavities (from the lips and the nares to the pharynx), the laryngeal cavity and the infraglottal cavities (lungs and esophagus), down to the abdominal muscles, as well as the intervening momentary silences, which we use consciously or unconsciously supporting, or contradicting the verbal, kinesic, chemical, dermal and thermal or proxemic messages, either simultaneously to or alternating with them, in both interaction and no interaction (Poyatos, 2002).” Paralanguage describes a wide range of vocal characteristics, each of which helps express an attitude (Adler, Elmhorst, & Lucas, 2010). How you say something can give off a bad impression. It is said that 38% of person's first impression is determined by tone of voice. An example of a person not completely getting what you say: When you tell your significant other that you are going to be home late after they have spent a lot of time making supper, and they say it is fine, do you really think they mean it is fine? A person needs to look beyond what a person is saying, they need to look at how they are saying at. This is why it is important for a person to say what they feel and to say how they feel when they are saying. This will not send any mixed signals to the receiver of the message and will allow you to have an effective communication dialogue.


Someone’s appearance can play a big role in determining how a communicator’s message is being received. In business it is important to look good, not necessarily for you, but for the customer. How you look can give off a positive or negative perception to current and future customers. When we meet someone for the very first time, we rely on visual cues (and the judgments that come with them) as a means of predicting character in a business situation. This may not be fair, but these judgments have a profound effect on how we are all treated in the workplace (Costabilo, 2010). Psychology studies reveal that first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone; 55% of a person's opinion is determined by physical appearance (Krueger, 2010). So in reality, what you wear is not a shallow consideration; it could make or break your future money making opportunities. With first impressions being so valuable, it is important for a person to dress accordingly for an interview or a business meeting. You could be the best IT person in the nation, but if you were to show up to an interview for a Chief Information Officer position for a fortune 500 company dressed as a slob, you would probably not get the job. In today’s business world, business casual is a term that a lot of companies like to throw around. It is important to know where to draw the line.  It is important error on the side of caution, it is better overdress than to be underdressed. Although dress codes are now relaxed more than before, it could have a negative effect on the company. A 1998 survey conducted by research psychologist Jeffrey Magee revealed that relaxed dress codes actually had a detrimental effect on business, resulting in relaxed productivity, punctuality, ethics, manners, and quality (Bianchi, 2005). Below is a sample chart on what most professional businesses allow as a dress code.

Acceptable Attire For Men

Acceptable Attire For Women

Business suits

Business suits, dress suits

Pleated dress slacks and no-iron pants

Pleated dress slacks and no-iron pants

Lightweight blazers worn over fitted, button-down shirts in solid colors

Lightweight blazers worn over fitted, button-down shirts or blouses

Ties with simple patterns and neutral or toned-down colors

Elegant sweater sets

Cuff links

Hosiery, not including patterned tights, and simple, elegant jewelry

Polished shoes

Polished shoes

(Bianchi, 2005)


Kinesics is the interpretation of body language such as facial expressions and gestures or, more formally, non-verbal behavior related to movement, either of any part of the body or the body as a whole. Facial expressions can clearly express how someone is feeling. Along with facial expressions, body language and someone’s movement can instill how a person is feeling. Good body posture, a nice smile, and eye contact are essential for making good impressions. It is equally important to avoid crossing your arms, which may signify boredom, or sitting too casually, which could indicate a lack of care. When a person is happy, you will usually be able to tell by a smile. When a person is feeling down or depressed, you might be able to tell because they are slumped in their chair and have a sullen look on their face. It is important for a person to be aware of what their body language is stating, and to be aware that every potential body movement can make an impact. Thus, to be an effective communicator it is important for a person to understand a people’s facial expressions and body language.


Proxemics is the study of the cultural, behavioral, and sociological aspects of spatial distances between individuals. The distance between two people can reflect the feelings and attitudes of the individuals involved. The picture below shows what Anthropologist Edward Hall determined were the four zones Americans use:

The picture indicates that there are four different zones. Each of these zones can tell how close you are with someone, and can also indicate the relationship you with another individual. Although it varies from different cultures, Americans are very touchy about maintaining their personal space. In business, it is very rare that someone’s intimate space is violated. It is important to figure out what limits certain people have and to recognize when they feel their space is being violated. If you are someone who feels like they need personal space, it is important to deal with the invasion in a delightful manner. If a person were to have a boss who was hands on and didn’t have personal space problems, or who recognizes what an adequate distance for a personal is, an improper handling on the situation could have a negative effect on their career. Even when you might not be in someone’s personal space, people can feel that their personal space being violated. According to scientists, a person’s senses play a significant role in a person’s personal space (Rosenbloom, 2006). This is why it is important to learn how to read people and to know their personal limits in regards to space.


