Silence as a form of nonverbal communication

The Importance of Silence in Relationships — Pathways Professional Counseling

Ross Hickman, MA, LPC-S, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, Pathways President

We’ve all been there; during a conversation, we don’t feel we’re being heard—or maybe worse, heard but not understood. So, we increase our volume and rate of speech, getting agitated. We feel disrespected and frustrated because our thoughts and feelings are being dismissed. This situation is typically initiated by the listeners’ ill-timed, negative, verbal or non-verbal responses.   

Non-verbal communication plays a vital role in how we interact with others. It is commonly quoted that communication is 90% nonverbal communication and body language, with the remainder made up of actual words and other vocal elements. You can find different studies that quote different amounts of non-verbal communication in relationships, but regardless of which is true, we know for a fact that non-verbals play a very important role in how we communicate and perceive communication.  One piece of communication that accompanies our nonverbal reactions is silence. We can convey approval, disapproval, anger, or other messages through a silent response.



Silence can be positive or negative in our communications. When we experience it negatively,  it can take on the form of the silent treatment, which most of us have both received and delivered at some point in our lives. Additionally, responding with silence when someone needs verbal validation or encouragement can be devastating to a relationship.

Positive silence is necessary for strong relationships to last. Healthy silence can show a level of vulnerability and comfort within a relationship. At other times, one or both individuals may need a break from verbal communication, just being content in each other’s space. Healthy silence can also be utilized when a person is angry and escalating. Simply being quiet and not escalating with the speaker can extinguish a damaging situation before it begins.



Utilizing silence for positive outcomes is greatly dependent on active listening, which is a learned skill. James 1:19 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

Active listening involves intentionally processing what we are hearing before we initiate or formulate a response or rebuttal. It is meeting the other person where they are emotionally and cognitively. At that point, a good, active listener processes what they are hearing and does not force their own frame of reference into the situation.

  1. Give the speaker your undivided attention and remove distractions. Turn off the television or radio, and both the speaker and listener should put any audio/video device on silent and place in another room. Keep constant eye contact with the speaker and keep still, not reacting with any negative body language (i. e. sighing, dropping your head, or tapping your fingers).

  2. Allow the speaker to completely finish what they are saying before responding.

  3. Summarize what the speaker has conveyed and ask for clarity if you don’t understand any part of what they’ve said.

  4. Do not offer suggestions or judgment when responding to their statement; you can discuss your opinion later, after they feel truly heard.

Using silence is key to good active listening. Letting silence and processing happen allows the listener to digest what they have heard and respond at the right time with a thoughtful reply. Proverbs 15:23 tells us that to give an appropriate answer is joy, and that a word spoken at the right time is delightful.

Embracing silence is not easy, but it is an important part of healthy relationship communication.

Silent Communication: Effectiveness, Importance, and Tips

Silent communication can be more powerful than words. Here’s what it is and how to use it effectively.

Communication is the tie that binds human beings together. Without it, our thoughts, ideas, and needs could never be expressed or understood.

But communicating involves more than the words we speak. It’s actually a complex process involving verbal and non-verbal exchanges that all have one goal — to allow others to understand how you think and feel.

Yet, out of all forms of communicating, one of the most powerful is silence. Because sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.

Silent communication happens when you don’t use words or sounds during a conversation.

It can mean different things across different cultures. In some cultures, silence can signify respect. Other cultures may perceive it as a lack of interest or unwillingness to communicate.

Silence can also be positive or negative. For instance, positive silence can be constructive by helping to move a conversation forward, change the subject, or indicate an endpoint to the verbal exchange.

In contrast, negative silence can be destructive by shutting down communication or relaying hostility. It can also be used as the “silent treatment” by people who shut down when emotions run high.

Still, according to a 2015 study, silence is not just the absence of communication but instead can be a productive communication strategy.

