93% of interpersonal communication is nonverbal

Rebecca Mohr

Actions speak louder than words, so the saying goes.

In her book “The Power of Body Language,” Tonya Reiman, a nationally renowned body language expert, suggests 93 percent of a person’s interpersonal communication is nonverbal. Body language changes countless times during the day and in all professional settings.

Everyday body language

Hand gestures and facial expressions are two of the most valuable features for reading nonverbal communication.

“The face is a very descriptive thing in letting people know what’s going on inside your head,” said Carol Savery, a doctoral student and instructor in the College of Communication and Information. “The eyes and eyebrows are very expressive.”

Some people are able to read body language very well, while others are clueless, Savery said.

“Think of someone in your own life,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s a family member, and you walk in and you look at them and they ask, ‘What’s wrong?'”

Some students say they are able to read a person’s nonverbal communication.

“You can tell if someone wants to be approached,” Matt Pavley, senior interpersonal communications major, said. “If they have their headphones and aren’t making any eye contact, they don’t want to be approached.”

People can pick up on positive and negative nonverbal language, as well.

“If someone’s head is up, and they are making eye contact, they are easy to approach,” said Mikenna Stephenson, senior organizational communications major.

Impression management

Savery said it is na’ve to think a job interview begins when one is with the interviewer.

“One of the first things to realize (is) the interview is actually starting when you come into the company and talk to the receptionist”, Savery said. “If your tone is rude or dismissive, or you’re doing some funny nonverbal, then that information gets back to the interviewer.”

In a job interview, the interviewee should be aware of his or her body language. Body language changes in different social settings.

“In a business setting, you have to appear professional with eye contact and little fidgeting,” said Sarah Jacob, senior organizational communication major. “If you’re giving off bad nonverbals, then you are lowing your credibility.”

An interviewer is taking in everything about the possible job candidate, Savery said. If someone is saying one thing and doing another, another person will believe the nonverbal.

“They are watching what you’re saying and even what you are not saying,” Savery said. “Basically, an interview is impression management, because you want to get your best foot forward.”

Impression management is trying to put a very positive impression on other people, Savory said.

Paying attention to body language may be difficult for some students at first. Taking a class or reading a body language book such as Reiman’s may help a person start to notice his or her nonverbal communication.

“It can be a competitive standout,” Pavley said. “You may eventually learn the rules, but it helps to be aware of them before you even start.”

Contact features reporter Rebecca Mohr at [email protected].