Types of Nonverbal Communication That Use Cues

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Nonverbal cues can communicate how people feel about other people, what they are thinking and what they mean by their words. These cues can include touching and other body movements, eye movements and how much physical space people put between each other. Nonverbal communication can be used to express both positive and negative thoughts and emotions.

1 Haptics

Haptics refers to the way that people use touch to communicate. These cues can illustrate how people feel about each other, such as when they give each other a hug or pat someone on the back. People may also touch each other as part of a ritual, such as couples who kiss to say hello or goodbye to each other or people who shake hands when they meet someone for the first time. These nonverbal cues can also be a sign of dominance. For example, a police officer may instruct someone to move over by touching him and pointing to where he needs to go.

2 Kinesics

Kinesics refers to the use of body and face movements to communicate. These cues include emblems, illustrators and affect displays. Emblems are gestures that are made to replace certain words, such as when people give a thumbs-up sign to indicate that something good has happened. Illustrators are cues that are used to enhance a person’s verbal message. For example, when someone shakes her head when saying no, this cue is meant to emphasize the point. Affect displays are cues that people use to show their emotions, such as when someone smiles when he's happy or frowns when he's upset.

3 Eye Contact

Eye contact can be a way that people show interest in each other. This nonverbal cue is used when people are being attentive to what someone is saying to them and when they want to illustrate that they care. In addition, people may avoid eye contact when they want to express a lack of interest in something or avoid being distracted by visual stimuli. In some cases, people avoid eye contact when they are lying.

4 Proxemics

Proxemics is the amount of space that people put between each other. This nonverbal cue can communicate how emotionally close people are to each other. For example, couples tend to position themselves so that they have 0 to 18 inches between them, which illustrates to others that they are emotionally close. This same couple, however, may put more distance between them when they are having difficult times in their relationship or are on the verge of breaking up.

  • 1 “Human Communication: Principles and Contexts”; Stewart Tubbs and Sylvia Moss; 2008
  • 2 “Thinking through Communication”; Sarah Trenholm; 2008
  • 3 “Human Communication: The Basic Course”; Joseph A. DeVito; 2008

Charlotte Anne Cox is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. She has been a professional writer since 1994 and has written for numerous publications. She also works as a freelance editor for major publishing houses. She has a degree in English. She likes to write about issues related to crime and forensics.