Along with silence, we also use other forms of communication to interact. These include:

  • Non-verbal: Using facial expressions, gestures, body posture, and body language.
  • Verbal: Speaking either face-to-face, over the phone, or virtually.
  • Written: Relaying information through written word via documents, emails, or text messages.
  • Visual: Using images or examples to communicate ideas.
  • Listening: Actively listening to comprehend and understand others.

Communicating silently has many advantages. For example, remaining quiet in certain situations can:

Promotes healthy communication in relationships

As long as it’s positive silence, staying quiet can help you listen to your partner, make them feel heard, and express your comfort within the relationship. Also, remaining silent can help prevent disagreements from escalating.

Fosters active listening

Effective communication often breaks down when the listener is busy formulating their response in their head instead of really listening to what the other person has to say. Pausing and focusing on the deeper meaning of what the person is trying to convey can help you comprehend and understand before responding.

Supports effective negotiations

When used at certain points in a negotiation, silence can relay confidence and strength. It can also leave space for others to speak.

However, it can create an uncomfortable feeling that may pressure others to fill the void with talking.

Knowing when to ask questions and when to leave space for others to speak can help you more effectively assess the needs of others in a negotiation.

Despite its benefits, silent communication can have negative effects too. Here are some to keep in mind:

Silence can cause miscommunication

Silence during a conversation can convey several meanings, which can differ among individuals. It can also express anger or hostility unintentionally. In addition, remaining quiet when someone asks you a question can confuse the questioner about how you feel.

Negative silent communication can be toxic

Strategies like the silent treatment, when one person shuts off communication with another out of anger, can be destructive to self-esteem and harm relationships. People with narcissistic personality disorder may use this tactic to control and manipulate others.

Research from 2020 suggests that silence is a highly productive communication tool on its own. The trick is to use it appropriately. Here’s how:

  1. Use gestures. When silently listening to others, use your eyes, gestures, and posture to convey interest. For example, continue eye contact if that is something the other person is comfortable with, and nod to indicate you acknowledge what they are saying.
  2. Pause before speaking. During an important conversation, like a job interview, allow a few seconds to pass before you answer questions. This can prevent you from divulging too much unnecessary information and give you time to formulate an appropriate response.
  3. Use silence for effect. You can use silence to add weight to your statements. For instance, try pausing for a moment after you’ve said something powerful and important to you to allow your message to sink in.
  4. Practice active listening with silence. For example, while you remain quiet in a conversation, consider making a conscious effort to understand the underlying thoughts, feelings, and ideas the other person is trying to communicate.

But most importantly, try to resist the urge to use silence as a punishment or to manipulate others. Silent communication used in this way will most likely lead to communication breakdown and, in some cases, could be considered abusive.

Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. This is especially true if silent communication is used effectively.

Whether you’re talking with a friend or engaged in a heated negotiation, practicing positive silent communication at the appropriate times, for the right reasons, can help move conversations and interactions to the next level.


Vol. 3 No. 3 (2020), Articles

Vol. 3 No. 3 (2020)


Published 2021-11-03

  • Yuldasheva Dilorom Nigmatovna

Yuldasheva Dilorom Nigmatovna


verbal communication, situational pragmatic integrity, silence, non-verbal means verbal communication, situational pragmatic integrity, silence, non-verbal means0003


Verbal communication is a process of expressing ideas, which, of course, is often associated with the material realization of linguistic possibilities in written or oral form. But there are also many types of communication that are not related to the presence of language units. Accordingly, communication is often associated with the transmission of information by verbal, that is, verbal, linguistic means, as well as non-verbal, non-verbal-non-verbal means (gestures, various symbols, signs, symbols, tone of voice, silence, etc. ). are classified as verbal or non-verbal communication depending on their interaction.

Verbal communication refers to the sharing of verbal and non-verbal means (jointly) in the process of communication, followed by a discussion of silence and the communicative meanings it expresses, which should be considered as a form of non-verbal communication.

