Nonverbal language, the art of expressing yourself without speaking

Nonverbal language, the art of expressing yourself without speaking

Communication or nonverbal language is a type of body language that humans use to convey messages, in most cases unconsciously.

It has been known for a long time that information is not only transmitted with words, but also through body movements such as postures, looks, distances between one another, the way of sitting or even walking.


  • 1 Nonverbal language or communication
  • 2 Is non-verbal language the same in all parts of the world?
  • 3 Body language can be modified
  • 4 How to prevent it from being discovered that we lie?
  • 5 The most difficult gestures to interpret: seduction ...
  • 6 Women know how to “read” nonverbal language better
  • 7 Nonverbal components of communication
  • 8 The nonverbal language of body posture
  • 9 Paralinguistic components

The nonverbal language or communication

Nonverbal communication that goes beyond words, and for that reason it is the one that transmits the most true feelings or personal inner state. Nonverbal language is body language that does not lie easily (although everything can be trained), unlike the word that does more often than we think. In fact, it often happens that words say something that contradicts the gestures of the speaker.

Even so, we must not think that we can know for sure what a person is really thinking just by seeing them. The interpretation of a gesture, especially if it is isolated, can bring us confusion, since gestures get their meaning by relating to each other.

Albert Mehrabian, a prestigious anthropologist, concluded that when someone is speaking only the message of his words is received in 7%, while by the tone of voice and other vocal details it transmits us up to 38%, while the maximum of the content of communication is transmitted by the body language of gestures, with 55%.

Is nonverbal language the same in all parts of the world?

Nonverbal language that expresses feelings or internal states such as hunger, sadness, joy, fear, indignation, anger, surprise, etc ... is the same throughout the world. Gestures is the international "language" of humanity.

But we must know that Just as a language is learned, gestures are also learned, imitating them because they are part of the culture of the country (think of the Italians and their rich vocabulary of gestures, on which numerous studies have been done). However, the fundamental gestures are invariable, for example, in newborns from anywhere in the world. If a baby is hungry, physical or psychological discomfort, he cries, and when he feels satisfied he smiles to communicate his joy. The "gestural dialect" that alters these roots is acquired as we grow according to the culture of each country.

Children move in a more unconscious way, so their gestural language is more sincere than that of adults. With age, psychological repressions appear, complex, education is more remarkable, etc ... for this reason, the adult represses their natural expressions and tends to hide their gestures. The older you are, the more inexpressive a person is, and therefore more difficult to translate the language of their gestures well.

On the other hand, it has also been seen that the higher the social status, the more moderate the gestures, and the lower the status is, the broader and more authentic is the expression of nonverbal language. Perhaps the key to the explanation of why this occurs is that the more education to “know how to be,” the more repression there is about personal authenticity.

Body language can be modified

But body language can be modified with mental and physical self-control therapies. It is not easy, because it is a subconscious and automatic component, but it is possible.

How to prevent it from being discovered that we lie?

Apparently the best technique to make a lie credible is to avoid telling it face to face. It would be better to use the telephone or writing, if you could not do so, the ideal would be to be behind something like a table for example, to avoid that many gestures that we unconsciously make are captured by that person who is told the lie. But beware, the more intense a personal relationship, the harder it will be to make a lie credible.

The most difficult gestures to interpret: seduction ...

It is curious, it has been seen that these are the most difficult to interpret correctly.

Gestures to seduce are gestures that seek to captivate, fascinate, motivate or psychologically pressure someone in the field of love, awakening the basic sexual and passionate instincts. But in societies where moral ethics is accentuated, gestures of seduction are often repressed, from childhood. That is why the conditions that culture provokes in seduction gestures, make them repress in such a way that it makes them seem artificial, giving rise to erroneous interpretations.

But not all gestures of seduction refer to love as a couple. There is also work seduction (motivated by work interests), political seduction, psychological seduction, family seduction, friendly, companionship, etc ... All of them motivated by particular interests.

Women know how to "read" nonverbal language better

It is said that women are more intuitive than men. Apparently it is true that the female sex is more intuitive than the male innate. Women more insightfully translate nonverbal body language information, and that motivates them to inevitably be more intuitive. It is not yet known for sure, what is the reason for this characteristic. Some scientists believe that it is a natural quality of female XX chromosomes, since in most cases they translate gestures better from girls. Others, however, believe that female intuition increases by giving birth to children and raising them, or by having whatever cause, a particularly direct contact with them. Since as the babies grow, the mother communicates with the children through nonverbal language.

Nonverbal components of communication

The look

It is objectively defined as "looking at another person in the eyes, or more generally, in the upper half of the face." The mutual gaze implies that "eye contact" has been established with another person. Almost all human interactions depend on reciprocal views.. The meanings and functions of the look patterns are multiple:


People who look more are seen as more pleasant, but the extreme form of fixed gaze is seen as hostile and / or dominant. Certain interaction sequences have more meanings: for example, being the first to stop looking is a sign of submission; Pupillary dilation, a sign of interest in the other.

Emotion expression

Looking more intensifies the expression of some emotions, such as anger, while looking less intensifies others, such as shame.

Speech accompaniment

The look is used, along with the conversation, to synchronize or comment on the spoken word. Usually, if the listener looks more, it generates more response from the speaker, and if he who speaks more looks more, he is seen as persuasive and secure.

