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Non-verbal communication explained with examples from everyday life

Non-verbal communication is the message we convey through our body language, facial gestures or intonation of our voice. It is the part of communication linked to intention, emotion and everything that is not transmitted in words.

Cross your arms

When the person with whom we are communicating crosses his arms, it is a sign that he distrusts or does not approve of what we say. This behavior is part of kinesics, the part of non-verbal communication that studies body movements that are used as a form of expression.

shake hands

Shaking hands is a common greeting in formal settings and is integrated as part of kinesiology. When one of the two parties does it strongly it means that this person enjoys great confidence in himself and even in the person who greets. Conversely, shaking hands without force denotes weakness and lack of confidence.

Walk through class

When the teacher walks around the classroom purposefully and with long strides, he shows a high degree of self-confidence and projects an image of great authority. This example is also part of kinesics, which analyzes body movement and its meaning.

touch your nose

This gesture is interpreted as a lack of sincerity. When someone we are talking to touches their nose, it is a sign that they are trying to hide something or that there is little truth in what they are saying. It is undoubtedly an act in which our body reflects a certain nervousness in the face of an uncomfortable situation, and therefore the category of which it is part is kinesia.

Slap on the back

A pat on the back is always a good sign, no matter what field we’re in. Whether from a family member, teacher or friend, the pat is interpreted as a sign of encouragement, support and approval. This example belongs to the kinesiology category.

distance yourself

If one of the participants in the conversation walks away while they are talking, it is a sign that this person is not comfortable or has no interest in what they are listening to. The way people use space when they communicate is the object of study in proxemics.

Look through the window

When a student in class is constantly looking out the window, it is a sign that they are bored or distracted and are more interested in what is happening outside the classroom. This attitude is part of proxemics, since it talks about the way the student uses his space and expresses his mood.

talk closely

People who keep a close distance while conversing show trust, affection and closeness. Sometimes, and depending on the context, there can be some attraction or intimacy between two people who are talking very closely. Another example of proxemics, where the space between interlocutors has a specific meaning.

look at the eyes

Staring into the eyes of our interlocutor is usually a sign that we are being sincere or that we are very interested in what we are hearing. Excessive eye contact can become challenging, intimidating, and uncomfortable for the other person. This practice is part of proxemics, since we are using space to convey an intention.

Excessive nervous laughter

When someone laughs nervously while speaking, they are showing insecurity. This person is probably uncomfortable, in a situation that causes tension. This practice is considered paralinguistic because it is a way of communicating through a non-verbal part of speech.

high pitched voice

Using a high tone of voice can mean anger, excitement about an event, joy or authority, it will all depend on the context. If in class, while the students are talking non-stop, the teacher raises his voice, he is showing his authority and, probably, a little anger. But if someone who receives a surprise raises the tone of their voice, it is surely one of excitement and joy.

Descending intonation

When someone expresses himself by intoning the sentences in a descending way, it is a sign that his mood is low, either because of sadness or tiredness, although it can simply be because of shyness. This type of intonation is linked to a slow rhythm and a low voice volume. All these aspects are part of paralinguistics, what we communicate with the voice, but without using words.

talk very fast

People who speak faster than normal are usually quite nervous, very excited or in a moment of great anxiety. This occurs because they want to say everything that is on their mind in the shortest possible time, and sometimes in such a rushed way that it is not understandable. This is another practice of paralinguistics, which helps to perceive a person’s mood through the way they speak.

Use of emojis and stickers

The use of emojis, stickers and other visual resources is increasingly common when we communicate via messages or social networks. Its function is to provide the part of non-verbal communication that completes the written message. When a person writes a message, the recipient does not know their mood and emojis can be a way to get this information. They are part of iconic language and therefore a part of non-verbal communication.

Traffic signs

Traffic signs are part of the environment and have a universal meaning. It is a system of signs that serves to inform vehicle drivers and pedestrians without the need for words, which is why they are part of non-verbal communication. For example, when a pedestrian sees the dolly at the red light, he knows he can’t cross yet; the traffic light for the driver, on the other hand, will be green and means that he can drive.

See also:


  • Fast, J., & Bastos, V. (1971). The language of the body (Vol. 1). Kairos
  • Miguel Aguado, A., & Nevares Heredia, L. (1995). Non-verbal communication. Tabanc: pedagogical magazine, (10), 141-154.
  • Martín, EF (2011). Verbal communication in the classroom. Education and Future: Journal of Applied Research and Educational Experiences, (24), 117-132.
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