Nonverbal Behavior

What are Nonverbal Behaviors?

Nonverbal behavior may be defined as any behavior—intentional or unintentional—beyond the words themselves that can be interpreted by a receiver as having meaning.

Nonverbal behaviors consists in different forms including facial expressionsOpens in new window, eye contact,Opens in new window gestures,Opens in new window body movements,Opens in new window posture,Opens in new window physical appearance,Opens in new window space,Opens in new window touch,Opens in new window and time usage.

Some Facts About Nonverbal Behaviors

  • They are all different from culture to culture.
  • Nonverbal behaviors either accompany verbal messages or are used independently of verbal messages.
  • They may affirm and emphasize or negate and even contradict spoken messages.
  • Nonverbal behaviors are more likely to be used unconsciously and spontaneously because they are habitual and routine behaviors.

Divisions of Nonverbal Behaviors

The wide range of behaviors technically called nonverbal communication Opens in new window can be divided into seven categories.

  1. Body Language
    Gestures,Opens in new window body movement,Opens in new window facial expression,Opens in new window and eye contactOpens in new window are combined in the kinesic codeOpens in new window commonly called body languageOpens in new window.
  2. Vocalic
    VocalicOpens in new window refers to vocal sounds other than the verbal context itself. Also called paralanguage,Opens in new window vocalic includes tone,Opens in new window volume,Opens in new window and sounds that are not words.
  3. Haptics
    Behaviors that involve touching are placed in the haptics codeOpens in new window.
  4. Proxemics
    The use of spaceOpens in new window is called proxemics.Opens in new window
  5. Chronemics
    The use of time is of the category called chronemicsOpens in new window.
  6. Personal Appearance
    Personal appearanceOpens in new window includes body shape and size, as well as clothing and jewelry.
  7. Objectics
    Finally, objecticsOpens in new window, also called artifact refer to objects that are associated with a person, such as one’s desk, car, or books.

This wide range of nonverbal behaviors serves various functions in all face-to-face encounters.

Important Hint!  

Note that these codes do not usually function independently or sequentially; rather, they work simultaneously. In addition, nonverbal behavior is always sending messages; we cannot communicate without using them, although, at times, the messages may be ambiguous.