We are constantly communicating in one way or another even if we say nothing at all. Whereas language seems to be the obvious form of communication, much more information is communicated beyond the pure words that are exchanged during a conversation. Birdwhistell (1970) claimed that up to 65% of a message's meaning is communicated through non-verbal clues. Today, some researchers put the amount of information being transmitted non-verbally even higher. For example Fromkin and Rodman (1983) claim, that up to 90% of the meaning of a message is transmitted non-verbally.
In the business world, the importance of non-verbal clues has not often been discussed extensively. Whereas other disciplines, such as psychology, have studied non-verbal behaviour extensively, there are comparatively few studies available within the business domain. Fatt (1998) describes non-verbal behaviour as a skill that is useful to the business person, however falls short of attributing a major importance to the non-verbal part of a message in a business context. This is contradicted by Gabbot and Hogg (2000) who attribute a major importance to non-verbal clues in a service encounter. They state that: "we have evidence that the non-verbal communication in a service encounter dramatically impacts on the customer's evaluation of the service event. [
] that this impact is both overall and in relation to specific components. [
] that there are some differences between customer groups in how they react to non-verbal behaviour. " (p.394) Based on their research findings, together with other findings such as Birdwhistell and Fromkin and Rodman, it seems sensible to suggest that non-verbal behaviour is not only important in service encounters, but that it will have a strong impact on any communication within or outside the business sphere.
There is relatively little agreement on where exactly the boundary between verbal and non-verbal communication can be drawn. Particularly...