Nonverbal communication
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Nonverbal Communication. “The World Beyond Words”. What is Nonverbal Communication?. “Messages expressed by nonlinguistic means.” Includes silent behaviors, environment, artifacts, and vocal intonation Is a powerful mode of communication.

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Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal Communication

“The World Beyond Words”

What is nonverbal communication
What is Nonverbal Communication?

  • “Messages expressed by nonlinguistic means.”

    • Includes silent behaviors, environment, artifacts, and vocal intonation

    • Is a powerful mode of communication

All behavior has communicative value
All Behavior hasCommunicative Value

  • Because we “cannot not communicate”

  • May be intentional, but is often unconscious

  • Although we’re always sending messages through our nonverbals, these messages aren’t always received.

  • We especially pay attention to nonverbals when they contradict verbal communication.

Nonverbal communication is primarily relational
Nonverbal Communication is Primarily Relational

  • Responsiveness

    • Communicates our interest in others’ communication

    • Women are generally more responsive than men

    • People in lower-power positions tend to be better at reading nonverbals

  • Liking – Positive or negative feelings about others

  • Power

    • Touch

      • Violence and Abuse

    • Space

    • Silence

A little more about the relational nature of nonverbals
(A little more about the relational nature of nonverbals)

  • Nonverbals are 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’re feeling

Nonverbal communication is ambiguous
NonverbalCommunicationis Ambiguous

  • The same nonverbal can have multiple meanings

  • For example:

    • “I’m feeling content” smiles

    • “I’m feeling a little stressed” smiles

    • “I’m a bit sad” smiles

    • “I can’t believe you just did that” smiles

    • “How do I get out of this conversation?” smiles

Nonverbal communication reflects cultural values
Nonverbal Communication Reflects Cultural Values

Some Examples…

  • Space

    • Americans tend to value more personal space than many other cultures

    • Men tend to value more personal space than women

  • Touch (Knapp, 1972)

    • Americans – 2 touches per hour

    • British – 0 touches per hour

    • Parisians – 110 touches per hour

    • Puerto Ricans – 180 touches per hour

  • Eye-Contact

    • In North-America: frankness, assertiveness, honesty

    • In many Asian and northern-European countries: abrasive & disrespectful

    • In Brazil: more intense eye-contact is the norm

The interplay between verbal and nonverbal communication
The Interplay Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

  • Repeating

    • Your nonverbals simply repeat what you’ve said

  • Substituting

    • Your nonverbals replace language

    • Emblems (e.g., nodding)

  • Complementing & Accenting

    • Your nonverbals add depth and meaning to your language

    • Illustrators/Affect displays

  • Regulating

    • Your nonverbals help regulate the conversation

  • Contradicting

    • You say one thing, but your nonverbals say another


  • Nonverbals are under less conscious control, so deception is more likely to be revealed through our nonverbals.

  • 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.

Face and eyes1
Face and Eyes

  • Over 1000 distinct facial expressions

  • Eyes can be especially expressive

    • “Windows to the soul”

  • Men and women have been found to be equally expressive

    • Men show the most emotion in the lower left quadrant of their face

    • Women show emotion over their whole face

Body movement kinesics
Body Movement/Kinesics

  • Body posture

  • Gestures

  • Manipulators/Fidgeting

    An aside…


  • Touching is considered essential and therapeutic

  • Touching can influence liking and compliance

  • Is used to show intimacy or power/control

  • People with high status touch others/invade others’ spaces more than people with lower status

Voice paralanguage

  • 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 unintentionally)

    An illustration…

  • Try saying “You love me” to convey the following meanings:

  • You really do? I hadn’t realized that.

  • That ploy won’t work. I told you we’re through.

  • You couldn’t possibly love me after what you did!

  • Me? I’m the one you love?

  • You? I didn’t think you loved anyone.

Silence meanings:

  • Can communicate contentment, awkwardness, anger, respect, thoughtfulness, empathy

  • Can also be disconfirming

Space proxemics
Space/Proxemics meanings:

Personal Space

  • Intimate distance

  • Personal distance

  • Social distance

  • Public distance

    Barrier behaviors and territory

You are here

Time chronemics
Time/Chronemics meanings:

  • Our use of time reflects:

    • Power/status

    • Cultural norms

    • Expectations

    • Interpersonal priorities

Physical appearance
Physical Appearance meanings:

  • “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

  • We tend to notice obvious things first (gender, race), then note attractiveness

  • 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

Artifacts meanings:

  • 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, masculinity/femininity

  • Important part of first impressions

Environment meanings:

  • 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 about them

  • Monitor Your Nonverbal Communication meanings:

  • Be Tentative When Interpreting Others’ Nonverbal Communication

    • Nonverbals are personal and ambiguous

    • Personal Qualifications:

      • Take responsibility for your interpretations

      • Use “I” language to check your perceptions of nonverbals

    • Contextual Qualifications:

      • Be aware of how the context might be influencing others’ nonverbals

      • Be aware of how different cultural norms might influence others’ nonverbals

      • Be careful not to jump to conclusions based on your own cultural norms