Any activity is significant in its practical value. Since speech is a communicative activity, its effectiveness is also determined by the effectiveness of speech, the achievement of a specific goal. The interaction of the speaker and listener (communicator), the degree of achievement of a certain goal is the practical result of the communicative process. Indeed, verbal communication is a situational pragmatic whole that differs from ordinary speech (realization of linguistic possibilities in a certain material form) by its complexity, verbal and non-verbal, as well as the interconnection of national, ethical, aesthetic, ethnographic, psychological, social components.

Speech communication is a very complex, explicit, momentary, very short-term pragmatic system that is closely related to specific communicators, time and space, conditions, purpose / cause and result, silence should be considered as one of its main components.

PDF (Uzbekcha)

Bibliographic references

Vinokur T.G. The speaker and the listener. Variants of speech behavior. -M., 1993.-C.11.

Grice G.P. Logic and speech communication // New in foreign linguistics. Issue. 16. Linguistic pragmatics. - Moscow: Progress, 1985. -S. 217-237.

Iskandarova Sh. Uzbek nutq odatining mulokot shakllari. nomz diss.

abstract. - Samarkand, 1993. - 26 p.

Yuldasheva D. O'zbek tilini o'qitish metodikasi (O'zR OO'MTV darslik sifatida tasdiqlagan).

-T., 2020. - 375-377-b.

Yuldasheva D., Yusupova D. Halima Xudoyberdiyeva she’riyati lingvopoetikasi. – International publishing house “Globe international Publishing Group” ISBN: 978-620-0-60879-6. – 2020.–125 p.

Yuldasheva D., Ashurbayeva R., Asadova Sh., Yusupova D. Use of an Integrative Research on the Education System. Scopus: International Journal of Recent Technology and Engineering (IJRTE) ISSN: 2277-3878, Volume-8 Issue-4, November 2019.– Pag.7661-7664.

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Sayfullayeva R., Abuzalova M., Mamadaliyeva N., Yuldasheva D. Tilshunoslikka kirish (O‘zR OO‘MTV darslik sifatida tasdiqlagan). -T., 2020. - 51-56-b.

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Silence as a form of communication
The highest degree of the art of speaking is the ability to remain silent»
V. Klyuchevsky
They say that silence is a sign of consent.
Also, many are sure that the interlocutor is silent
if he has absolutely nothing to say.
In fact, silence as one of the most important and
fundamental subtypes of non-verbal communication
can carry a variety of meanings.
For example, the silence of a person in different situations can mean
"I want to retire"
"I need protection"
"I want to understand how you feel"
and much more.
Silence is often used
as a great way to focus
the Interlocutor's attention on the topic under discussion,
on individual feelings,
emotions, experiences.
Or, in some cases, to express sympathy,
condolences, support.
Long silence of the interlocutor can
can also be an alarm or
During a short silence
a person can simply look
for appropriate words in this case in order to continue the story
(or just
in order not to say too much).
Sometimes during silence, people
evaluate what they said earlier,
try to draw conclusions and
analyze the guesses that have arisen.
Silence often indicates that
it will be followed by a serious and necessary
in this situation is a question.
Therefore, silence allows a person
to concentrate, to carry on a conversation
most productively and, perhaps,
to make important decisions for himself.
One of the most important non-verbal communications is
observing pauses in conversation.
A pause is giving the interlocutor an opportunity
to speak out, to express his opinion on the issue under discussion
If there are pauses in the conversation, then the person
is really interested, he is thinking about his
thought and perhaps trying to steer the conversation in
the right direction.
Also, a pause is an opportunity to supplement what has been said
or to clarify some point.
Very often, people need a long pause for
in order to assess the situation in the conversation
and make an appropriate decision.
Each pause in a conversation has its own
So, in controversial and ambiguous moments
of a conversation, even a slight pause can mean
that communication has reached an impasse.

Learn more