What Percentage of Communication is Body Language? 11 Strategies to Effectively Communicate Without Words

Have you ever wondered what percentage of communication is comprised of body language? The answer might surprise you. Body language plays a much more important role in communication than many people realize, with research suggesting that it makes up an average of 55% of all communication.

From understanding facial expressions and body postures to tone of voice and small gestures, these strategies will offer insight into how to effectively total absence of spoken words. By reading this article, you’ll gain the necessary knowledge to be able to accurately interpret body language and improve your communication skills.

11 strategies to help you effectively communicate without words by recognizing and utilizing body language cues will be explored. These strategies will help you understand how to interpret body language and use it to your advantage.

What Is Body Language?

Body language is a form of nonverbal communication which involves using physical behavior to express emotions, thoughts, and intentions. It includes facial expressions, eye contact, body movements, hand gestures, and tone of voice. The term was first coined by Ray Birdwistle in his book Kinesics and Context: Essay on Body Motion Communication which explored the field of nonverbal communication.

Research shows that a vast majority of communication is nonverbal. In fact, studies suggest that more than half of communication is nonverbal. This means that understanding body language can be invaluable in order to effectively communicate with others. By recognizing how we are communicating through our nonverbal cues, we can deepen conversations, build trust, and better convey our message.

Nonverbal behavior plays an important role in verbal communication. Through nonverbal behaviors like eye contact, body language, and hand gestures, we can set the context for our conversations and speaking. We can also express emotion without saying a word, alter our tone, show agreement or disagreement, and create positive or negative reactions from others. All these body language gestures help us to communicate effectively, even when we don’t say anything.

Some other forms of nonverbal communication have certain cultural contexts. Mirroring another person’s body language and hand gestures can help establish a rapport, while leaning forward as a sign of interest can show the other person that you are listening attentively. Through reading societal norms and adapting your body language accordingly, you can capture the message behind what people are saying.

Overall, body language is an integral part of communication. Incorporating it can add depth and meaning to conversations, demonstrate empathy, and strengthen relationships. To effectively communicate, it is important to understand nonverbal cues and use them to send a clear message.

You should also learn about different types of conversations.

What Percentage of Communication is Body Language?

It is widely acknowledged that body language plays an integral role in communication. Body language, or ‘nonverbal communication’, refers to all forms of facial expressions, hand gestures, postural and verbal behaviour which are used to express attitudes beyond what is spoken. It provides insight into a person’s real thoughts and emotions, enabling us to pick up on cues in our conversations that would otherwise go unnoticed. Thus, nonverbal communication has the ability to enhance how we communicate and understand each other.

Research has suggested that as much as 93% of communication is done using nonverbal elements, while only 7% is dependent on spoken words (Mehrabian, 1971). This number represents the vast majority of communication occurring between people, emphasizing the importance of nonverbal communication skills. It is two-fold; when it comes to face-to-face conversation, 55% of the message is sent through a person’s facial expression, followed closely by 38% of the meaning being conveyed through elements such as tone of voice and intonation, body movements and hand gestures, leaving only 7% attributed to the spoken word.

Albert Mehrabian famously studied the effects of verbal/nonverbal signals in 1961. In this research, it was determined that a person’s attitude can be interpreted effectively without relying on the spoken word. His further 1977 study created a culture where people understood the importance of being aware of their body language, recognizing its importance in communication. By breaking down communication into distinct parts, Mehrabian’s findings highlighted the dynamics between how different nonverbal elements interact with one another—when looked at together, they come together to form a single attitude (a total attitude).

The results of Mehrabian’s study in combination highlights the importance of understanding the various components of communication in order to send an effective message. When verbal and nonverbal messages don’t match, communication breakdown occurs due to confusion. For example, if a person says ‘I’m fine’ with a sad facial expression, the receiver may respond emotionally instead of believing the words. Adapting verbal and nonverbal cues to create a unified message is important for successful interactions.

