Introduction in Non-verbal Communication

Communication in general is process of sending and receiving messages that enables humans to share knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Although we usually identify communication with speech, communication is composed of two dimensions - verbal and nonverbal.

Non-verbal Communication

Nonverbal communication has been defined as communication without words. It includes apparent behaviors such as facial expressions, eyes, touching, and tone of voice, as well as less obvious messages such as dress, posture and spatial distance between two or more people.

nonverbal communication is learned shortly after birth and practiced and refined throughout a person’s lifetime. Children first learn nonverbal expressions by watching and imitating, much as they learn verbal skills. Young children know far more than they can verbalize and are generally more adept at reading nonverbal cues than adults are because of their limited verbal skills and their recent reliance on the nonverbal to communicate. As children develop verbal skills, nonverbal channels of communication do not cease to exist although become entwined in the total communication process.

Humans use nonverbal communication because:

Words have limitations: There are numerous areas where nonverbal communication is more effective than verbal (when explain the shape, directions, personalities are expressed nonverbally) Nonverbal signal are powerful: Nonverbal cues primary express inner feelings (verbal messages deal basically with outside world). Nonverbal message are likely to be more genuine: because nonverbal behaviors cannot be controlled as easily as spoken words. Nonverbal signals can express feelings inappropriate to state: Social etiquette limits what can be said, but nonverbal cues can communicate thoughts. A separate communication channel is necessary to help send complex messages: A speaker can add enormously to the complexity of the verbal message through simple nonverbal signals.

Nonverbal communication in classroom

Nonverbal communication is also a critical aspect of interpersonal communication in the classroom. The most credible messages teachers generate, as communication sources are nonverbal. Many of the cues students use to make judgments about teacher’s competence or characters are obtained by observing the teacher’s nonverbal behavior.

Nonverbal communication in classroom

Nonverbal communication in the classroom occurs with distance, physical environment, facial expression, vocal cues, body movements and gestures, touch, time, physical attractiveness, and dress.


Movements and gestures by the hands, arms, legs, and other parts of the body and face are the most pervasive types of nonverbal messages and the most difficult to control. It is estimated that there are over 200.000 physical signs capable of stimulating meaning in another person (some social scientists state even 700.000). For example, there are 23 distinct eyebrow movements, each capable of stimulating a different meaning.


Humans express attitudes toward themselves and vividly through body motions and posture. Bodies movements elucidate true messages about feeling that cannot be masked. Because such avenues of communication are visual, they travel much farther than spoken words and are unaffected by the presence of noise that interrupt, or cancels out speech. People communicate by the way they walk, stand, and sit. We tend to be more relaxed with friends or when addressing those of lower status. Body orientation also indicates status or liking of the other individual. More direct orientation is related to a more positive attitude.


Body movements and postures alone have no exact meaning, but they can greatly support or reject the spoken word. It these two means of communication are dichotomized and contradict each other, some result will be a disordered image and most often the nonverbal will dominate.

Body movement and gesture in the classroom

Body postures and movements are frequently indicators of self-confidence, energy, fatigue, or status. In the classroom, students keen to receive body message of enthusiasm or boredom about the subject matter being Gestures taught can sense confidence or frustration from the unconscious behaviors of teachers. Gestures  gestures operate to clarify, contradict, or replace verbal messages. Gestures also serve an important function with regard to regulating the flow of conversation.

 For

example, if a student is talking in class, single nods of the head from the teacher will likely cause that student to continue and perhaps elaborate.

A sample gesture

used to indicate attitudes, status, affective moods, approval, deception, warmth, and other variables related to classroom interaction.  conveys gross or overall affect (liking), while specific emotions are communicated by more discreet, facial and body movements. (Ekman and Friesen)

Facial Expression

The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” well describes the meaning of facial expression. Facial appearance including wrinkles, muscle tone, skin coloration, and eye color-offers enduring cues that reveal information about age, sex, race, ethnic origin, and status.

