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Kinesic Communication

 

Explanations > Understanding body language > Kinesic Communication

Body posture | Gestures | Facial signals | So what?

 

Kinesic communication is communicating by body movement and is perhaps the most well-known non-verbal form of communication, although it is not the only way to talk with others without words.

Body posture

The way that the body is held can communicate many different messages.

An open body that takes up a lot of space can indicate comfort and domination, whilst a closed-in body that makes itself small can signal inferiority.

Copying of the other person's body shows agreement, trust and liking.

Gestures

Gesture is communicating through the movement of body and arms.

Ekman and Friesen (1969) identified five types of gesture:

  • Emblems: Direct replacements for words.
  • Illustrators: Shaping what is being said.
  • Affect displays: shows of emotion.
  • Regulators: for controlling the flow of conversation.
  • Adaptors: Self-oriented tension relievers and other forms.

Facial signals

When we communicate with others, we look mostly at their face. This is not a coincidence as many signals are sent with the 90-odd muscles in the face. The way the head tilts also changes the message.

The eyes are particularly important, and when communicating we first seek to make eye contact. We then break and re-establish contact many times during the discussion.

Eyebrows and forehead also add significant signals, from surprise to fear to anger.

The mouth, when not talking can be pursed, downturned or turned up in a smile.

So what?

Watch the whole body, and especially gestures, as well as all parts of the face. When you are talking, don't get caught up in your own speech to the extent that you miss the subtle and constant feedback you are getting.

See also

Using Body Language, Gesture types

Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. V. (1969). The repertoire of nonverbal behavior: Categories, origins, usage, and coding. Semiotica, 1, 49- 98

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