What Are the Four Types of Nonverbal Communication?

Body language and facial expressions communicate how a person feels at that moment.

Nonverbal communication relays a lot of how we feel at that moment. Our words may say we accept a situation but our eyes, our body gestures and even tone of voice often qualify our verbal response. The obvious nonverbal communication is typically body language and facial expressions but as stated in Focused Momentum, "you may be surprised by the more obscure types" of nonverbal communication. Being aware of the nonverbal cues you give others when speaking can help you to be a more effective communicator and listener.

1 Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most evident methods of nonverbal communication. It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Most people, when they are talking to you, will watch your eyes to see if you are looking away as you are supposedly listening. When someone speaks to another person and that person is looking away as they are listening it says loud and clear "I am distracted." Equally important is that when you speak to others, you look directly into their eyes, rather than looking around the room as you speak.

2 Body Language

Our body language reflects how we feel about what we are hearing or saying or even just thinking. If we are slumped over it says we are "depressed." If we stand or sit straight it says we have confidence. The elbow dig into someone's side says "I am kidding and comfortable enough with this person to jest." Crossing our arms in front of our body says "I am in charge here." Keeping your arms to your side and standing up straight says "I am open-minded about this particular situation."

3 Paralinguistics

Paralinguistics, meaning tone, pitch, loudness, inflection and rhythm of your voice is considered one of the nonverbal communication types. Even though this includes "sound" of our voice, how we say what we say represents things such as sarcasm, anger, intimacy or even being whiny. The expression "That's great" is a common one that by using a different tone, the meaning changes drastically.

4 Facial Expression

In addition to eye contact, our facial expressions tell a lot about how we feel about what we are hearing or saying. A raised eyebrow can change what you say from being sincere to being devious. The actor Jack Nicholson is famous for his raised eyebrow expressions. Smiling as you listen says, "I agree." A slight frown and lowered eyebrows says, "I don't quite understand." Closing your eyes and smirking says, "I don't believe you." Reading a person's face as they speak can help you to better understand how they feel about what they are saying.

Jennie Ashley has been a technical writer since 1983. Her publications include quality assurance manuals, personnel policies and procedures manuals, as well as instructional guidelines for manufacturing sites. Ashley has a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University in communications with a language arts minor.