Multiple lists with all types of nonverbal communication

Author: Elly Prior | First published: 26-09-2010 | Modified: 24-10-2017

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 really 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 my article: Body Language Signs.

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, etc.

Understanding yourself and others creates a better sense of community.

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 Size or site of an office

…to name but a few!

Struggling with your studies?

  • Finding it hard to motivate yourself to study?
  • Can't seem to concentrate - you're 'all over the place'?
  • Can't remember what you read?
  • Keep forgetting what you've learned?

Self-hypnosis can help!  For further information: Click Here

Making the most of your body language

Communicating with someone close does not only involve talking and listening.

You communicate your love for your partner or spouse nonverbally with your body, by:

  • making and holding eye contact
  • holding hands
  • smiling, laughing
  • winking
  • touching, stroking, cuddling, embracing
  • kissing
  • making love and so on

The danger of interpreting nonverbal communication

Body language in particular can potentially provide additional information about thoughts and feelings. It may reveal an incongruence between what’s being said and what’s really going on inside. For instance: someone may say "yes", whilst shaking their head.

Feelings may not be expressed verbally, but they can ‘leak out’ and ‘morph’ into body movements, often without the individual being at all aware.

Use what you observe as a ‘sign post’ and make a mental note. You may want to return to what was discussed some time later. Do it gently though - you wouldn’t want to bulldoze through their defences.

It’s wise to avoid making assumptions - you could be so wrong! Our brain makes thousands of minuscule observations that never reach our conscious awareness. Can you really be sure that the nonverbal signs you consciously observe are not connected with another process?

Ask yourself what other train of thought, feeling or impulse may have sparked that nonverbal signal?  Are you sure that you’re not looking for what you would really expect or want to see?

The meaning of nonverbal communication

And he looked at me, and he said: "Your arms and legs are closed. You're closed to new ideas."
And I looked down at my legs and I said: "That's not where ideas go in, I don't think!"


Richard Bandler

It’s not helpful to attach a ‘fixed meaning’ to particular movements or holds. It used to drive me bonkers when I heard colleagues say the client was or felt this or that, because he folded his arms or she crossed her legs!

It’s important to take note of all aspects of body language, so here’s a little more detail on this subject…

The types and signs that make the body 'dance'

There is constant movement in your body. It changes from moment to moment with the meaning of what you’re thinking and what you’re trying to say out loud in company.  

The body is seldom static.  Really learning to pick up on all the nuances and all types of non verbal communication takes practice and time.

Over time you’ll find yourself noticing more and more detail as you progress from any stage between being consciously incompetent to being unconsciously competent.

The research on nonverbal communication

Much of the commonly quoted research on nonverbal communication is incorrect.  Do follow the link below and read the article - the author describes exactly how the misconceptions came about.

The myth
Communication is made up of:  • 55 % body language  • 33 % tone of voice  • 12 % words. Read more...

The role of 'expectation' in nonverbal communication

Can you really be sure that you correctly match what you observe on the outside with what’s happening on the 'inside' of that person - regardless of which type of nonverbal communication we are talking about?

Remember too that you’re likely to have an expectation. You may be hoping for a particular sign, such as an indication of interest or love. You may be vigilant and watch out for a potential signs of danger, for example if you live in an environment where there is a threat of violence.

Having an expectation may:

  • set you up for disappointment
  • cause a surprise
  • sharpen your awareness and protect you
  • cause you to filter out other signs
  • be observed in your body language
  • be picked up by the other person
  • be misinterpreted

Rather than to take a risk by taking a shortcut, it’s far better to take the time to really get to know someone and/or look for other signs to confirm your expectations. 

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Related articles

Body Language Signs
List of Emotions and Feelings
Relationship Communication
Warning Signs of a Break-up
Signs Indicative of Possible Infidelity
Signs of a Nervous Breakdown

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Elly Prior

Hello you! :-)

It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

Do feel free to ask for help. I would be delighted to write a few lines to support you (please keep it short).

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