Haptics is any form of nonverbal communication involving touch. In the business world, using haptics in certain cultures can create the feeling of trust and warmth. However, when you use haptics inappropriately it can betray trust and cause annoyances. In certain cultures, it is a traditional business practice to provide your business partner with a kiss on the cheek or to hold hands (Shively, 2010). In the United States, anything beyond a handshake is usually unwelcomed. According to most studies done on American interaction, Americans do not like to be touched (Rosenbloom, 2006). Although it can go back to personal space, most Americans have trouble being touched by others, especially when it involves business. When doing business on a global level it is important to note the different attitude that is taken on in reference to haptics. Most cultures view intimate embraces as an acceptable and reasonable practice. This is why you need to be able to adapt to certain haptic situations in the business world.

Physical Environment

Another way of nonverbal communication is the physical environment that somebody is in. The physical environment that we operate in suggests how we feel and can shape how we can communicate with others. In a business office, the way the work stations are set up can say a lot about how company wants to be perceived. In most business offices the reception area tries to offer an inviting feel. They want customers and potential customers to feel welcomed and relaxed. In an office where cubicles are present, it is a way for a company to create intimate settings for a number of employees. When they have an open floor plan, it encourages the employees to have open interactions with one another. Another important part of the physical environment is the way that the furniture is situated. Where and how you are situated can have a profound impact on how you are perceived. If you are a manager or are in a position of power, it is important to have an understanding of this. In a meeting, a manager is more likely to sit at the head of a table so that they are able to direct the interaction. The cleanliness or organization of an office or workstation can tell a lot about a person. This is why it is important to keep your personal work area neat and organized.


The way that we utilize time can make a big impression on other people. Chronemics is the study of time usage in nonverbal communication. Chronemics states that the way in which we perceive time, structure our time and react to time is a powerful communication tool. Time perceptions can be expressed through punctuality, willingness to wait, speed of speech or even the amount of time people are willing to listen. When beginning a new job, a person can get a reputation for being lazy if they are late for meetings or work (Adler, Elmhorst, & Lucas, 2010). In business, time is money; and when you waste someone’s time (money) it is one of the worst things you can do. This is why it is important to have good time management skills. It is always better to show up to a meeting 15 minutes early instead of being 15 minutes late. As a manager, to show that you have good time management skills it is important that you’re meetings run in the allotted time. This will show your underlings that you are organized and came well prepared for the meeting.


Nonverbal communication is a very powerful tool that often time goes unnoticed by individuals. You may not always intend on sending nonverbal messages, but everything you do has the potential to convey a meaning. It is said that 93% of people’s judgments are based off nonverbal inputs (Krueger, 2010). That is why it is important to understand what others are perceiving off of your body language. Although you might try to convey one message with your nonverbal, it is possible that your messages can be construed into something different. The major thing that your nonverbal messages should do is express your attitude. When your nonverbal communication conveys your attitude, it will make it less likely to mix them up. In business, nonverbal communication will play a big role in your professional life. Everything that you do can have an effect on what happens to you. If you dress down for an interview, you might not get the job. If your eyes wonder off during a business meeting you can lose your current client or lose the ability to have that person’s business. This makes it important to know what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why you are doing it in regards to your nonverbal communication.


Adler, R., Elmhorst, J., & Lucas, K. (2010). Communicating at Work. New York City: Mcgraw Hill.

Bianchi, A. (2005). First Impressions: What Does Your Workplace Say About You? Retrieved from Human Equation:

Costabilo, F. (2010, November 24). How appearance factors into employee success in workplace . Retrieved from Press Enterprise:

Kleinschmidt, K. (2013, October 1). 4 Key Characteristics of Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved from Livestrong:

Krueger, A. (2010, December 16). 12 Statistic-Driven Ways To Make Lasting First Impressions. Retrieved from Business Insider:

Poyatos, F. (2002). Nonverbal Communication Across Disciplines. Amsterdam: Benjamin Publishing Company.

Rosenbloom, S. (2006, November 16). In Certain Circles, Two Is a Crowd. Retrieved from New York Times:

Shively, M. (2010, Mach 29). International Nonverbal Communication Patterns for Business. Retrieved from Yahoo:

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