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Nonverbal communication affects mood, behavior, and emotional responses. Everyone has looked at a stranger and decided how to approach them based on their facial expression, physical reactions to the environment, or body language. Humans are social creatures. Nonverbal cues are one of our primary methods of communication. In cases where a person’s verbal and nonverbal messages don’t match, people are more likely to respond to the nonverbal cues. According to Psychiatry, “An estimated 60 to 65 percent of interpersonal communication is conveyed via nonverbal behaviors.” Moreover, West Coast Recovery Centers provides clients with the tools they need to learn essential communication skills and the significance of nonverbal communication.

Why Is Effective Communication Essential?

Social relationships impact overall health and well-being. Communication allows people to build healthy social connections. According to the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, “Social support may have indirect effects on health through enhanced mental health, by reducing the impact of stress, or by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life.” Closed-off methods of communication hinder recovery and cause some people to be socially isolated from others. However, honest and transparent communication fosters trust, builds healthy social connections, and increases positivity. 

Effective communication is essential because it does the following: 

  • Reduces stigmas, disinformation, and misinformation
  • Increases self-confidence and self-esteem 
  • Strengthens social bonds and significant relationships 
  • Reduces conflict 
  • Builds trust and empathy 
  • Increases self-awareness 

Communication skills are critical during early recovery. The collaboration between clients and their care team requires a willingness to communicate honestly. Clients who can openly share their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs have an easier time identifying problem areas and making positive lifestyle changes. West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based methods, including psychotherapy and alternative holistic therapies, to help clients improve communication and social skills. 

What Is Nonverbal Communication?

People use many forms of communication to exchange information and messages of intent, including nonverbal cues and body language. For example, smiling, frowning, standing with hands on hips, and shaking hands are forms of nonverbal communication. People use these forms of communication to show others their feelings about specific situations or interactions.

Nonverbal communication also involves the following: 

  • Facial expressions 
  • Head movements
  • Gestures 
  • Eye contact
  • Body posture 
  • Silence 
  • Handshakes and hand movements 
  • Personal space 

People use their bodies, the space around them, and language or silence to communicate boundaries and personal needs. Most of the time, people display clusters of related nonverbal cues to strengthen the message they are trying to send. According to Effective Communication, “Nonverbal clusters are several related nonverbal signals that work in concert . . . the presence of a nonverbal cluster is more significant than a single signal and reflects changes in attitude and state of mind.” For example, someone who feels nervous may bite their nails, hunch their shoulders, and isolate themselves physically from others.

Communicating Beyond Words

People often think of verbal and written words when they talk about communication. However, nonverbal communication encompasses many behaviors. People experiencing high stress levels in their day-to-day lives may use multiple behaviors to express themselves. According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, “People can accurately judge others’ emotions at above chance levels based on surprisingly small amounts of behavioral information, often called ‘thin slices’ of behavior.” Meanwhile, clinicians at West Coast Recovery Centers are trained to recognize nonverbal cues in these ‘thin slices’ of behavior to ensure clients receive the most appropriate and effective care. 

Recognizing Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal cues are often unique to different cultures and geographical areas. For example, a thumbs up in America is a positive cue, while a thumbs up in other countries may be considered an insult. Understanding context is a significant part of recognizing nonverbal forms of communication.  

People identify the context for physical cues by asking themselves the following: 

  • Who is the intended recipient of the action or inaction? 
  • What could the person gain by behaving in that way? 
  • How does the nonverbal cue make the recipient feel? 
  • When did the cue take place?
  • Where did the cue take place? 
  • Why are they using that specific cue?

People can gather a lot of information about a person, their goals, and how best to respond by paying attention to the who, what, when, where, and why of communication. 

Benefits of Nonverbal Communication in Treatment

Nonverbal communication also plays a role in the partnership between clients and their care team. According to BMC Medical Education, “Verbal as well as non-verbal communication and empathy play an important role in patient-physician encounters.” Clients benefit from using all forms of communication to effectively collaborate with their care team. 

Individuals in recovery use nonverbal communication to do the following: 

  • Set boundaries and recognize the boundaries of others 
  • Strengthen social bonds
  • Reduce isolation 
  • Share concerns or insights

Social relationships are an important part of recovery. Every day is an opportunity to practice healthy and honest communication with friends, family, peers, and clinicians. According to Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, “[S]upportive relationships with caring family, partners, and friends—including individuals who do not use substances themselves—have proven to be helpful in abstaining and maintaining sobriety.” West Coast Recovery Centers help clients learn to develop healthy social connections during treatment.

Nonverbal communication is an essential part of everyday social interactions. People use their bodies, voices, and the space around them to communicate needs, respond to others, and set personal boundaries. Most nonverbal cues are not consciously noticed. Instead, people are often unaware of how their body language and expressions may impact the people around them. Treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders helps clients gain self-awareness and insights into their own thoughts and behaviors, including how they use nonverbal cues to communicate. West Coast Recovery Centers uses psychotherapy, peer support, and other forms of treatment to guide clients through improving nonverbal communication. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (760) 492-6509.

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
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