The Power Of Empathy In Verbal And Non Verbal Communication

By Ange Fonce

We as Humans are social animals... our ancestors hunted and gathered as a collective... depending upon one another for protection... sustenance and companionship... our success as a species and as individuals depends upon our ability to effectively communicate... both verbally and non verbally.

Verbal and non verbal communication shapes our interactions with others in business and interpersonal relationships... as well as our financial and personal success and our physical and psychological well being..

Understanding the different aspects of verbal and non verbal communication and the important role “empathy” plays in our interactions with others... is the first step to enhancing constructive communication and nurturing relationships and as Science has developed a far greater understanding of Human Communication... it is being understood that Non Verbal Communication between Humans is far more sophisticated than Verbal Communication... so this is where we will start in this article.

What Is Non Verbal Communication?

Non Verbal communication coexists alongside verbal communication... which can affect peoples perceptions and exchanges in subtle and significant ways. 

Non verbal communication includes body language... such as gestures... facial expressions... eye contact and posture... touch is a non verbal communication that not only indicates a persons feelings or level of comfort and illustrates personality characteristics as well... a firm handshake or warm hug indicates something very different than a loose pat on the back or a timid handshake does. 

The sound of our voice including pitch tone and volume are also forms of non verbal communication... the meaning behind someones words is often entirely different than the literal translation... as is seen in instances of sarcasm and mockery. 

The clothing we wear and the way we design our living space are also forms of non verbal communication that frequently shape peoples judgements and assumptions about others... regardless of whether or not the perceptions are true.

Smell... yes... how your natural smell is a very power form of non verbal communication... Science is finding out and understanding how this forgotten sense is actually a very powerful way Humans communicate with each other... in a non verbal way... especially at a sexual level when it comes to selecting a mate.

Why Is Non Verbal Communication Important?

Think of how many relationships start with a man and woman making eye contact across a crowded room... a playful wink tends to be more effective than a well thought out pick up line. 

Michael Argyle in his book "Bodily Communication" identifies five main functions of non verbal communication... 

To express emotions.

Communicate interpersonal relationships.

To support verbal interaction.

Reflect personality. 

Perform rituals... such as greetings and goodbyes. 

Edward G. Wertheim Ph.D in his paper "The Importance of Effective Communication" details how non verbal communication interacts with verbal communication... we can reinforce... contradict... substitute... complement or emphasize our verbal communication with non verbal cues such as gestures... expressions and vocal inflection. 

Avoiding eye contact when you tell someone you love them communicates something far different than do spoken words... just as a bright smile when you say congratulations reinforces the sincerity of your words.

What Is Verbal Communication?

Verbal communication encompasses any form of communication involving words... spoken... written or signed... the conversation you have with your co worker at lunch... the morning news or the sports page you read in the morning... even the text message you send to your spouse telling him to pick up some milk is a form of verbal communication

Our ability to communicate with a language that is based on an organized system of words... rather than sounds... is what sets us apart as species from the other sentinel species in Nature... not only have we developed verbal language... we have also developed written and symbolic language systems and posses the technology that enables us to communicate with one another no matter the physical distance.

Why is Verbal Communication Important?

We use verbal communication to inform... whether it is to inform others of our needs or to impart knowledge and information... clarification is a key component of verbal communication... often we do not articulate ourselves clearly or our words or actions are misconstrued and misunderstood. 

Verbal communication helps to clarify misunderstandings and provides missing information... too enable understanding of the message being shared... we can use verbal communication to correct a wrong... the power of the words... 

"I am sorry."

Is often more effective than an action

Verbal communication can also be used as a tool of persuasion and influence... it creates an opportunity for debate... stimulates thought and creativity and deepens and creates new relationships

Robert M. Krauss in the article "The Psychology of Verbal Communication" published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences in 2002 explains... 

"A species survival depends critically upon its ability to communicate effectively and the quality of its social life is determined in large measure by how and what it can communicate."

And empathy is an incredible powerful tool in communication both non verbally and verbally.

Empathy... The Super Tool For Communication.

Empathy is the ability to not only detect what others feel and also to experience that emotion yourself... in other words being able to experience the feelings of  what others feel both verbally and non verbally.

When you can read another persons emotional states and understand them... then you can both avoid making costly mistakes in communication and also utilize their emotional state to build rapport with them or influence their emotional state to move them in another direction. 

When people are in emotional flooded states their ability to think and communicate effectively and make effective decisions is often significantly impaired... thus you cannot expect emotionally aroused people to make rational choices at this time.

Empathy Is Not Sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy are often confused and are sometimes used as synonyms... the easiest way to separate them is to remember that empathy is about communication and understanding feelings whilst sympathy is about relating to actions... thus you may empathize with another person and understand them and then act on this understanding by relating to them how sorry or happy you feel for them.

