Nonverbal Cues in Communication: Examples & Overview

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  • 0:00 Nonverbal Cues
  • 1:02 Nonverbal Behaviors
  • 1:47 Importance of Nonverbal Cues
  • 2:41 Types of Cues
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that your nonverbal cues can communicate your mood and personality? In this lesson, we'll talk about the different types of nonverbal cues and look at some real-life examples.

Nonverbal Cues

Sally and Pam are best friends who are competing for a spot in the school play. Sally gets the role that Pam wants, but the two vow to remain close friends. In the following days, Sally notices that Pam won't look her in the eye when she speaks and won't stand close to her, and that Pam's voice is much lower than it used to be. Though Pam's words are friendly and she says that everything is fine, Sally can tell that Pam is hurt, due to Pam's nonverbal cues. As a response, Sally decides to give Pam a tight hug and tell her that she loves her no matter what and that Pam, too, is special.

Every time we communicate with other individuals, we are sending them messages. While part of the message is in the words that we speak, there are also other ways we communicate. We also communicate by sending nonverbal cues, which refers to the process of sending information through ways that do not require the use of language. For example, we might communicate support by giving someone a high five or by hugging him or her.

Nonverbal Behaviors

We might use hand gestures: to communicate direction, such as pointing to the left or right, or position our bodies in such a way that we communicate dominance. Our nonverbal behaviors, such as the way we sit, our tone of voice, or how fast we talk, communicate messages to other people.

Let's take our earlier example. Pam's words did not indicate that she was sad about losing the part in the play. However, by refusing to make eye contact with Sally, not standing near Sally, and speaking in lower tones, Pam was communicating her sadness.

Nonverbal cues may be intentional or unintentional. For example, Pam was not purposefully trying to communicate her sadness. On the contrary, she wanted Sally to think that she was okay.

Importance of Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal cues are an important part of communication. Nonverbal cues can provide information about a person's feelings and attitude, intelligence, mental and physical state and roles, among other things. They allow us to send signals without the use of language. All of our nonverbal cues, such as the way we stand and our tone of voice, send information that can help the person we are communicating with interpret the information we are sending.

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