4 dimensions of non-verbal communication


Which is the most important skill in conversation?


There are many varied answers to the question of which is the most important or central skill in communication (and hence also in leadership). Asking the right questions, the art of formulation, framing, structure and construction of conversations, attitude and view of humanity.


One possible answer is: perceptiveness


Since communication is a chain of interactions, perception of what has been received by the other side is of great importance. What is important is not the intention of my communication but the reaction which I receive to my communication, even if that reaction appears unintelligible to us. Here, the other side’s "reality" or rather "map" is the decisive thing.


Since we do not know how to interpret (decoding process) the other side’s "reality" and thus the nature of our words and gestures, we cannot communicate perfectly.


We cannot communicate perfectly!


However, since we cannot communicate perfectly we are all the more obliged to perceive what the other side receives, the weak signals and deviations from the message transmitted by body and voice. As human beings we are all equipped with this perceptiveness. There are various reasons why this channel of perception may sometimes be blocked or obscured: stress: we have no time; trance: we are too much occupied with ourselves in order to perceive others; fears: I do not know how I should react to non-verbal rejection or I am dependent on agreement with an objective; attitude: e.g. perception is weakness.


Characteristic features of non-verbal communication channels are their speed and their high degree of unconsciousness. For example, before an objection can be verbally formulated it is expressed as an unconscious physical reaction.


Four dimensions of perception


Just as there are four dimensions in physics (length, width, height and time) there are also four significant dimensions for non-verbal communication and leadership. Ahese four dimensions give us cues or answer the following important questions for us:


How well do we understand each other?

Does the other person agree or not?

What status are we assuming?

How does the other person feel?




Central question




How good is the quality of the contact? Are we on the same wavelength, "chemistry"


Similarity in muscle tension and thus similarity in pose and frequency (pace of movements and words, consonance)


If the two sides do not mirror each other then there is a disturbance. The cause may be an insult or question which is preoccupying the other side.

(Meta statement: I cannot or will not communicate with you)


Does the other person agree, do they have objections? How many and how big?

Is the person refusing?

Cf. 10 points

Alongside the very clear attributes such as nodding or shaking the head, asymmetries in pose or back and forth movements can be indications of objection

The objective of the MAG is that the maximum information is shared by both parties.

As a rule it has been established that only when both parties agree can the next step be taken. (Do not proceed whilst negative signals can be seen)



What status are we assuming?

High, equal or low status?


In communication, alongside the content, expressions of relationship are constantly being made


Head attitude (high, tilted)

Low status: quick head movements, lots of "er", interjections or clearing of the throat, tense shoulders, sideways glances

Many problems in conversations are connected with too great a disparity in status.

Justification and passing the blame from low status party; accusation, rebuke, degradation from the high status party. Good conversations are characterised by an equality of status and a back and forth in position (see-saw)



What is the condition of the interlocutor?

How does he feel?

How high is his feeling of self-worth?

If our feeling of self-worth is high then we have access to many resources, options. Attributes are therefore increased flexibility and movement.


Alongside conditions such as anger, fear, sorrow, conciliation, release etc. the feeling of self-worth is of principal importance in conversation. The feeling of self-worth gives us as managers direct insights into motivation.


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