Chapter 6: Nonverbal Communication

Scholars suggest that up to 60-90% of the meaning we get from communicative interactions comes to us nonverbally (DeVito, 2014; Verderber, MacGeorge, & Verderber, 2016). Whether it’s facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, vocal characteristics, or clothing, we use nonverbal communication to send messages to others, and others interpret both our intentional and unintentional nonverbal messages. In this chapter, we will cover what nonverbal communication is and the nonverbal communication channels we use to communicate information. Specifically, we will explain what nonverbal communication is and its functions, types, and principles. Last, we will discuss strategies for improving and reflecting on your own nonverbal communication competence.

(Image: Kevin Kuramura/, printed with permission for use in Interpersonal Communication Abridged Textbook I.C.A.T.)


Essential Questions

  • How is meaning conveyed through nonverbal messages?
  • What influences the way nonverbal messages are perceived?
  • How can we improve our encoding and decoding of nonverbal messages?

Successful students will be able to:

  • define nonverbal communication.
  • recognize functions and types of nonverbal communication.
  • explain principles of nonverbal communication.
  • describe ways to improve encoding and decoding of nonverbal messages.
  • explain the roles of context and reflection in improving nonverbal communication 

  • Sections 6.0, 6.1.0, 6.1.1, 6.2.0, 6.2.6, 6.3.0, 6.4.0 – 6.4.2, 6.4.5, & 6.5.0: Interpersonal Communication Abridged Textbook (I.C.A.T.); Central New Mexico Community College; 2019; CC BY NC SA 4.0
  • Sections 6.2.3, 6.3.1, 6.3.2, 6.3.4, 6.4.4, 6.5.1 & 6.5.2: adapted from Survey of Communication Studies; 2018; CC BY SA 3.0
  • Sections 6.2.1, 6.2.2, 6.2.4, 6.2.5, & 6.4.3: adapted from Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies; University of Minnesota; 2016; CC BY NC SA 4.0
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