Lists with all types of nonverbal communication 

Part 1, Part 2

I have here a huge list of various types of non-verbal communication. Whilst my website is largely about verbal communication in couples relationships, it would be incomplete without a page on the non-verbal stuff.

Nonverbal communication is most often linked with talking and more importantly - listening.  Your listening skills - and therefore your responding skills - will hugely improve if you supplement listening with observing someone's body language and other non-verbal communication. 

Spend time sharpening your awareness of body language and other non-verbal stuff and everyone around you will benefit from your upgraded communication skills. With regards to my particular interest - you'll get better at picking up signs from your partner that could otherwise easily go unnoticed!

If you communicate (read: listen and watch) well, not only everyone around you benefits, but you'll increase your happiness for sure.

In case this page doesn't have what you're looking for, hop over to these:

Semiotics of nonverbal communication

Here is an unmissable presentation - it speaks for itself…


Types of nonverbal communication: an overview

There’s a whole variety of ways in which we communicate meaning. Some kinds of nonverbal communication are more obvious than others.  

Sign language

You could argue that the following sign languages are technically a verbal way of communicating. Although there are no sounds, the languages are made up of a combination of words, expressions and often 'mouthing' words or meanings, as well as gestures.

There are 5 types of sign language:

  1. Sign language for the deaf 
  2. Sign language for people who are deaf and blind
  3. Sign language for children and adults with special needs and communication problems, such as Makaton (see link further down)
  4. Sign language for babies - a most fabulous way to understand and communicate with your hearing baby, before he or she can speak!
  5. Sign language for communicating with animals for example dogs and dolphins 

Visit this fantastic page on sign languages of the world for links to other sign languages.

7 other types of nonverbal communication - body language

  1. 'Accidental' body language - all the different types of movements, postures and facial expressions
  2. Intentional body language - empathetic movements and touch, postures and facial expressions
  3. Intentional body language – violent / abusive movements and touch, postures and facial expressions
  4. Observance and use or abuse of personal space
  5. Dance (have a look at the fabulous video further down)
  6. Vocal sounds without words: laughter, crying, expression of pain, sounds like: "Mmmmm", "Aha", "Ugh!" etc. These all express wordlessly a variety of feelings, such as surprise, disgust, happiness, anger, sadness and so on.
  7. Touch too is a nonverbal way of communicating

3 new types of non-verbal communication

  1. Emoticons in emails and texts are the newest addition to this list
  2. Deliberately posting photos on Facebook and other social media to provoke a reaction
  3. Digital manipulation of images to cause a particular reaction

Silence, respect and disrespect

Of course, not saying anything when there’s an expectation that something should be said is nonverbal communication too. Interpreting this kind of non-verbal communication requires careful exploration, understanding of the context and most probably additional information.

Respect or disrespect for cultural differences also communicates meaning.

All of the above types of nonverbal communication overlap of course. Intentional body language and types of nonverbal communication 'leak' unintentional stuff.

Dance - the most beautiful way of communicating nonverbally

Make yourself a hot drink (or cool one!), sit somewhere comfortable, kick your shoes off and watch this extraordinary video by the dance company Pilobolus. The dance is called "Symbiosis".

This is a great piece for discussing dance as a type of nonverbal communication - perhaps on a course or for your studies. See the highs and lows of this couple’s relationship literally unfold before your eyes. It is rated as "jaw dropping" on TED.com. Enjoy!

Other art forms as examples of nonverbal communication

Verbal communication 'paints' a different picture that 'sounds' different or 'feels' different for each one of us. That can get very tricky, because 'the truth' as you see, hear or feel it may not be the same truth as that of the next person! And often what you 'spit out' is a representation of what you saw, heard or felt and it may just come out differently than you had intended. No wonder then we so often misunderstand!

But here are some fabulous ways to communicate without words! These art forms can express so much more clearly what you truly think and feel (though of course art too can be misinterpreted).

  • Photography
  • Painting
  • Music
  • Sculpture

8 indirect, nonverbal ways of communicating

This is where an understanding of psychology is helpful.  As a counsellor, for instance, I get a lot of information from the following ways people communicate nonverbally. Together with what’s being verbalised, it helps to build a fuller picture of what’s actually going on:

  1. Forgetting a date that’s important to someone else
  2. Not arriving for a date/occasion/appointment when you’re expected
  3. Ignoring someone
  4. 'Using' someone
  5. Not helping someone when you could
  6. Going out of your way to help someone
  7. Removing or exhibiting signs of your rank before talking to someone of a lower (or higher) rank
  8. Dressing up or dressing down for an occasion or event - to fit in, impress, stand out or disrespect

There are lots of other things that give out information about yourself, including…

  • The kind of books you read
  • The way you dress
  • The programmes you watch
  • The magazines you subscribe to
  • The websites you visit
  • The organisations you belong to

Your possessions – or things you’d like to own – also communicate without you uttering a word. Things like your house, your car, your gadgets, your furniture… generally your taste in pretty much everything!

9 types of nonverbal communication used by professionals

Nonverbal communication plays a key role in lots of professions too, including…

  1. Morse code
  2. Use of flags
  3. Signing used by referees
  4. Tic-tac - used by on-course betters on horses in the UK
  5. Trading signals
  6. Wearing a rank specific uniform
  7. Service and Regiment specific uniforms
  8. Wearing a uniform of any kind
  9. Size or site of an office

…to name but a few!

Read on to Part 2 to discover how we can start learning to interpret body language... and the pitfalls this can entail!

Part 1, Part 2

Images courtesy of: UrbaneWomenMag and fensterbme