People Innovation Excellence

Getting to Know Nonverbal Communication: Definitions and Types

As part of the global community, where communication plays a significant role in daily or professional contexts, we need to learn how to be an effective communicator.

To achieve the objective, we need to equip ourselves to not only verbal communication skills but also nonverbal communication skills. Before that, let’s define the term! Nonverbal communication means “a process in which people transmit and receive the message without using words” (Madonik, 2001). Burgoon and Saine (1978) also explained that “nonverbal communication is all communication refers to actions which are sent out purposely, received with consciousness and may have a response.” Furthermore, Troppa (2009) in Adetunji and Sze (2012) mentioned that nonverbal communication is beyond the communication purpose itself;  it affects interlocutors’ relations and interactions.

According to Adetunji and Sze (2012), nonverbal actions are “ways to show likeness or hatred, respect or rudeness, reception or rejection” (Adetunji & Sze, 2012). Compared to verbal communication, the use of nonverbal communication is more effective to communicate feelings and attitudes. Based on data from Mehrabian’s research (2007), 55% of our message during a conversation was conveyed by body language, 38% was from the tone of voice and only 7% came from words.  In other words, the finding is in line with a famous quote saying that “actions speak louder than words.” In this case, body language explains better than words.

Experts categorize various different forms of nonverbal communication. Masterclass (2020) classifies them into eight major types which are: 1) kinesics (or body movement), such as hand gestures and head movements, 2) proxemics (or closeness/personal space) which is the measure of physical distance between interlocutors when they communicate, 3) posture, for instance, a person’s way to sit or stand and how s/he opens her/his body during the communication process, 4) eye contact, 5) touch, like a hug or a handshake, 6) paralanguage that includes vocal qualities, for example, loudness and the tone of voice, 7) facial expressions, like a frown and a smile, and 8) physiology that covers changes in body physiology, such as an increase in sweat and blinking rapidly.

Understanding nonverbal communication forms will be a great help to advance your communication skills. Pay attention to people’s actions and changes! Be the master of communication!

[ Keep learning & Keep growing! ]


Adetunji, R. R. & Sze. K. P. (2012). Understanding Non-Verbal Communication across Cultures: A Symbolic Interactionism Approach. Retrieved from

Burgoon, J. K&T.Saine. (1978). The Unspoken Dialogue: An Introduction to Nonverbal Communication. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Madonik, B. (2001). I Hear What You Say, but What Are You Telling Me? The Strategic Use of Nonverbal Communication in Meditation. San Francisco: Josey Bass (Wiley).

Masterclass. (2020, February 27). 8 Important Types of Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved from

Mehrabian, A. (2007). Nonverbal Communication. New Brunswick: NJ: Aldine Transaction.

Published at :
Written By
Nina Amalia Nurichsania, M.Pd
English Lecturer | BINUS Malang
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