True, capturing “unsaid things” is the best complementation of verbal communication.
Sometimes “you say it best, when you say nothing at all”, like the words of the famous Notting Hill (1999) sound-track song, sung much more beautifully by Alison Krauss than BoyZone’s Ronan Keaton who performed the official sound-track.
(I will let you enjoy it first)
Some studies claim that non-verbal communication makes up 94% of all communication humans have with each other, while others claim that it’s just an exaggerated hoax, borrowed from a “showbizz” soap. Do your own research!
In any event, I believe that body language constitutes the bigger part of our communication. This is indicative of the importance of non-verbal language especially in informal contexts, where people tend to be more loose with their gestures, but certainly in formal context too (like in sales, negotiations or a job interview).
This means that abrupt or unexpected silence can be the same as verbally saying something. One can figure out what people are saying or intend to articulate but can’t, through their silence. And what they are saying can be captured through our eyes when in a face-to-face context or even through our ears. Say what?
Yes, when noticing that a weird unexpected silent gap is dropped over the phone or in a face to face context, contrary to the most common expectation, based on our common-sense or close familiarity with that person in question, the chances of being accurate in figuring out what is been told and not voiced, are big. These chances grow substantially when our sharp observation is backed-up by an intelligent “processing & interpretation system”.
This interpretation system includes our mastery of social skills as a result of having a high EQ (Emotional Quotient), the scientific indicator of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, on its turn, is often interchangeably, but not necessarily mistakenly, confused with another important part of our “intelligent being” which is “social intelligence”. It denotes our extra-ordinary ability (compared to others) to identify, understand, relate to and act properly upon our own emotions and those of others in different situations, even when nothing is audibly said or explicitly shared.
Having put forward all of this, I also like the counter-input that denotes that non-verbal language, while being extremely accurate sometimes, is tricky by its complex nature, since it cannot be checked or controlled. Also, it is strongly culturally influenced. For example, the famous Indian head-shake to the right and left does not mean “No”; it actually is a sign of agreeing to something or liking something. It is a “Yes” in Indian, while everything about it should mean “No” in many other cultures. (although an accompanying smile may cause some corrective confusing)
Add to this the fact that the interpretation of non-verbal communication is mostly left to the judgement & analysis of the recipient and, here comes the best part, the scrutiny and refute of the sender: “I didn’t say that! How can you even catch something that I haven’t explicitly said?”. Does this sounds familiar?
In formal business related dealings, non-verbal language can be a tricky form of communication. It may come in handy to know how your Japanese, Saudi or Nigerian business counter-parts expect you to greet them or build a trustworthy relationship with them, but don’t improvise too much and stick to what you know about them and to what you can exchange comfortably within your shared communication-context, topic or language.
In legal dealings it is no wonder that the foundation of some of the most important pillars of our modern society, like Law & Justice, are functionally based on tangibly felt and presentable unambiguous proofs of deeds committed, words exchanged or idea’s plotted, and less on “hunch”, feelings or non-verbal communication, making it both rock strong and full of loopholes, at the same time.