Types of Nonverbal Communication

verywell mind

By Kendra Cherry       

Updated January 11, 2020


  • Nonverbal signals can be so subtle that we are not consciously aware of them
  • 9 types of non-verbal communication, including non-verbal cues and behaviors

Facial Expressions

  • Huge portion of non-verbal communication
  • Happiness, sadness, anger and fear similar throughout the world


  • Common gestures: waving, pointing, using fingers to indicate numeric amounts; other gestures are arbitrary and related to culture
  • Non-verbal signals so powerful and influential that some judges place limits on what type of non-verbal behaviors are allowed in court


  • Vocal communication separates from language: voice, loudness, inflection, and pitch
  • Tone of voice can affect the meaning of a sentence
  • Strong voice: interpretation might be approval & enthusiasm
  • Hesitant voice: interpretation might be disapproval & lack of interest

Body Language and Posture

  • Research on body language grown significantly since the 70’s but focus has been on defensive postures


  • Personal space is a form of nonverbal communication
  • Influenced by social norms, cultural expectations, situational factors, personality characteristics, and level of familiarity
  • Varies between 18 in to 4 feet for casual conversation
  • 10 to 12 feet when speaking to a crowd

Eye Gaze

  • Looking, staring, blinking nonverbal communication
  • When encountering things people like: rate of blinking increases, pupils dilate
  • Looking away at another person can indicate hostility, interest or attraction
  • Utilized to determine honesty: normal steady eyes considered to indicate honesty;

shifty eyes & inability to maintain eye contact considered person to be deceptive/lying


  • Communicating through touch
  • Touch used to communicate affection, familiarity, sympathy, and other emotions
  • Touch also used to communicate status and power
  • Women tend to use touch to convey care, concern and nurturance
  • Men likely to use touch to assert power or control over others


  • Appearance can alter physiological reactions, judgements, and interpretations
  • Researchers found that appearance can even play a role in how much a person earns
  • 1996 study found that attorneys rated more attractive than their peers earned nearly 15% more than those ranked as less attractive
  • Culture is an important influence on how appearances are judged


  • Objects and images are also tools used to communicate nonverbally
  • People often surround themselves w/ objects designed to convey information about the things important to them
  • Uniforms can be used to transmit information about a person



What Is Nonverbal Communication?


By Richard Nordquist

Updated July 26, 2019


  • Also called manual language
  • May emphasize parts of a verbal message
  • Judee Burgoon identified 7 different nonverbal dimensions:
  • Kinesics or body movements incl. facial expressions and eye contact
  • Vocalics or paralanguage that incl. volume, rate pitch, and timbre
  • Personal appearance
  • Physical environment and the artifacts or objects that compose it
  • Proxemics or personal space
  • Haptics or touch
  • Chronemics or time
  • Nonverbal signals affect verbal discourse
  • Emphasize our words: forceful gestures, changes in vocal volume or speech rate, deliberate pauses
  • Repeat what we say: nodding our head
  • Substitute for words: shaking your head to say no, thumbs-up to say nice job
  • Regulate speech: turn-taking signals (alternate the conversational roles)
  • Contradict: someone says they had a great time but their voice is flat and face lacks emotion
  • Complement: clarify the words we use and reveal the true nature of our feelings
  • Estimated 93% of all meaning in a social situation comes from nonverbal info, while
  • only 7% comes from verbal



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