Varieties of expressions

Face talks

Facial Expression
may be unintentional or intentional.  can also be voluntary, as when an individual wants deliberately to hide feelings for different reasons  Often people try to hide feelings and emotions behind masks.  All humans are capable of faking a happy or a sad face, a smile or a frown.

Facial Expression

Facial expression in the classroom

All people and thus certainly teachers and students use facial expressions to form impressions of another. Facial expression involves some of the smallest body movements, but its impact in the classroom may be greater than any other body language the teacher exhibits. The teacher probably communicates more accidentally by his or her facial expression than by any other means. When teachers are responding to students, these changes in facial expression can serve as reinforcers to the student or as non-reinforcers.

How many birds in seven soft-boiled eggs?

the study of nonverbal cues of the voice. Various acoustic properties of speech such as tone, pitch and accent, collectively known as prosody, can all give off nonverbal cues.  may change the meaning of words  The linguist George L. Trager developed a classification system which consists of the voice set, voice qualities, and vocalization.

The voice set is the context in which the speaker is speaking. This can include the situation, gender, mood, age and a person's culture. The voice qualities are volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm, articulation, resonance, nasality, and accent. They give each individual a unique "voice print". Vocalization consists of three subsections: characterizers, qualifiers and segregates. Characterizers are emotions expressed while speaking, such as laughing, crying, and yawning. A voice qualifier is the style of delivering a message - for example, yelling "Hey stop that!", as opposed to whispering "Hey stop that". Vocal segregates such as "uh-huh" notify the speaker that the listener is listening.

Functions of nonverbal communication
Five primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human communication:  Express emotions  Express interpersonal attitudes  To accompany speech in managing the cues of interaction between speakers and listeners  Self-presentation of one’s personality  Rituals (greetings)

Interaction of verbal and nonverbal communication

When communicating, nonverbal messages can interact with verbal messages in six ways: repeating, conflicting, complementing, substituting, regulating and accenting/moderating.
Repeating  "Repeating" consists of using gestures to strengthen a verbal message, such as pointing to the object of discussion

Conflicting  Verbal and nonverbal messages within the same interaction can sometimes send opposing or conflicting messages. A person verbally expressing a statement of truth while simultaneously fidgeting or avoiding eye contact may convey a mixed message to the receiver in the interaction. Conflicting messages may occur for a variety of reasons often stemming from feelings of uncertainty, ambivalence, or frustration. When mixed messages occur, nonverbal communication becomes the primary tool people use to attain additional information to clarify the situation; great attention is placed on bodily movements and positioning when people perceive mixed messages during interactions.


Accurate interpretation of messages is made easier when nonverbal and verbal communication complement each other. Nonverbal cues can be used to elaborate on verbal messages to reinforce the information sent when trying to achieve communicative goals; messages have been shown to be remembered better when nonverbal signals affirm the verbal exchange Substituting  Nonverbal behavior is sometimes used as the sole channel for communication of a message. People learn to identify facial expressions, body movements, and body positioning as corresponding with specific feelings and intentions. Nonverbal signals can be used without verbal communication to convey messages; when nonverbal behavior does not effectively communicate a message, verbal methods are used to enhance understanding

Regulating  Nonverbal behavior also regulates our conversations. For example, touching someone's arm can signal that you want to talk next or interrupt. Accenting/Moderating  Nonverbal signals are used to alter the interpretation of verbal messages. Touch, voice pitch, and gestures are some of the tools people use to accent or amplify the message that is sent; nonverbal behavior can also be used to moderate or tone down aspects of verbal messages as well. For example, a person who is verbally expressing anger may accent the verbal message by shaking a fist.

Dance and nonverbal communication

Dance is a form of nonverbal communication that requires the same underlying faculty in the brain for conceptualization, creativity and memory as does verbal language in speaking and writing. Means of self-expression, both forms have vocabulary (steps and gestures in dance), grammar (rules for putting the vocabulary together) and meaning. Dance, however, assembles (choreographs) these elements in a manner that more often resembles poetry, with its ambiguity and multiple, symbolic and elusive meanings.

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