When you are skilled in empathetic understanding and also skilled in non verbal and verbal communication... you can build fast deep and meaningful relationships with other people, 

A person who is sympathetic and not empathetic in their communication... may appear a little shallow as they are less likely to show an emotional connection in a verbal and non verbal way.. i.e... 

'Terribly sorry and all that... but that is life you know.“ 

They might say in a friendly yet relatively unemotional voice.

The value of empathy comes not only from understanding the other persons feelings... it is what you do as a result of this understanding.

Empathy Connects People Together.

Let us say that when you empathize with me... my personal sense of identity becomes connected to yours... I feel and experience a greater sense of connection and personally“understood and as a result will also start to empathize more with you and build a greater understanding of you in return. 

In a therapeutic situation... having someone else really understand how you feel and think... can be very empowering as people with problems often feel very much alone in their differentness from other people and greatly misunderstood... not being judged and accepted as you are is very powerful for men and women.

Empathy Heals... therapeutically it can be a very healing experience for someone to empathize with you... when someone effectively says... 

“I care for you.” 

It also says... 

“I can do that... I can care for myself.”

Empathy Is A Great TRUST Builder.

Empathy at first can be surprising and confusing to men and women who have never experienced it before... when first uncounted and unexpected it can initially cause suspicion... yet when sustained it is difficult not to appreciate the concern using empathy in both your verbal and non verbal communication... which quickly leads to building trust.

Empathy can close the misunderstanding loop... consider what would happen if you had no idea what the other person felt and thought about your verbal and non verbal communications to them. 

You might say something verbally and do something non verbally... like pick your nose and they hated it and you continued as if they understood and agreed... because you did not pick up on or read their disgust with you...  not much understanding happened and there could even be a confrontation and a big fight being set up.

The more you can empathize... the more you can get immediate feedback on what they are experiencing of your communications with them and then you can change what you are saying and doing to influence them to feel what you would like them to feel.

You may ask... so what... how do you do it... how do you find out what other people are feeling? 

All you have to go on are what they say... how they say it and what they do... which can also be described as “words... music and dance.”

If you want to understand and influence someone... detecting their emotional state is the first step... if you can feel and understand that state then that detection is even more accurate when you can sense their emotion... you can then use this to persuade them in the direction you want them to take.

The skill in spotting feelings is to pay close attention to changes in the other person in response to external events... not just the verbal communication... the non verbal too... if you say...

"How are you?" 

And the corners of their mouth turn down and their voice tone goes flat and there is a sad expression in their eyes...  then you might detect that all is not well... the better you are at spotting small changes... the greater your potential ability at empathizing... watch for small changes on the face... watch for lower body movements when the upper body is under conscious control... feet have a language all of their own... listen for tension in the voice and emphasis on specific words... listen for emotional words.

To avoid getting drawn into their emotions by what is known as “transference”... learn to keep centred in your space... where you can think more rationally... unless you are really sure it can be a good idea to reflect back to the other person what you are sensing of their feelings to check that you have got it right... after all the only person who can confirm empathy is the person whose emotions are being sensed... reflecting back itself has an effect... typically leading the other person to appreciate that you really care about them by really listening and hence increasing their trust in you.

Using empathy to take advantage of someone and manipulate them when they are vulnerable is ABUSE and breaks many social rules and destructive manipulation is likely to lead to deep psychological and emotional damage

Verbal and non verbal communication is enhanced when a person is an effective and constructive empathic listener and communicator. 

Listening does not simply mean hearing... it necessitates understanding another persons point of view and invest the time to think before you speak to ensure that you articulate yourself clearly... let the other person have the floor and allow time for reflection on the matter at hand. 

Be aware and observe other peoples non verbal language... facial expressions and intonations and being consciously aware of your own physicality and feelings can enhance non verbal communication

Record yourself with both a video camera and an audio recorder to see how you communicate non verbally... are your gestures matching your words or giving away what you are really thinking? 

Being aware of what you say and how you say it is the first step to successful communication... the ability to adapt quickly to the situation and form of communication at hand is a skill that people continue to hone for a lifetime.

So what are your thoughts on empathy and verbal and non verbal communication?

Thank you and may you enjoy a Prosperous and Dynamic day!

Yours Sincerely

Intellectual Badass... noun

1... A person with a penchant for Science... creativity... books... writing... communication... fitness... women... sexing... sexuality... human relationships... psychology... physiology and any other area involving heavy use of the Intellect.

2... A bright kick arse person and glamorously Intelligent!

3... Ange is an Author... Speaker and Dynamic Peak Performance Personal Development Consultant... and Humanistic Counselling Psychologist and Sexologist... who works with those men and women who desire to personally develop themselves and their relationships to become Dynamic Lifers... creators of their own life... relationships and wealth! 

4... If you are Happy and you Know it... you are becoming a Dynamic Lifer!

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