Difference Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Verbal vs Nonverbal Communication


There are many differences between the two forms of communication, namely verbal and nonverbal communication. In some places, non-verbal communication assumes more significance than verbal communication and in other places it is the vice versa. Let us begin our understanding of these two types of communication in the following manner. Man is a social animal and cannot live alone. He lives in a society and interacts with others that are a basic necessity for him. Language plays a vital part in all interactions of a man in the form of verbal communication, but there is another form of communication which is equally important in a man’s interactions with others. This is known as nonverbal communication that is all about getting cues from gestures, facial expressions and eye movements of a person. Through this article let us attempt to highlight the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication while gaining an understanding of both concepts.

What is Verbal Communication?

First let us begin with Verbal Communication. This can be defined as the communication or exchange of ideas that occurs through words. This can be both written and oral.  Verbal communication allows individuals to exchange ideas, opinions, values, suggestions and creates an atmosphere where an individual can connect with another. When we engage in a conversation with a friend, this is verbal communication because it allows us to use words to communicate with the other person. The significance of verbal communication is that it creates a condition where transferring information becomes very clear. Let us take the case of an industrial setting where communication is verbal, but mostly this is written communication. Through letters, various documents, reports, and memos, the workers communicate with others. This is not oral communication in most situations but written communication. Since words are used for exchanging ideas, we consider this as verbal communication.  Now let us understand what is meant by nonverbal communication.

Difference Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

What is Nonverbal Communication?

Nonverbal communication is through facial expressions, gestures and also thorough postures. People communicate a lot non-verbally. Have you ever seen two people not knowing each other’s language communicating with each other? Though they feel a lot of difficulties, they somehow manage to tell each other what they want to convey the message with the help of facial expressions, eye contact and movement of hands.

Why go so far as to talk about people knowing languages? A mother communicates with her newborn child through her actions, and the child learns to understand her wishes in a quick time. An infant knows no language, yet a mother knows all about her child with the help of the movements the child makes and the manner in which he cries or emits sounds. This is all non-verbal communication.

Even in the workplace, at schools, on the streets nonverbal communication takes place. In the workplace, nonverbal communication can take place between team members and the manager. For an example, a subordinate learns to understand the mood of his superior with the help of his frown or facial expression. In a classroom, a glare from the teacher is often more effective than her shouting or scolding. This highlights that in real life, non-verbal communication takes precedence over verbal communication as the first impression that gets created is through one’s confidence and body language that is a type of nonverbal communication. Now let us summarize the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication in the following manner.

Verbal vs Nonverbal Communication

What is the Difference Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication?

  • Language is a vital component of communication as it helps in verbal communication through words. It helps us in conveying our thoughts, ideas, opinions, even our aspirations, and frustrations.
  • However, our body language, facial expressions, eye movements, and gestures make up an important part of communication known as non-verbal communication.
  • Nonverbal communication is very effective in empathic listening
  • Both verbal and nonverbal communications serve the same purpose though there are some situations where nonverbal communication gains ascendancy over verbal communication.


Image Courtesy:

1. Letter from Arthur Conan Doyle to Herbert Greenhough Smith by Special Collections Toronto Public Library [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Occupy Wall Street Crowd Size 2011 Shankbone” by David Shankbone – Own work. [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons