5 Harmful Forms Of Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal forms of communication comprise the majority of any message you send. They have the power to complement, accent, strengthen, substitute, or contradict the words that come out of your mouth.

Any form or expression of non-verbal communication which contradicts your words or substitutes your message causes your credibility to come into doubt in the minds of your audience or the people you’re communicating with. There are a lot of things you can do to make sure that your message and words sync up: Namely, speak the truth.

The majority of your non-verbal communications will come out naturally, and subconsciously. This is why lying, or creating false narratives creates a stir in audiences. Someone invariably picks up on the contradiction between your words and body language.


There isn’t much you can do to mask all of your non-verbal forms of communication. Expending energy on regulating the minutia of your facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, para linguistics, breathing rate, how you hold yourself, and the actual words you form has the potential to create a crash and burn scenario.

Unfortunately, trying to force all of your non-verbal communication methods to match the words you’re saying or the narrative you’re trying to create when your belief system exists in contradiction isn’t possible. This is why trying to do so is the single most harmful thing you can do to your credibility from a communications stand-point.

Best practice is to always frame your message with honesty, and work with your natural tendencies where your non-verbal communications are concerned.

Fidgeting and using overly aggressive hand gestures is another.

We all do it. We all speak with our hands. When used correctly and in moderation hand gestures can complement your intended message. Forcing your hands to remain still while you speak can send the message that you’re a robot masquerading as a human being.

Not regulating your hand gestures so that you end up making large or aggressive gestures creates an image of a bully or of insecurity. When we speak it’s natural that part of our body language complements our words, but hand gestures should occur naturally without being overly aggressive. Try practicing a speech in front of a mirror.

Are your hand gestures too big, loud, or aggressive?
Are you stiff when you speak?

Posture and Hiding

Posture is the single loudest non-verbal communicator of your belief in yourself. Your posture should be natural but slouching or trying to fold into yourself is a sing of low self-esteem or no confidence. It also diminishes your credibility with the people you’re conversing with, or an audience during a speech.

Another cardinal sin in communications is creating barriers. Often, in the political scene, politicians and election hopefuls need to speak from behind a podium. In any other situation, this is a no-no. The podium, and crossed arms are the two most commonly deployed barriers. These gestures and props provide a barrier for the speaker to hide behind like a security blanket.

Also commonly used is the steeple fingers, the crotch cover, the sideways defense, and distance. Forming your hands into a steeple or holding your palms together over your crotch tells the people you’re communicating with that you don’t know what to do with your hands, but you want to use them as a barrier.

The sideways defense is where you stand with one foot behind the other with your body angled in relation to your audience. All of these barriers imply that you have a need to hide from the people you’re talking to.

Failure to connect

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to your co-workers, spouse, or speaking in front of a live audience. If you fail to make eye contact, your credibility will be shot. Looking away, down at the floor, or over someone’s head all send different messages of:

  • Insecurity
  • False superiority
  • Lying

Eye contact in present communication is key. Obviously, this is different when you’re communicating over the phone or via e-mail.

Negative reactions

Every single thing you do in your life is something you could’ve done better. There is always going to be someone who will criticize your work. The difference between feedback and criticism is how you take it when it’s provided.

That much is your responsibility. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re delivering a speech or talking to your ex. If you react badly to criticism, feedback, or outbursts, you’re going to lose your audience.

Among these cardinal sins of communication, failure to listen, inability to respond, and not showing others the respect, they deserve also cause harm during negotiations, speech deliver, and general communications. However, in any situation, not making eye contact, trying to hide from the people you’re talking to, fidgeting, and lying all create a failure to launch from the beginning.

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