Chapter 5: Nonverbal Communication

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter you should be able to:

  • Define nonverbal communication and explain its main characteristics
  • Understand the three qualities of symbols
  • Describe the rules governing nonverbal communication
  • Explain the differences between written and spoken communication
  • Describe the functions of nonverbal communication

Your brother comes home from school and walks through the door. Without saying a word, he walks to the fridge, gets a drink, and turns to head for the couch in the family room. Once there, he plops down, stares straight ahead, and sighs. You notice that he sits there in silence for the next few minutes. During this time, he never speaks a word. Is he communicating? If your answer is yes, how would you interpret his actions? How do you think he is feeling? What types of nonverbal communication was your brother using? Like verbal communication, nonverbal communication is essential in our everyday interactions. Remember that verbal and nonverbal communication are the two primary channels we study in the field of communication. While nonverbal and verbal communications have many similar functions, nonverbal communication has its own set of functions for helping us communicate with each other. Before we get into the types and functions of nonverbal communication, let’s define nonverbal communication to better understand how it is used in this text.


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