Nonverbal Communication in a Business Context

People often cannot find the words to express certain emotions and feelings. Any communication which is performed without words can be considered nonverbal communication. This type of communication is mostly overlooked, but nevertheless, is considered important during conversations. “Non-verbal language represents over 50% of our total message” (Connor), and thus learning nonverbal communication becomes necessary in everyday life. This paper analyzes nonverbal communication in a business context, providing an overview of several implementations of nonverbal communication in a business environment.

The importance of nonverbal communication in a business environment such as meetings can be related to the ability of the leader to decode the followers’ signals and accordingly take their perspective. Such ability contributes to the leader’s empathy, which in turn is an important determinant of the leader’s ability to be responsive to followers (Riggio & Feldman, 2005, p. 126).

Nonverbal communication is not limited to the ability to decode the signals and the gestures of others, but also the ability to encode signals on your own. In that regard, calling a meeting to order could be done more effectively with an expressive gesture such as raising a hand, which if combined with a corresponding facial expression, will bring the attention of the meeting immediately.

Similarly, the leader in a conversation might invite someone to continue with the comments by stretching a hand with an open palm, as a sign of invitation. The last gestures might be combined with direct eye contact, so the expression might be clear and correctly understood.

Additionally, similar techniques might be used to emphasize an important topic, for example by holding a pause before speaking, changing the position, or standing up. Showing approval, on the other hand, might be done with fewer efforts, e.g. nodding the head as someone is speaking. The head can be also used to express reservation, where tilting the head at the positions that you feel doubt can help to manage the situation without using words. The latter can be emphasized by a nod and facial expression such as raising an eyebrow.

The flow of the conversation can be regulated through a combination of gestures among which changing the position during a conversation, where standing during a conversation might imply a faster pace than when sitting. The same can be applied to the position of the back, were leaning back on the chair can be interpreted to a slower pace, rather than leaning forward and putting the elbows on the table. Additionally, the pace can be regulated based on the pace of the leader’s actions, as the participants in the meeting will be unwillingly imitating the pace established by the leader.

It can be concluded that nonverbal communication is an important aspect of a business context. The business environment implies communication, where managers spend 80% of their workday engaged in communication. (Riggio & Feldman, 2005, p. 119) Additionally, the effect of globalization implies working in an international environment with many people who know English, but nevertheless, it is not their native language. Nonverbal communication in that regard is international with most gestures and expressions interpreted similarly around the globe.


  1. Connor, T. Non-Verbal Messages are More Important than What the Prospect Says.
  2. Riggio, R. E., & Feldman, R. S. (2005). Applications of nonverbal communication. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
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