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Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the role of nonverbal communication.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on nonverbal communication. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at nonverbal communication. Now, nonverbal communication is really just talking without talking. It's communicating without the use of language.

So there are a couple of really kind of universal examples of this. And that's facial expressions, body posturing, and hand gestures. Those are three ways that we communicate nonverbally. And it's really important for social interactions. And so, of course, sociologists are all about studying social interactions. So really understanding nonverbal communication is important to sociology.

So one of the first things I want to look at here is the idea of demeanor. Now, demeanor is really the attitude that we project by our behavior. Posture is really another word I kind of like to use in that same realm there. Your demeanor can really communicate a lot about you.

It can communicate your social status. It communicate your mood, your level of comfort. So the general attitude that your behaviors seem to project that demeanor, really is important for nonverbal communication.

If you see me on the street, and my head is down, and I'm kind of wandering back and forth, I'm walking really slow, you don't know my situation. You don't why I'm doing that. But my demeanor would be suggesting some things about my attitudes.

So maybe I'm in a bad mood. Maybe I'm going through financial difficulties. Maybe I'm going through a job loss. I mean, there's many different things it could be. But it still is communicating something about my general posture-- or my general attitude.

Now, another important aspect of nonverbal communication is the idea of personal space. And this is just the area around the individual, which people really think to be as their own space. It's his or her own space. And on the right there I have a diagram. And this diagram just shows the general idea that personal space is a really close area, that an individual really thinks of as his or her own.

Then we have a social space. This is a little further out. And this is where people are really interacting with each other. And they feel a part of the same social interactions.

Then if we step further out, we have the idea of a public space. So this space is-- you know, maybe you're at a park. And you feel like you're part of the same public space. You're still part of the same space. But it's different than being in the same personal space.

Now, you notice I didn't actually put any measurements up there. Someone could say, oh, well, personal space is generally-- I don't know, a foot and a half of distance. But it really varies by culture. And it varies by location. And it varies by the individual.

Some people are close talkers. And their understanding of personal space is different than mine. It also might vary when you're on the subway. I mean, people sometimes get uncomfortable in public transportation because their personal space is being invaded. But, too, your personal space bubble is also probably smaller on a busy, crowded train or something.

Now, another important idea for nonverbal communication is the idea of idealization. Now, this was proposed by Erving Goffman. And I'm sure you've heard his name before through some of the other tutorials. But this idea is really the idea that humans really interpret actions positively. So when humans watch nonverbal communication, we generally assume that they're doing the right thing.

Really, the classic example of this is a doctor entering a hospital. The doctor, he goes in the hospital, goes into different patient rooms. That doctor goes in, checks the chart, talks to the patient. Again, this is a classic example because the doctor might be checking the chart because they don't remember your name. Because they have to see so many patients a day that they don't remember who you are. They don't remember your situation.

But we always see it in a positive light. We see the doctor is checking because he's really interested in our well-being. He wants to see if there's any changes on that. No, he knows who we are. He's just making sure about the situation.

Now, the last thing I want to look at here for nonverbal communication is embarrassment and losing face. Now, these are, of course, two terms that maybe don't necessarily have to be limited to nonverbal communication. But I'm choosing to include them here because they can happen and be seen nonverbally.

The first one is embarrassment. Now, embarrassment is just when you're uncomfortable with yourself. It can be a minor thing, a major thing, whatever. And I like to differentiate that as a different type of embarrassment is losing face. And that's like a bigger type of embarrassment, when you're actually-- your social value is decreasing because of an embarrassment.

Now, again, these can be nonverbal or verbal communications. But often we can see them and read them in nonverbal communications.

So today's take-away message. We learned about nonverbal communication. And that's just communicating in ways other than language. And we also looked at personal space, which is the area around an individual, which that individual thinks to be his or hers.

Demeanor is the attitude that one's behavior seems to project. Idolization is the idea that humans tend to interpret social interactions in a positive light. Embarrassment is just discomfort with oneself. And losing face is a type of embarrassment, which causes someone's social value to decrease.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

The way that people carry themselves, an overall aspect or presentation.


Discomfort after making a social error.


Occurs when people create highly favorable impressions of themselves and their intentions so as not to appear selfish.

Losing Face (Erving Goffman)

The idea of face relates to the notion that one's presentation of self is a mask that people work to maintain in social situations, thus losing face is the result of a social mis-step that results in emotional pain or embarrassment.

Nonverbal Communication

The process of communication through relaying and receiving cues transmitted using body language, gestures, touches, and movements.

Personal Space

The region surrounding a person that they regard as private.