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Characteristics of Nonverbal Communication
Function of Nonverbal Communication
Difference b/w Verbal & Nonverbal Communication
Types of Nonverbal Communication
Some Guidelines for Improving Nonverbal Communication
Beware of persons whose bellies do not move when they laugh.
— Chinese Proverb
Nonverbal communication is expressed through nonlinguistic
It includes silent behaviors, environment, artifacts, and
It is a powerful mode of communication.
Characteristics of Nonverbal
All behavior has communicative value.
Nonverbal communication is primarily relational.
Nonverbal communication is ambiguous.
Nonverbal communication reflects cultural values.
1. All Behavior has Communicative
• Because we “cannot not communicate.”
• May be intentional, but is often unconscious.
• Although we’re always sending messages through our
nonverbal, these messages aren’t always received.
• We especially pay attention to nonverbal when they contradict
2. Nonverbal Communication is
– Communicates our interest in others’ communication.
– Women are generally more responsive than men.
– People in lower-power positions tend to be better at reading
• Liking – Positive or negative feelings about others.
• Violence and Abuse
3. Nonverbal Communication is
• The same nonverbal can have multiple meanings.
• For example :
– “I am feeling content” smiles
– “I am feeling a little stressed” smiles
– “I am a bit sad” smiles
– “I can’t believe you just did that” smiles
– “How do I get out of this conversation?” smiles
4. Nonverbal Communication Reflects
o Americans tend to value more personal space than many other
o Men tend to value more personal space than women
o Americans – 2 touches per hour
o British – 0 touches per hour
o Parisians – 110 touches per hour
o Puerto Ricans – 180 touches per hour
o In North-America : frankness, assertiveness, honesty.
o In many Asian and northern-European countries : abrasive &
The Functions of Nonverbal
The use of nonverbal behavior to say what you are saying in
Emblems - are the nonverbal behaviors that we use to
display what we mean.
Example - head nods at the same time as someone saying
The use of nonverbal behaviors to say things rather than
We often answer questions others ask by responding
nonverbally rather than verbally.
Example - Nodding your head to answer a question rather
than saying “yes”
The use of nonverbal behaviors to strengthen what is being
said with words.
Illustrators- nonverbal behaviors that support what is
being said verbally.
Example - A friend says “I am so sorry” and at the same
time makes a sincerely sad face.
The way we emphasize certain words in order to
clarify what we mean.
Example - “NO!” or “No????”
Nonverbal behaviors that control the flow of the
conversation, and tell us when it is our turn to talk, or when
the other person is finished talking.
Example - while telling a story to a friend, one may pause
to allow room for comments.
When people are saying one thing yet their
nonverbal behavior is telling us something
Example - A friend says, “I am so sorry” while
Difference b/w Verbal & Nonverbal
Meaning The communication in
which the sender uses
words to transmit the
message to the receiver is
known as verbal
The communication that
takes place b/w sender
and receiver with the use
of signs is known as
Types Formal & Informal Chronemics, Vocalics,
Time Consuming No Yes
Rarely happens Happens most of the
Yes, in case of written
Advantage The message can be
clearly understood and
immediate feedback is
lifestyle & feelings of
• Nonverbal are under less conscious control, so deception is
more likely to be revealed through our nonverbal.
• High self-monitors and people who have lots of practice in
deception are most successful at it.
• Women tend to be better at detecting deception.
• “Deceivers” tend to make more speech errors, to hesitate, to
have higher vocal pitch, to fidget, blink their eyes more, and
shift their posture more.
Different Types of Nonverbal
Face & Eyes
Body Movement / Kinesics
Voice / Paralanguage
Space / Proxemics
Time / Chronemics
1. Face and Eyes
( Negative) ( Positive)
• Over 1000 distinct facial expressions.
• Eyes can be especially expressive
– “Windows to the soul”
• Men and women have been found to be equally
– Men show the most emotion in the lower left quadrant
of their face
– Women show emotion over their whole face
2. Body Movement/Kinesics
• Body posture
• Eye Contact
• Touching is considered essential and therapeutic.
• Touching can influence liking and compliance.
• It used to show intimacy or power/control.
• People with high status touch others/invade others’
spaces more than people with lower status.
• Consists of vocal tone, speed, pitch, volume, number and
length of pauses, and disfluencies (“um”s, “ah”s), etc.
• Paralanguage tends to be more powerful than language.
• Affects how other’s perceive us
– Stereotyping (e.g. accents, vocabulary, grammar)
• Influenced by culture, gender, class (intentionally or
• Can communicate contentment, awkwardness, anger,
respect, thoughtfulness, empathy.
• Can also be disconfirming.
Personal Space :
• Intimate distance
• Personal distance
• Social distance
• Public distance
Barrier behaviors and territory
• Our use of time reflects :
– Cultural norms
– Interpersonal priorities
8. Physical Appearance
• “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
• We tend to notice obvious things first (gender, race), then note
• Physically attractive people generally are perceived better.
• Importance placed on physical appearance can be very damaging.
• It’s what we do with it that’s most important.
• Include clothing, jewelry, personal belongings, accessories, etc.
• Communicate economic level, educational level,
trustworthiness, social position, level of sophistication,
economic background, social background, educational
background, level of success, moral character,
• Important part of first impressions.
• Communicates something about you
– We surround ourselves with things that are
important/meaningful to us.
– Use artifacts to define our territory.
• Can influence interactions
• How people use an environment communicates something
Example - The way we decorate our house tells others a lot about
Some Guidelines for Improving
• Monitor your nonverbal communication.
• Be tentative when interpreting others’ nonverbal communication.
• Nonverbal are personal and ambiguous.
• Personal Qualifications :
Take responsibility for your interpretations.
Use “I” language to check your perceptions of nonverbal.
• Contextual Qualifications :
Be aware of how the context might be influencing others’
Be aware of how different cultural norms might influence
Be careful not to jump to conclusions based on your own
• Nonverbal is especially important :
– For identity management
– In defining our relationships (e.g., level of intimacy)
– For expressing emotions we don’t want to express, can’t
express, or don’t know we are feeling