It is essential to be aware of the nonverbal messages we are sending out, as the percentage of communication encompassed purely in words is surprisingly small. The importance of developing good nonverbal communication cannot be overstated; whether it is in person or remotely, mastering the art of conveying the intended message using body language is key. Improving nonverbal communication skills takes practice and can often be overlooked yet holds just as much weight as verbal communication in many cases.

Overall, Mehrabian’s findings suggest that much of communication relies on nonverbal cues and facial expressions. An estimated 93% of communication is done using nonverbal components, while only 7% rests in the spoken word. Without the interplay of verbal and nonverbal elements, you will likely struggle to accurately convey your message and feelings to others. To effectively communicate and understand each other, one must pay close attention to the verbal and nonverbal components of their interaction to ensure that the message being delivered aligns with the expressed emotion and intention.

Tips for Effective In-Person Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is a form of communication that occurs without the use of spoken words. It involves an individual’s body language, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice and posture. Research suggests that up to 93% of communication is nonverbal, with only 7% being communicated through spoken words. This means the importance of body language cannot be overstated. It can convey messages in a much subtler way than spoken words. When verbal and nonverbal messages do not match, it can create doubt and mistrust. Furthermore, when communicating in person, one should always take into account the cultural differences in body language to ensure successful communication.

When speaking in public, for example, hand gestures can often help form clearer ideas and sentences; moreover, different cultures gesture in different ways. Generally speaking, head movements such as nodding contribute to expressing agreement with what is said. On the other hand, shaking your head can mean disagreement or disapproval. People who are aware of the subtle forms of body language will be more easily able to pick up on others’ feelings and emotions.

The off-putting effect of message incongruence must also be noted when considering nonverbal communication: when there is a mismatch between verbal and nonverbal behavior, people tend to follow the nonverbal cue they receive instead of the literal meaning of the words. This can be seen in teachers who use gestures while teaching. Research has found that students remember and understand written content better when their teachers exercise hand gestures that are consistent with the lesson content.

You should also read:

How can you use verbal communication effectively?
Non-verbal Communication: Why It Matters and How to Do it Well
10 Steps to a Successful Communication Plan: Why You Need One

1. Read and Adapt to Emotion

A huge portion of nonverbal communication stems from facial expressions. Our expressions give us away and reveal our emotional condition. It is especially important to become acutely aware of facial expressions when in conversation, as expressing empathy allows one to better connect with the other person. Making use of body language can strengthen or weaken a message, depending on how it is expressed and received. Reading a person’s nonverbal signals is also beneficial for gauging the attitude of a person you are communicating with. You can observe their facial expressions, tone of voice, and body movements to recognize if they are engaged, listening, annoyed, frustrated, etc.

Expressing yourself through nonverbal communication is important, and so is understanding the intention and emotions behind gestures. One theory is the 7-38-55 rule, which states that around 7 percent of any message comes from the words we choose, 38 percent is determined by how we say them, and 55 percent by our body language, including our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture and even silence.

Good eye contact is an essential aspect of any verbal or nonverbal communication. Maintaining eye contact during conversations can increase the speaker’s confidence, build trust and make sure the audience is truly listening to what is being said. Additionally, smiling is a great way to maintain eye contact and express emotion; a pleasant, friendly smile can make the other person more likely to listen and pay attention.

2. Adjust Your Proximity

Communication is a two-way street, where both parties involved in the conversation exchange verbal, as well as nonverbal information. Nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and physical distance communicate a lot more than the spoken word. Knowing how to utilize and read these signals provides a unique view of the message behind the words being spoken.

Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, has done extensive research on the importance of nonverbal communication and has come up with a 55/38/7 formula, suggesting that approximately 55 percent of all communication between two individuals comes from their body language, 38 percent from the sound of their voice and only 7 percent from the literal meaning of their words. In most cases, therefore, nonverbal communication plays a much more important role than verbal communication.

