The potency of visual (non-verbal) communication

FROM time to time, we come across articles and videos expounding the powerful effect of words. However, when communicating face-to-face, words alone may not amount to much in normal conversation.

Participants in Mesra Malaysia – a training programme by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture – would learn that the tone of the voice or vocal component in interpersonal communication, is five times more important.

This is because the same word uttered differently can have opposite meaning. Even for those trying to convey the same meaning, the effect could be vastly different. A good example is singing the lyrics of a same song.

Those who could afford live shows would pay a hefty sum to watch their favourite singers perform live but may run away from a bad singer singing the same song, unless it is so horrible that it became hilarious and entertaining.

The other component in interpersonal communication is non-verbal or visual. Together, they form the 3Vs – verbal, vocal and visual. Although both verbal and vocal are important, they lose out to visual even when combined.

Experts have given their weightage as seven percent for verbal, 38% for vocal and a hefty 55% for visual or body language that includes eye contact, facial expression, postures, gestures, movements, clothing, hairstyle and accessories.

While many people could hide their feelings using the correct choice of words and modulate their voice, they would have difficulty managing their body language all the time, as a sudden slip could expose that they were pretending all along.

As such, the importance for all of us to master interpersonal communication skills. Experts could read others like a book from their body language, just as the tone of a voice reveals the feeling of someone who spoke or utter a sound.

Tourism frontliners must learn and be wary of their body language so as to project Mesra Malaysia, meaning warm and friendly. Although it is impossible to speak all the languages and dialects of foreign visitors from around the world, we could still communicate effectively.

After all, visual and vocal components combined constituted a massive 93% and visitors will be pleased to meet local hosts who appear delighted to welcome them, regardless of whether the language used could be fully understood.


Photo credit: Neemopani


And to erase any more doubt on the importance of visual communication, one only has to take a look at the Khabane Lame, an Italian born in Senegal, who has managed to amass 200 million followers for his TikTok account from his silent video clips.

From being laid off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is now well on his way to become a multimillionaire and already world famous, thanks to his simple and easy to understand visual communication skill in front of a camera without speaking a word! – Sept 22, 2022


YS Chan is a master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: Unsplash

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