Nonverbal Communication, Day 1

Course(s) Used:

  • Interpersonal Communication

Goals and Objectives:

  • Students are familiar with the variety of channels of nonverbal communication.
  • Students understand how nonverbal communication is distinct from verbal communication.

Rationale: Nonverbal communication is a huge area of study in interpersonal communication research. Although one or two class meetings is not enough to do this area of research justice, a passing familiarity with it is needed as part of this overview class.

Materials Needed


  • Handout1


  • Classroom computer and projector

Outline of the Lesson

  1. Review of previous session’s content
  2. Characteristics of Nonverbal Codes
    1. First form of communication
    2. Generally trusted more that verbal (given precedence over)
    3. More emotionally powerful (words often fail)
    4. Often go beyond culture (Story, Kenneth, Stop fueling)
    5. Continuous and natural
    6. Occur in clusters (multi-channel)
  3. Types of Nonverbal Communication
    1. Visible Communication
      1. Proxemics
        1. Environment Preference (pretty, average, and ugly room)
        2. Territoriality (the area we own)
        3. Personal Space (the area around ourselves)
      2. Kinesics2
        1. Whole Body Movements (walking around, lean, postureā€¦)
        2. Gestures (movements of hands and arms)
        3. Gaze (where we look)
        4. Facial Expressions: including Affect Displays (most expressive medium)
        5. Artifacts (what we bring with us)
    2. Auditory
      1. Vocal Qualities (sounds that accompany words: pitch, tempo, articulation, etc.)
      2. Vocal Characterizers (sounds that are actions: laughing, yelling, sighing, etc.)
      3. Vocal Segregates (sounds between words: um, stuttering, uncomfortable silence).
    3. Invisible (sorry for the lousy name)
      1. Chronemics (use of time, showing up early/late, Truman and the senator)
      2. Olfactics (use of smell to communicate: perfume, cologne, etc.)
      3. Haptics (use of touch to communicate)
  4. Activity: Nonverbal Dialogue (groups of 2)
    1. Use Nonverbal communication to change the meaning of this interaction.1
  5. Debrief the activity
    1. Same Words, but very different interactions.
  6. Lesson closing


This is not an acting class, and students can have difficulty coming up with good activities.

Variations and Accommodations

Follow guidance from local accommodation authorities.

  1. HO ^
  2. 1. Emblems, 2. Illustrators, 3. Adaptors: Object/Self, 4. Regulators ^