Non-verbal Communication

I. Revising the theory

Exercise 1. Choose the definition of non-verbal communication that you like best. Give your reasons.

1. According to L. C. Bove and others, “Non-verbal communication is communication that takes place through non-verbal cues: through such form of non-verbal communication as gesture, eye contact, facial expression, clothing and space; and through the non-verbal vocal communication known as Para-language.”

2. According to Lesikar and Pettit, “Non-verbal communication means all communication that occurs without words (body movements, space, time, touch, voice patterns, color, layout, design of surroundings.)”

3. According to Himstreet and Baty, “Non-verbal communication includes any communication occurring without the use of words.”


Exercise 2. What are the purposes of non-verbal communication? Add to the list below.

Non-verbal communication can help us to: provide feedback, reinforce what is said in words, modify what is said in words, convey information about people’s emotional state, regulate the flow of communication, define the relationship between people …

Exercise 3. Match the two parts of sentences making true statements about non-verbal communication.

  • People have less conscious control over their non-verbal messages than
  • Non-verbal communication is much more emotional in nature,
  • If there is a mismatch between the verbal and non-verbal communication,
  • A lack of non-verbal message may also be a signal, suggesting that
  • Much of non-verbal communication is unintentional:
  • Non-verbal communication takes place through
  • Non-verbal communication is unconscious in the sense that
  • and much more instinctive.
  • you should probably trust the non-verbal messages, rather than the words.
  • the speaker is trying to control their body language and hide their true emotions.
  • of what they’re actually saying.
  • it is usually not planned nor rehearsed
  • people are sometimes not even aware that they are sending messages.
  • gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, physical proximity, touching etc.

II. Practicing

Exercise 1. According to Alton Barbour, the author of “Louder Than Words: Non-Verbal Communication”, communication is based on a range of factors. Guess the right percentage.

1. % of communication is based on words.
2. % of communication is based on volume, pitch and tone of the voice. .
3. % of communication is based on facial expressions and other non-verbal communication..

Exercise 2. What do these non-verbal signs mean? Match the answers as appropriate.

  • Slouching and shrinking back in your chair during a business meeting.
  • Leaning over an employee’s desk during a business meeting and invading his or her personal space.
  • Frowning and shaking your head during a conversation.
  • Subduing your gestures and avoiding direct eye contact.
  • Keeping your arms to the side, thus opening your body to the person you are interacting with.
  • Aggressive confrontation.
  • Signs of disapproval.
  • Trust and a desire to connect.
  • You seem under-confident.
  • Signs of lying.

Exercise 3. Read the following text and consider the questions below.

What Are the Benefits of Visual Communication Over Verbal?

By Ch. Switzer

Visual messages surround us every day. We watch real and fictional stories on television, we view advertisements in magazines and on billboards and we review charts, graphs and tables in books. We consider photographs that we want to display around our home, and we design visual aides to accompany our presentations at work.

Throughout all of these activities, we engage with and use visual communication to send and receive messages. Even though verbal communication is often viewed as a more important or a more central type of communication, visual communication has many benefits and advantages in both personal and professional situations.


One of the primary benefits of visual communication over verbal is immediacy. Whether you are seeking to communicate complex information, such as with statistical information, or seeking to emphasize the importance of an idea, visual communication can often accomplish these tasks much more quickly than verbal communication. For example, if you are seeking to illustrate decreased sales for a specific product line, you can show that information through a graph or chart and communicate the necessary information to your audience almost instantaneously.


Another advantage to visual communication is simplicity. For example, if you seek to give driving directions to a friend, you may find it easier and even quicker to draw a visual map. Often, visual communication can simplify the information or ideas that you are seeking to pass on to another person or group of people. If you work as an engineer, you will often use diagrams along with written instructions to illustrate how a product or item works with simplicity and clarity.


Visual communication can also be more flexible in many ways than verbal communication. For example, if you are seeking to communicate a marketing or advertising message to hundreds or thousands of people across diverse geographic areas, visual messages will often allow you to do so with more flexibility than verbal ones. Visual communication not only can bridge geographic distance, it also can span cultural differences.

Abridged from:

1. What constitutes visual communication? Give examples.

2. In what way can visual communication enhance a verbal message?

3. Is visual communication more relevant in personal or professional communication?

4. In certain situations some shortcomings and limitations of verbal communication can be overcome by visual communication, can’t they?

Exercise 4. Match the answers as appropriate.

  • They freely smile at strangers.
  • A smile is sometimes considered strange and even impolite.
  • A smile can be used to convey pain and embarrassment.
  • Smiling and conveying emotions in general is untypical. It is considered a weakness.
  • Scandinavians
  • Asians
  • Russians
  • Americans

Exercise 5. Dwell on the role of a smile in different cultures, relying on the examples provided in Ex. 4.

Exercise 6. Dwell on the significance of the following non-verbal means of communication in your culture.

A handshake, the way you dress, touching another person, a high-five, holding your partner’s hand, a hug, a grip on the arm, a frown, arrival time (e.g. work, a business meeting, a job interview, a friendly get-together, a date), nodding the head vigorously during a conversation, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a smile, a shrug of the shoulders, a pat on the back, facing a person when you speak or listen, leaning toward your partner during a conversation, an erect posture, slouching, looking your partner in the eye (eye contact), keeping a proper distance, standing too close, staring at the ceiling during a conversation.

Exercise 7. Agree or disagree with the following statement: “Your listening skills will greatly improve if you supplement listening with observing someone’s body language and other non-verbal communication”. Give your reasons.

Exercise 8. Relying on your own experience, books or films, provide at least two examples of non-verbal communication that:

a) serves to repeat the verbal message (i.e. reinforces the spoken words);
b) contradicts the verbal message;
c) acts as a substitute for language.

III. Applying the model

Exercise 1. In a film of your choice find examples of non-verbal symbols used as status markers (e.g., clothes, jewelry, cars, accessories, pieces of furniture, interior decorations) and comment on their usage. Do they successfully communicate the intended message in the given episode?

Exercise 2. In a film or book of your choice find examples of non-verbal means (signal flags, music, lights, dance, clothes, posture, gestures, etc.) communicating a certain message. Was the message decoded successfully? What do you think is a better/more efficient way to communicate in the given episode – verbal or nonverbal means?

Exercise 3. In a film or book of your choice find examples of misinterpreted non-verbal communication.

Exercise 4. Role-play a situation choosing one of the following cases of non-verbal communication:

  • Your body language repeats the verbal message you are conveying.
  • Your body language contradicts the verbal message you are conveying.
  • Your body language is a substitution for your verbal message.
  • Your body language adds to the meaning of your verbal message.
  • Your body language accents or makes the message stronger.

Exercise 5. Conduct an experiment, trying to talk to your friends or acquaintances without gesturing at all. Did you find the task difficult? Explain why.