It’s not what you say…: communicating nonverbally

  • Owen Hargie
  • David Dickson
  • Dennis Tourish


A useful starting point for this chapter is a quotation from Abercrombie1 in which he reminds us that ‘We speak with our vocal organs, but we converse with our whole body.’ Characteristically, we think of the process of communicating in terms of what we say. Did we speak with sufficiently authority? Was some complex issue clarified? Was a choice of topic ill judged? Could a word have been misconstrued? In short, we are inclined to focus upon verbal communication, upon words used and their sequencing and structure. Messages relayed in other ways while we speak, through glances, gestures, facial expressions, posture, tone of voice and dress, will most probably completely escape our attention. Yet it is often such nonverbal communication (NVC) that proves decisive in conveying information and forming judgements about others. The significance of this point is no less relevant in the workplace. While affirming the key role played generally by what he calls this ‘silent language’, Fletcher2 continued by asserting that:

… nowhere is this more true than in management, where we are often uncertain about whether we have understood each other fully — and need every clue we can get to help us ensure we are sending and receiving messages accurately.


Facial Expression Communication Skill Effective Management Verbal Communication Impression Management 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Owen Hargie, David Dickson and Dennis Tourish 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Owen Hargie
  • David Dickson
  • Dennis Tourish

There are no affiliations available

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