We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Nonverbal Communication?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Nonverbal communication is a broad term used to describe any method of transferring information without words. It may be intentional, it may be based on societal cues, or it may be completely unconscious. Common forms of nonverbal communication include body language and facial cues, fashion and personal grooming, hand gestures, and graphical signs and design.

It is important to note that nonverbal communication is really about a lack of words, rather than a lack of vocalization. Therefore, most writing would not be considered a nonverbal means of communication, although elements like handwriting style could be considered nonverbal signifiers. By the same token, sounds like grunts are still considered nonverbal, even though they are oral sounds.

Nonverbal communication can be broadly divided into relatively universal forms and culturally dependent forms. Many facial expressions, for example, are relatively universal, with most cultures able to identify expressions of fear, joy, or anger. On the other hand, nonverbal cues like bowing, shaking hands, or flashing a peace sign are culturally defined, and therefore have little meaning outside of cultures that understand them.

Body language is one of the most studied forms of nonverbal communication, and deals with how the body rests, how it is situated in relation to other bodies, and the spatial distance between bodies. For example, turning towards a person when seated and speaking to them is a nonverbal cue demonstrating interest, while turning away demonstrates a lack of interest. Tilting your head slightly is a form of nonverbal communication to show curiosity or express that you are listening closely or what they are saying, while constantly looking away would show a lack of attention. Positioning yourself far away from whoever you’re talking to can show disinterest, disgust, or fear of the person, positioning yourself slightly closer can show interest, and positioning yourself extremely close can communicate either aggression or a very high level of interest, often sexual.

Fashion is another form of nonverbal communication, and in many modern cultures is a hugely important way in which people telegraph things about themselves. Clothing can communicate membership in a cultural subgroup, ranging from extreme examples like the Goth aesthetic or Buddhist monks in robes to more mundane examples like preppy clothing or sportswear. It also often acts as a marker for social class, with designer clothing or custom tailored suits or shoes denoting wealth. It can even act as a nonverbal cue for religion or politics, as with members of the Jewish faith who wear yarmulkes or Anarchists who embody a punk aesthetic.

Gestures also act as a form of nonverbal communication, although this should be differentiated from hand gestures used as a form of verbal communication, like sign language. A wide range of hand gestures can be found in most cultures, and in the west there are some almost universal gestures, such as a wave goodbye, a thumbs-up to demonstrate everything is okay, or hands outspread to signify offerings. Other gestures include a wink to show that something is being left unsaid, elbowing someone to indicate a camaraderie or bonding, or shrugging the shoulders to demonstrate unknowing.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon282384 — On Jul 29, 2012

Please give me example of a nonverbal TV commercial.

By suntan12 — On Sep 18, 2010

Subway11- I agree with that. I wanted to say that

nonverbal communication in the workplace is critical.

Although a meeting may be boring, you have to appear alert and engaged in the meeting. Your posture should always remain upright and eye contact should be maintained at all times.

Avoiding eye contact is a sure sign that you have no interest in the meeting which can be detrimental to your career. You should always try to remain aware of your body language.

By subway11 — On Sep 18, 2010

Moldova- Nonverbal communication flirting usually involves intense eye contact along with a wink.

Also, touching someone on the forearm or on the leg suggests physical attraction.

Nonverbal communication is often very obvious more so than verbal communication because you’re facial expressions and posture really determine your interest in the subject or person that you are engaging with.

By Moldova — On Sep 18, 2010

Nonverbal communication training involves learning to make eye contact when someone is speaking to you and leaning inward to indicate interest in the conversation.

Both eye contact nonverbal communication and leaning inward help establish a rapport with the person that you are about to engage in a conversation with.

Maintaining positive facial expressions also allows the other person to continue their conversation with you.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.