A Deeper Level: Conversation Without Words

What are some alternative ways that we can use to understand each other and the world around us, besides using words in verbal communication? First, consider nonverbal communication in general:

  • Facial Expressions
  • Tone of voice, inflection, etc.
  • Posture, Body Language
  • Personal Space
  • Eye Gaze
  • Touching
  • Dress, Grooming
  • Symbols, Jewelry, Tattoos, Piercings

As soon as we are born, we are sensitive to many of the nonverbal modes of communicating above — and we soon learn the others as we grow and socialize.

Learning to talk and understand language can shift our priorities away from nonverbal communication to verbal communications, but the savvy child will continue to hone their skills at nonverbal interchanges.

People who use words professionally — such as attorneys, psychotherapists, authors, and public officials — would do well to develop their expertise in nonverbal interaction. Besides the above basic elements of nonverbal tete-a-tete, each word-intensive profession will develop its own approaches to the deeper levels of the nonverbal.

Consider some of the nonverbal approaches that psychotherapists might use to go deeper than talk therapy can reach:

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Music Therapy, Gong Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Dance Therapy
  • Wilderness Therapy
  • Body Therapy
  • Sand Tray Therapy
  • Laughter Therapy, Smile Therapy
  • Yawn Therapy, Stretch Therapy
  • Crying Therapy, Scream Therapy
  • Rage Therapy
  • Biofeedback, Neurofeedback
  • Thrill Ride Therapy (Personally Recommended by blog staff)

Endless approaches to nonverbal communication and nonverbal therapeutic interaction could be devised, given enough resourcefulness, motivation, and effort.

Digital communication seems particularly lacking in terms of depth of communication. Without the redundancy of nonverbal communication which is provided in face to face interaction, communicating via digital media makes us more vulnerable to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

A special note on physical contact: In today’s atmosphere where even the hint of physical touch is highly suspect — and loaded with the worst of suspicions — it should be stated clearly that the lack of physical human to human contact is one of the worst deficits of modern society. This is true for contact between people of both sexes, between people of all ages, and particularly between people of different social classes and backgrounds. Physical contact is often the basis of trust, and trust is essential for the harmonious functioning of heterogeneous societies.

I blame mainstream media for many of the most egregious dysfunctions that have emerged in person to person interaction — including the “Oprah-style” talk shows and the late night comedy shows that all purport to teach us how we should view the world and each other. Take that pile of steaming dog shit and pour the steaming pig shit of social media on top, and you begin to understand why things smell so bad on the media front.

My interest in non-verbal communication and non-verbal therapy goes way back in time, but was recently rekindled by reading on cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy that emphasize the manipulation of verbal thoughts in the attempt to rectify mental aberrations.

Vipassana meditation centers on non-verbal phenomena such as the physical sensations of breathing. This form of meditation certainly looks at verbal thoughts, but it puts the verbal on an equal level with mental images, with emotions, and with physical sensations. The neuroplasticity effect of Vipassana meditation leading to greater equanimity almost certainly goes beyond the brain function changes wrought by talk therapy.

Approaches to self-therapy such as we see in Kristen Ulmer’s “The Art of Fear” seems to be a type of hybrid approach, that uses a strong verbal component in opening and dealing with the heart of the problem, while not neglecting the emotional component at issue. For people who want to see quick results, such hybrid approaches may be quite useful.

This topic is particularly important for parents of young children in the formative stages of mental and emotional development. From the earliest age, parents should use all forms of nonverbal communication to provide the child with a loving, playful, and trustworthy foundation of mental and emotional growth.

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