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Verbal and Nonverbal Communication in Groups

There are several ways of communication. Two types that are very essential to communication are verbal and nonverbal communication which goes hand and hand. Nonverbal communication are anything in a message that is not the spoken word. Nonverbal behaviors that can occur without words such as an eye gaze, touch and facial expressions (Adams & Galanes, 2017, p. 71). There are four functions to nonverbal communication:

  1. Nonverbal communication can define communication by providing the backdrop for communication and by explaining or characterizing the context or setting within which people will interact and behave;
  2. Nonverbal communication can comment on verbal communication- can occur while speaking;
  3. Nonverbal communication can regulate our interaction episodes, such as nodding, smiling or looking concerned;
  4. Nonverbal communication can be the message itself because it can occur without any words being spoken simultaneously (Matsumoto, Hwang, and Frank, 2016; as stated by Soukop, 2019, p. 4).

Where nonverbal communication can be a great way of communication without the use of words, it has its challenges and benefits. Sometimes an individual can take the gestures in nonverbal communication the wrong way. For example, when a person is giving a speech and they are limited to two minutes. Someone in the crowd may throw them a thumbs up to say their time is up but this can be misconstrued as you are doing such a great job, carry own. Using gesturing, facial and body movement as a form of nonverbal communication can mean different things to different culture, therefore some movements can be considered rude. Another challenge, is that you cannot have a long conversation using nonverbal communication. Lastly, nonverbal communication can be difficult to understand.

Some advantages to nonverbal communication is it can be a quick way to communicate. For instant, if someone is in danger and they want to warn someone without speaking, it works. Another advantage, is that can help emphasize or drive instruction, for example a band director. Just imagine him/her trying to give instruction by yelling over the band and their instruments. Lastly, it can be comforting. Mothers and fathers patting a baby their back to let them know everything is going to be ok or they are safe.

Nonverbal communication means different things in different culture. Somethings seen in some cultures as non-offensive can be offensive in others. Nonverbal cues have various social meanings in different contexts and cultures; eye contact, for instance, is often seen as a cue for affection (Gore, 2009), but it can also indicate anger or intimidation (Burgoon & Le Poire, 1999; both stated by Croes, et al., 2019). Nonverbal vocalizations of some emotions have been found to be recognizable both within and across cultures. However, East Asians tend to suppress socially disengaging emotions because of interdependent views on self-other relationships (Yoshie & Sauter, 2019). So emotions shown through nonverbal communication, such as laughter, screams and signs and other emotions shown by way of nonverbal communication can be misconstrued.

“Personal appearance, space and seating, facial expressions and eye contact, gestures and body movements, voice, and time cues are among the major types of nonverbal behaviors most relevant to small groups (Adam & Galanes, 2017, p. 71).” One of the strongest and first impression of the categories is appearance. If someone is influenced by a person appearance, future interactions is the person proving themselves to sometimes take away that first impression. For example, if a person is in a group of business partners and their attire is clean and pristine, but someone comes in the group that looks disheveled, you may think that person does not know as much or are uncaring. However, that person may be the smartest person in the group. Basically, space and seating can determine how intimate or how important someone or a setting is. Being a member of a group, seating can determine a person level of importance in a group. If you are a customer service representative at Anthem, during a meeting you would not sit at the table with the CEO. You will sit with your fellow CSR’s. “Eye contact and facial expressions are among the most important nonverbal behaviors (Adams & Galanes, 2017, p. 75). Making eye contact can let a person know it is okay to speak or let them know there is an open line of communication or there is equal respect. Movement can determine importance. Both tension and status can be revealed with movements (Adam & Galanes, 2017, p. 77). Voice determines a person mood and attitude. For example, a friendly “stop” is not the same as a commanding “STOP!” Lastly, timing. Time cues are both culture-related and relational (Adam & Galanes, 2017, p. 78). Time is precious and something that cannot be recycled so it is very important. It is important for things to start and end on time. When someone comes into a meeting/gathering late it distracts, when they leave early they miss out.


Adams, K., & Galanes, G. (2017). Communicating in groups: Application and skills (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Soukup, P. A. (2019). Nonverbal Communication. Communication Research Trends, 38(1), 3–47. Retrieved from…


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