When people who speak and are unaware of nonverbal signals, they may come across as sending mixed messages; despite having these intentions, the wrong message could still affect the listener. At the same time, it is important to note that these signals can vary widely between and within cultures. Understanding and interpreting body language are particularly important skills in a professional setting and can help enhance communication, negotiation, and leadership abilities.

3. Mirror Culture

Different cultures have different expectations when it comes to body language and thus, understanding cultural differences is essential for successful communication. Mirroring behavior—adjusting one’s body language, positioning and gestures to match the culture of the person or organization in conversation—is an effective way to show openness to conversation.

People often subconsciously send distress signals when engaging in conversation. Universal signs of discomfort can include fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, faulty posture, controlling tension and any other body movement related to insecurity or fear. Being mindful of these signals is important for preventing misunderstandings.

Cultural body language disparities can also play an important role in communication. Certain head movements are culture-specific, such as shaking the head for “no” in the United States and “yes” in India. With this in mind, it is important to be conscious of how other societies employ nonverbal forms of communication. Such information can be valuable when participating in cross-cultural dialogues or negotiations.

In addition, certain context cues must be taken into consideration when attempting to understand somebody’s body language, Stereotypes and preconceived notions lead to misreading much of communication through body language. Good posture, a sense of confidence, self-awareness and maintaining an open attitude all demonstrate a willingness to engage in the conversation. By being conscious of these small details, the value of nonverbal communication increases considerably, with large potential payoffs.

Tips for Effective Digital Nonverbal Communication

Digital communication has grown in popularity in recent years. Although the internet and communication technologies enable us to communicate quickly and easily across distances, surprisingly, face-to-face interaction is still key when it comes to understanding subtle nonverbal cues shared among people. Digital nonverbal communication is a little different than in-person body language and it relies on fewer facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact, which allow many of the same nuances to be communicated virtually, but on a more limited scale.

In an effort to recognize what’s missing in this digital landscape and find ways to compensate, Dr. Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups and Influencing People, proposes three practical nonverbal communication skills that are still available to us in digital communication. These involve expressing emotion, adjusting tone, and using physical distance as a form of communication.

Expressing emotion can be highly effective for communicating through digital screens. In face-to-face communication, expressive facial features serve as indicators of a person’s emotions, thoughts, and attitude. Similarly, it is possible to convey the same information in virtual conversations if the speaker effectively utilizes facial expressions. Thus, it is important to be conscious of how cultivated and sensitive one’s facial expressions get conveyed via video conferencing, particularly in emotionally charged conversations.

The tone and expression play vital roles in conveying intended messages online and in other digital formats. When communicating digitally, some of the most important nonverbal cues—gestures, postures, and even proximity—are missing. To mimic these cues, it’simportant to adjust your tone and enunciation. Pitch, intonation, loudness, emphasis, tempo, and speed can help carry a message in a simpler manner than actual words can. If a word is uttered with full confidence and firm articulation, it tends to sound promising to the recipient.

Finally, it is imperative to consider physical distance when speaking with someone online. This is an example of Nonverbal Communication 2.0, which involves engaging in body consciousness. Commands issued from a far-away camera view may lack the desired effectiveness unless backed up with an adequatechange in voice and facial expressions. Furthermore, it’s important to make sure that you’re not too close to the camera or blocking any part of the view.

It is also worth mentioning that women have been found to arrive at better decisions than men when interacting with others, especially when making use of nonverbal cues present during face-to-face interactions. Consequently, video conferencing should be used for critical conversations when possible. For example, if receiving bad news, being able to look into the person’s eyes, erases the emotional gap created by e-mail or other methods of digital communication.

By carefully applying existing forms of nonverbal communication while speaking over digital screens, it is still possible to create meaningful and effective dialogue without relying solely on words.

4. Express Emotion

As we all know, nonverbal communication plays a significant role in exchanging messages. Facial expressions, for example, serve as an excellent way to articulate one’s emotions and can also hold greater weight than spoken words. Research studies indicate that facial expressions account for the vast majority of our nonverbal communication—approximately 55%. Thus, accurately interpreting another person’s facial expressions is essential for making good judgements based on nonverbal cues.

