Reading Nonverbal Communication

Military training points out that being effective at reading nonverbal communication could save your life. In civilian life, it could save your job or a significant relationship.

Nonverbal communication includes facial (e.g. smile) and physical gestures (e.g. hand waving) as well as para-verbal elements such as speed, volume and pitch of the spoken word. Nonverbal communication is the most telling when it reflects the speaker’s emotion and attitude. So, it is especially important to read these signals accurately when you are relating to and communicating with others. But the implications of nonverbal communication are not limited to just reading others accurately. It is equally important to ensure that your own nonverbal communication is sending the message you intend. The impact of a message is shaped by the nonverbals accompanying the words.

If any of these behaviors are true of you, or someone you know, you’ll find action tips at

  • Responds more to what is said than how it is said
  • Rarely notices or reads nonverbal behavior
  • Fails to pick up on inconsistencies between words and actions
  • Overlooks emotional elements of communication
  • Ignores nonverbal reactions of group
  • Doesn’t seem to recognize that nonverbal behavior sends messages too

Action learning tips and learning assignments on the job are a click away at

You might also consider (a sampling of suggestions from

Tieger, Paul D. The Art of SpeedReading People: How to Size People Up and Speak Their Language. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1999.

Ekman, Paul. Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2004.

Mckay, Matthew, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. Messages: The Communication Skills Book. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2009.

Credit: “Designed by asier_relampagoestudio / Freepik”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *