What Percentage of Communication is Nonverbal?


Have you ever been able to tell exactly what someone else was thinking simply by their body language? How about having a conversation with someone whose mannerisms did not fit the words coming out of their mouth?  This nonverbal communication can be used to reinforce what you say, verbally, or may contradict the spoken words causing communication gaps and confusion. Some believe that around 55% of all communication is nonverbal, while others put the percentage at around 90%; either way, it is a powerful influence in how others perceive you as well as how you lead a team. So, exactly what percentage of communication is nonverbal?

What is Nonverbal Communication?

A lot of what others perceive of you comes from nonverbal communication; nonverbal communication includes body language, which is when you use facial expressions and physical mannerisms- consciously or not- to convey a thought, feeling, or mood. Most often, people are not even aware that they are nonverbally communicating as a lot of it is done instinctively and unconsciously.

Think about the behaviors that you exhibit on an everyday basis: the way that you stand, how loud you speak, your eye contact, any hand gestures- are all examples of nonverbal communication. As such, these can often send mixed messages when speech and behaviors are incongruent. Furthermore, one of the most powerful forms of communication is silence.

When communicating with others, you send cues to others through the way that you look at them, react to their words, and how you listen to what they say. When your nonverbal cues are congruent with the words that you say, you instill sincerity, trust, and truthfulness in the engagement. If not, you may be conveying mistrust, confusion, or anxiety.

Improve your communication skills by paying heed to the way that you nonverbally communicate with those around you. Begin to notice in yourself and others the following influential forms of nonverbal communication:

  • Facial expressions
  • Posture
  • Body movements
  • The way you walk
  • Eye contact, and lack thereof
  • Hand gestures
  • Physical touch, including handshakes, hugs, and pats
  • Distance and personal space; closeness
  • Tone volume, inflection, and sounds of your voice

These all contribute to communication– are you sending the message that  you want to others with your nonverbal behaviors? It is possible to hone and improve nonverbal communication for work and business- and prevent any misunderstandings – by fine tuning your nonverbal communication skills for the workplace. Consider these tips:

  • Stand up straight and don’t slouch. This exudes confidence, pride, and integrity. Slouching could be interpreted as shame, shadiness, or sulking.
  • Lean forward when talking to show interest in what the other individuals are saying.
  • In serious conversations, don’t laugh or smile when it is inappropriate to do so.
  • Be animated but aware of excessive hand gesturing, as it can make you seem a little aggressive.
  • Avoid fidgeting or other nervous habits.
  • Don’t jiggle or tap feet or hands in important discussions; it could be conveyed as boredom.
  • Make good eye contact, but don’t stare or gawk at others.
  • Pay attention to those speaking to you and follow conversations.
  • Shake hands with new acquaintances, but not too firm and not too loose.
  • Don’t fuss with your face or hair with your hands when talking to someone else.
  • Don’t force or fake laughter; it can make you seem inauthentic.
  • Keep a distance of around six feet to allow for personal space of others, when possible. When sitting and talking closer than that, make sure that you give the other person their space and don’t get too close.
  • When talking with a group, rotate and share eye contact with each participant during the conversation, meeting, or interview.
  • Don’t interrupt others even if you have something important to say. It is simply rude.
  • Don’t fold your arms; it can seem defensive and make others reticent to approach you.
  • Modulate your voice’s volume and tone so that you don’t whisper or seem too loud for the situation. Watch your inflection, too; poor inflection can make you seem snarky.
  • Nod to articulate that you understand or empathize with someone who is speaking to you.
  • Don’t look at your clock frequently in meetings or when talking to others, as it demonstrates that you are hurried or waiting to leave.
  • Read the room and gauge the reactions of those around you. Monitor the mood and situation before jumping in to speak.
  • Watch others’ nonverbal communication cues to determine what their reactions are to what you say. It can be very enlightening.
  • Listen attentively when others speak. It is one of the most important things that a leader can do to effectively inspire and manage a team.

These may seem like basic bedrocks of common courtesy, and they are- however, it is possible to be conveying unfavorable messages without realizing that you are doing it! Like any professional skill set, you can improve and hone your nonverbal, as well as verbal, communication skills.

What Percentage of Communication is Non-Verbal?

In 1971, a researcher and author published a book about nonverbal gestures and the percentage of communication that is nonverbal. This expert, Albert Mehrabian, asserted that around 55% of communication is body language, 38% is voice tone, and a mere 7% is actual speech and spoken words.

Since that time, researchers that continue to explore the realm of nonverbal communication believe that the numbers may actually be higher than that and that over 90% of all communication is body language- including the way that you smile, laugh, stand, walk- all nonverbal mannerisms and behaviors.

What are you saying to others with your body language, mannerisms, and tone? When learning how to become an image consultant, you need to understand these nuances. Nonverbal communication is something that says a lot about you- as well as how you feel, what you think, and who you are. An Image consultant and style expert can utilize nonverbal communication to engage clients, customers, and constituents, as well as to identify their feelings on what they wear. When you style a client and they feel good, it shows; confidence manifests in body language. Pay attention to your customer’s nonverbal cues to know how they are feeling, what they like, and what they don’t.


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