Facial expression

It seems that the face is the main signal system to show emotions. There are 6 main emotions and 3 areas of the face responsible for its expression. The emotions are: joy, surprise, sadness, fear, anger and disgust or contempt. The three facial regions involved are: the forehead / eyebrows, the eyes / eyelids, the lower part of the face. A socially skilled behavior requires a facial expression that agrees with the message. If a person shows a facial expression of fear or anger while trying to start a conversation with someone, they may not be successful.

The smile

It is an important component. It can be used as a defensive smile, as a gesture of pacification. It can serve to convey the fact that one person likes another; It can soften a rejection, communicate a friendly attitude, and encourage others to give you a smile back.

The gestures

A gesture is any action that sends a visual stimulus to an observer. To become a gesture, an act has to be seen by someone else and has to communicate some information. The gestures are basically cultural. The hands and, to a lesser extent, the head and feet, can produce a wide variety of gestures, which are used for a number of different purposes. The gestures constitute a second communication channel; Those that are appropriate to the words that are said will serve to accentuate the message by adding emphasis, openness and warmth. Uninhibited movements can also suggest openness, self-confidence (unless it was a nervous gesture) and spontaneity on the part of the speaker.

The posture

The position of the body and the members, the way the person feels, how he is standing and how he walks, they reflect their attitudes and feelings about themselves and their relationship with others. The meanings and functions of the posture are multiple.


The postures that reduce the distance and increase the opening towards the other are warm, friendly and intimate. Warm positions include leaning forward, with arms and legs open, hands extended towards each other, etc. In turn, leaning back or interlocking hands holding the back of the head can be a reflection of domination or surprise. Shyness can be expressed through the hanging arms and with the head sunk and to the side. On the contrary, legs apart, arms in jugs and lateral inclination can express determination.


Posture may reflect specific emotions. Thus, indifference can be expressed through shrugged shoulders, upright arms or outstretched hands; anger, through clenched fists, lean forward or outstretched arms; flirting, by crossing or uncrossing the legs, etc.

Speech accompaniment

The important changes in posture are used to mark broad units of speech, such as changing the subject, emphasizing and signaling or giving up the word.

The nonverbal language of body posture

Close up

Attentive posture communicated by a forward inclination of the body.


Negative, rejection or repulsive posture, expressed by retreating or turning away.


Arrogant or contemptuous posture that is reflected in the expansion of the chest, the trunk straight or tilted back, the head up and the shoulders elevated.


Crestfallen or despondency posture characterized by a forward leaning trunk, a sunken head, hanging shoulders and sunken chest.

The orientation

The type of spatial orientation denotes the degree of intimacy / formality of the relationship. The more face to face is the orientation, the more intimate is the relationship and vice versa.

The distance / physical contact

The degree of proximity clearly expresses the nature of any interaction and varies with the social context. Within body contact, there are different degrees of pressure and different points of contact that can signal emotional states, such as fear, interpersonal attitudes or a desire for intimacy.

Personal appearance

The current technological development allows to modify a lot the external appearance of a person (makeup, cosmetic surgery, hairdresser, slimming regime, etc.). Clothes and ornaments play an important role in printing than others They are formed of an individual. The components on which the attractiveness and perceptions of the other are based are the physical, the clothes, the face, the hair and the hands. The purpose of modifying the appearance is self-presentation to others. The change of hair style is one of the aspects that most influence personal appearance. Physical attractiveness may be an important element at first, but when establishing a more lasting relationship, other elements have more weight.

Paralinguistic Components

Voice volume

The most basic function of volume is to make a message reach a potential listener. High voice volume may indicate security and domain. However, speaking too loudly (suggesting aggressiveness, anger or coarseness) can also have negative consequences - people could leave or avoid future encounters. Changes in voice volume can be used in a conversation to emphasize points. A voice that varies little in volume will not be very interesting to hear.


Intonation serves to communicate feelings and emotions. A few words can express hope, affection, sarcasm, anger, excitement or disinterest, depending on the variation of the intonation of the speaker. A low intonation, with a low volume, indicates boredom or sadness. A tone that does not vary can be boring or monotonous. People are perceived as more dynamic and outgoing when they change the intonation of their voices often during a conversation. Variations in intonation can also serve to yield the word. In general, a rising intonation is positively evaluated (ie, as joy); an intonation that decays, negatively (as sadness); a fixed note, as neutral. Many times the intonation that is given to words is more important than the verbal message that you want to convey.

The fluidity

Hesitations, false starts and repetitions are quite normal in daily conversations. However, excessive speech disturbances can cause an impression of insecurity, incompetence, little interest or anxiety. Too many periods of silence could be interpreted negatively, especially as anxiety, anger or even a sign of contempt. Expressions with an excess of filler words during pauses (for example, "you know," "good") or sounds like "ah" and "eh" cause perceptions of anxiety or boredom. Another type of disturbance includes repetitions, stuttering, mispronunciations, omissions and meaningless words.

The clarity

The clarity when speaking is important. If one speaks by dragging the words, in spurts, with an excessive accent or vocalization, one can become heavier to others.


Talking slowly can make others impatient or bored. On the contrary, if done too quickly, one may not be understood.

Speaking time

This element refers to the time the individual keeps talking. A person's talk time can be problematic at both ends, that is, whether he barely speaks or speaks too much. The most appropriate is a reciprocal exchange of information.

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