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Non-verbal communication

There are more and more publications devoted to non-verbal communication on the publishing market. And it is not surprising, because the subject still seems to be unfathomable and extremely intriguing. The researchers are trying to search for the sources of its persuasive ‘superiority’ over verbal communication, they explore cultural differences in the body language, are trying to correlate it with the features of temperament, personality, with sex and its origin – genetic, inborn, cultural – it is still the subject of many boisterous discussion and research.

Non-verbal communication is an area of the life which regards each of us.  Analysing our and another person's behaviours, basing on our own experience, we quite often subconsciously feel that not only a word counts in the information exchange. This subject becomes particularly interesting in the situation of so called cognitive dissonance which consists in spotting and sensing discrepancies between the verbal and non-verbal layer of one's statement.  Then, as research shows, people (women in particular) believe what the facial expression accompanying words, emotions which they observe and feel during the statement etc. express, far more than words[1].  Therefore, in the analysis of transmission we start to be subconsciously driven more by a heart than by mind.

Except for all scientific (evolutionary, cultural) explanations for such state of affairs, above all, we appeal to our life experience, which sometimes proves that one can reach perfection in formulating so-called ‘rounded words’. However, it is definitely more difficult and often even impossible to control and mask real intentions, given away, like it or not, by the body language. 

According to the above information, we become attentive observers, or even voyeurs of human behaviour, trying to catch somebody in a lie, insincerity or hypocrisy.  Of course, the others pay us back and make us the object of their analyses and observation with delight.

It is probably worth starting the exploration of the knowledge about non-verbal communication by defining, what it is and what it consists of.

According to Włodzimierz Głodowski, ‘all signals appearing in personal interaction which have neither a form of a spoken nor written word and include all other types of transmission, which exert certain influence on its participants, are non-verbal transmissions’[2].

Types of non-verbal signals are presented in the following diagram.

Types of non-verbal signals


Source: own research based on K. Głodowski, Komunikowanie interpersonalne, Wydanictwo Hansa Communication, Warszawa 2006; E. Brzezińska, A. Paszkowska-Rogacz, Człowiek w firmie. Bez obaw i z ochotą, Difin, Warszawa 2009.

It is easy to see, how complex non-verbal communication is. Using the knowledge hidden in non-verbal signals, should be based not only on the intuition, which due to its subjectivity can turn out to be unreliable, but also on the objective knowledge and premises. Hence there are numerous workshops, training programmes and courses directed on one hand on explaining the existence of non-verbal communication signals, and on the other hand on acquiring the skills to interpret them correctly. It should be emphasized that the interpretation must be extremely ‘careful’ and include speech-accompanying gestures, relational and cultural aspect. According to Allan and Barbara Pease, the authors of the Body language bestseller, the key is to understand the interlocutor’s emotional states as well as the situational context.

Having knowledge about the non-verbal communication is useful not only when we appear as a recipient, but also, or even above all, when we become the author of the statement.  Through the selection of proper gestures we can help our interlocutor in correct understanding of our intentions, statements. Thanks to this we avoid miscommunications, prevent communication barriers. Thus, we have a chance to build much more satisfactory relations with people. It is not about hypocrisy or manipulation, but conscious use of benefits of knowledge, simplifying our everyday life.

This knowledge is also a strong weapon in fight against manipulation of other people. Living in the ‘pictorial culture’, we see more and more often (e.g. in commercial spots) that the minimum words are accompanied by countless quantities of images, beguiling with colour, move and emotions. The aim of this action is to put our vigilance to sleep, deprive of rational thinking and create new needs, which as a consequence makes us not only buy the product, as dreams, emotions and the ideological pipe-dream[3].

As one can see there are many reasons for exploring knowledge in the body language and it is sometimes good to make use of it. However, we should not analyse every statement in detail. Let us be spontaneous, not fall into the trap of studied, poor gesturing, because it can turn out, that fascinated and frightened of the power of body language, we will stop deriving pleasure from conversations with people...

Julia Otto


Brzezińska E., Paszkowska- Rogacz A., Człowiek w firmie. Bez obaw i z ochotą, Difin,Warszawa 2009.

Głodowski K., Komunikowanie interpersonalne, Wydawnictwo Hansa Communication, Warszawa 2006.

Pease A. i B, Mowa ciała, Rebis, Poznań 2011.

Petterson L.M., Więcej niż słowa. Potęga komunikacji niewerbalnej, GWP, Sopot 2011.


[1] A. i B. Pease, Mowa ciała, Rebis, Poznań 2011, p. 44.

[2] K. Głodowski, Komunikowanie interpersonalne, Wydawnictwo Hansa Communication, Warszawa 206, p. 224.

[3] L.M. Petterson, Więcej niż słowa. Potęga komunikacji niewerbalnej, GWP, Sopot 2011.