In the world of digital communication, it is especially important to recognize how nonverbal signals that cannot be seen might be influencing how your message is being received by the reader. It is important to be aware of the impact that simply changing your posture or making eye contact can have. Proper expressions combined with good posture and appropriate use of words can do wonders to establish confidence in communication.

Furthermore, learning to empathize with the other person’s experience is equally important. Emotional empathy means understanding the emotions of the recipient. According to neuroscience research, through ‘mirroring neurons’, the activity of the observer’s brain follows that of the subject’s. This means that by paying attention to the other person’s nonverbal signals, it becomes easier for both parties to adjust their verbal message to reach a common language.

Avoid responding sudden unexpected reactions or triggering aggressive body gestures such as crossing arms, which could indicate a negative response or discomfort. Speak to the individual calmly and confidently, understand the approach, and aim to bring comfort and reassurance.

5. Adjust Your Tone and Expression

Communication is nonverbal to a great extent and is dependent on the way in which one speaks rather than on the number of words used. According to two research studies conducted by the University of Haifa and Stanford, peoples’ responses are almost twice as likely to be influenced by the tone of voice than by the actual words that are said.

The tone of voice reveals much more than just the meaning of the words uttered. Pitch, inflection, intensity, and volume all add to the meaning of what someone is saying and can help build a bridge of understanding between partners. For example, raising or lowering the pitch of one’s voice can change the tone of a sentence from neutral to alert, angry, excited, or surprised.

When speaking digitally, pay special attention to the tonal characteristics of your speech to ensure that they do not impede nonverbal communication. If the tone of the conversation is flat, it might be necessary to increase the affective content by exaggerating the pitch and intonation. Intensifying the importance of words by emphasizing them can also help. Additionally, incorporating short pauses, modulating the speed of your speech, and using a higher pitch can contribute to successful digital communication.

By adopting these practices, speakers can convey greater levels of emotion, which is crucial for building strong relationships in digital spaces.

6. Use Your Hands

.: Nonverbal communication isn’t only limited to facial expressions, body language, and eye contact, it also includes hand gestures. In face-to-face conversations, hand gestures help to convey the message in an accurate and efficient manner. Not surprisingly, research shows that couples who integrate and adapt their gestures quite often tend to form a better connection.

With digital remote communication, hand gestures might be one of the few elements a viewer can pick up on to appreciate the essence of the exchange. Studies suggest that when someone is engaged in animated and salient gestures while speaking onscreen, they become more relatable and persuasive. Therefore, utilizing hands in online conversations could become a strong asset when trying to gain trust and allegiance.

Using too many hand movements might backfire, however. Being aware of the person’s physical distance allows one to establish an ideal amount of motion that would function as a non-appropriative gesture, expressing enthusiasm, interest, amazement, surprise, etc. As the person on the other side of the screen cannot physically move closer to the speaker, it is important to transfer your intentions through expressions energetically and assertively.

Therefore, when it comes to digital nonverbal communication, it is important to be conscious about the tone of your voice, facial expressions, and gestures. By leveraging these tools, in addition to the use of context, even a single word can communicate a complex message. However, it’s important to note that digital communication will never substitute face-to-face interaction, as the latter still holds the keys to many of the subtleties required in effective communication.

Strategies to Effectively Communicate Without Words

Nonverbal communication is more than just body language: in fact, sometimes it is more important to communicate without words than with them. To become a master of nonverbal communication, one must understand the three C’s: context, clusters and congruence. Context includes cultural norms and taboos as well as general behavior accepted by society. Clusters are associated with facial expression, posture and gestures that come together to create a message or emotion. Lastly, congruence focuses on sending a consistent message between verbal and non-verbal communication.

In the virtual world, leveraging these three C’s can revolutionize how people communicate with each other. It can be easy to not pick up on small nuances, such as pauses and vocal inflections, when communicating remotely. One way to replicating every day conversation over digital platforms is to pay closer attention to details within the conversation. Saying things and exhibiting actions that align with each other will strengthen the likelihood that your message gets across accurately. Human-centered communication strategies, such as being aware of how the other person is interpreting what you’re saying and answering questions based on their view of the world, will put your conversations on the right track.

Another concept to apply when communicating without spoken words is the 7-38-55 rule. This rule states that 7 percent of a person’s total attitude is conveyed through his or her actual words, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language. In negotiations, this means that while it may seem like spoken words have the most weight, what people do not say actually carries the most power.

When communicating through a video conference, camera proximity should also be taken into consideration. The closer the person’s face is to the camera, the easier it will be to read their facial expressions and nonverbal cues. This can show confidence and, ultimately, build trust with the other party. Taking the time to adjust to the other person’s comfort zone allows for a more presentational and meaningful interaction.

The last, but certainly not least, tip is to never forget to use turn up emotional volume. Although virtual conversations quite often lack the large majority of emotions that would typically be expressed through physical presence, turning up emotional volume is a great way to ensure that your message is communicated accurately. Emotions easily mutated or lost in virtual conversations and also misjudged if one is not mindful of accentuating their emotions. Consider adding gestures or facial expressions during significant points, giving your words more emphasis with a wider tonal range.

7. Consider Camera Proximity

During virtual interactions, it is imperative to consider camera proximity. Doing so gives the conversation a heightened level of engagement, as the view of each person’s facial expressions informs the other of the intent of their words. If a person’s face is too far from their camera, details in their faces can be lost and this could lead to miscommunication. For example, facial expressions can give life to words, such as smile indicating sarcasm or a wink expressing approval rather than its literal interpretation. Showing appropriate levels of enthusiasm–not too little nor too much–is also key factor to communication effectiveness.

Additionally, due to the wide variety of cultures around the world, body language used in communication can vary greatly in meaning specific context. Moving nearer to the camera can help viewers identify certain specific gestures that may differ in name and purpose. This can help them accurately decipher the context and determine true intentions behind the speaker’s comments.

8. Turn up Emotional Volume

Albert Mehrabian’s research on nonverbal communication revealed the vast majority of communication is not done through spoken words, but instead through body language and facial expressions. His formula, which consists of 55 percent postural component and 38 percent vocal inflections make up the total attitude expressed. This means that though person’s body language and facial expressions play an important role in how their message is interpreted, the spoken word will still carry the greatest weight.

By adding nonverbal elements, such as body posture, facial expressions, eye contact, and a professional yet friendly tone of voice to your communication, you can help ensure your messages are accurate and full of emotional content. That said, it is important to remember to keep your conversations welcoming, warm and relaxed while speaking to avoid creating an unwelcome tense environment.

9. Be Authentic

It is critical to be mindful of facial expressions and other nonverbal elements when communicating virtually, however, it is equally important to, be authentic. Being authentic should not be mistaken for putting on a performance: it requires balance. It can be easy to worry more about saying the right words rather than showing emotion, but this can be counterintuitive. People tend to feel more connected to moments that involve genuine emotion rather than fancy words; relationships are built and trust established. Demonstrating attentive listening, by nodding or making affirmative sounds, is a great way to show interest and build authenticity.

The best possible outcome for a face-to-face negotiation is to communicate the message clearly and securely. Embodying the same feelings and principles with nonverbal communication as verbal, helps foster relationships and builds trust between both parties. It avoids confrontation from misunderstanding and assists presentations running smoother.

Muting the emotions and downplaying reactions however in a virtual space can have negative effects, leading people to miss out on social interactions and decisions taken due to miscommunication. Considerations must be made and protocols to be followed. To get the message across, being understood and articulate is essential. The tone of voice greatly affects the meaning and becoming aware of body language and facial expressions give context to the message being relayed.

In conclusion, mastering the art of nonverbal communication involves understanding the three C’s: context, clusters, and congruence. It also requires an awareness of Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-5 rule and its relevance in negotiations, as well as considering camera proximity for facial expressions in virtual settings. Finally, becoming aware of the importance of emotional volume and being authentic will serve as the foundation for healthy communication and relationships. Most importantly, practice and paying attention to detail are key in learning the art of nonverbal communication because it’s not just about knowing the words to say, but also how to say them.


Effective communication without words is an important skill in today’s society, no matter the context. We may think of verbal communication as being 75-93% of communication, but realistically, we communicate both verbally and nonverbally. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, body language, hand gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions can say just as much, or even more, than the words that are used.

It is important to be aware of cultural distinctions regarding these nonverbal communication techniques, so as not to come across as intrusive, aggressive or disrespectful. Through practicing active listening and monitoring our own emotions, behaviors and body language, we can build trust and confidence as effective communicators.

10. Practice

Practicing nonverbal communication is essential for successful communication. There are plenty of resources available to help hone our skills, such as workshops, masterclasses, books, and video tutorials. Rehearsing a speech with a friend or even recording yourself speaking can help us become more confident and familiar with the material.

Viveka Von Rosen’s chapter on women using video in sales in her book Modern Sales is a great example of how taking a human-centered approach to communication can help cultivate meaningful relationships by connecting with our audience through displaying our authenticity.

11. Listen

Listening is another powerful tool when it comes to effectively communicating without words. When we listen attentively and sincerely, we create an understanding between ourselves and our interlocutor. It is therefore necessary to stay mindful of our expectations while listening and to consider nonverbal cues present that may indicate the true emotions behind what is being said.

By consciously committing to listening,we can optimize communication, become better people and share knowledge in the same way in ways that words alone can’t express.


Nonverbal communication is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance in-person and remote conversations. Albert Mehrabian’s research estimates that 93% of communication is done nonverbally, while only 7% is expressed through words. This emphasizes the importance of having strong nonverbal communication skills in order to be successful in any interpersonal relationship or virtual setting.

Developing effective nonverbal communication skills involves understanding different cultural contexts, adapting to emotion, controlling one’s physical proximity to others, expressing emotion online, adjusting tone and expression, reading body language, and listening attentively. Practicing these strategies can help build meaningful relationships and foster effective communication.

In conclusion, nonverbal communication is an integral part of human interaction and should not be overlooked in order to ensure successful communication. With the help of the tips outlined in this article, individuals can effectively express and interpret various nonverbal cues with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it true that 80% of communication is nonverbal?

Studies on the topic of nonverbal forms of communication point to the conclusion that between 70 and 93 percent of all communication is actually nonverbal. Thus, it is correct to say that 80% of all communication is nonverbal.

What is the 7 %- 38 %- 55 rule?

The 7-38-55 Rule, proposed by Albert Mehrabian, suggests that only 7% of the meaning of a message is conveyed through the actual words that are spoken, while 38% is attributed to vocal elements such as tone and inflection of voice accounts and 55% to body language and facial expression.

What percent of nonverbal communication is body language?

According to the 7-38-55 Rule, 55% of all communication is done through body language. This statistic was derived from a joint research project between Dr. Mehrabian and colleagues in the 1960s which revealed that, out of all non-verbal communication, 55% comes from body language and 38% comes from inflection and tone.

Is 93 percent of communication nonverbal?

Based on the research of Dr. Mehrabian’s book and other studies, it is widely accepted that communication is mostly nonverbal, with 70 to 93 percent of our messages coming through body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.

This second study suggests that 93 percent of communication can indeed be nonverbal.

Is 70% of communication body language?

Based on the research of communication experts such as Dr. Mehrabian, it has been suggested that up to around 70 percent of communication is nonverbal, or body language.

This highlights the importance of recognizing and responding to both verbal and nonverbal cues in all types of communications.

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