Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication And The Most Common Gestures

People can transmit messages through verbal language and also through their bodies. Although there are cultural differences in body gestures, there are codes shared by all humanity. We analyze the most common. An important part of our communication is non-verbal.

In fact, every day we respond to thousands of nonverbal cues and behaviors that include posture, facial expressions, gaze, gestures, and tones of voice.

From handshakes to sincere smiles, nonverbal details reveal who we are and influence how we relate to each other.

Although each culture may have its own signs, there are some universal gestures that communicate the same throughout the world.

What is nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal communication is the transfer of information through the use of body language. For example, smiling when you meet someone conveys kindness.

According to the American Psychological Association, nonverbal communication is “the act of conveying information without the use of words.”

Nonverbal communication occurs through facial expressions, gestures, body language, tone of voice, and other physical indicators of mood, attitude, approval, etc.

We all use nonverbal communication all the time, whether we know it or not.

What is non-verbal communication for?

Nonverbal communication gives us valuable information about a situation: how another person feels, how they receive the information, and how we need to talk to them.

Paying attention and developing the ability to read nonverbal communications is an effective skill that can help us develop more emotional intelligence.

In this way, non-verbal communication can serve to emphasize the message that is being given, show intention, convey feelings, as well as offer support, reflect your personality or defuse a tense situation.   

Meaning of the most common gestures 

Shake hands. It is the most universal greeting, common to all peoples and cultures, it implies a willingness to approach, but without reaching the intimacy of the embrace.

The University of Illinois found that the amygdala (seat of fear) relaxes when we shake hands, while neurons in the nucleus accumbens (pleasure center) are activated.

If instead of just greeting each other verbally we shake hands, it increases the mental predisposition to a friendly interaction and to avoid a negative impression.


Shrug. Bewilderment, ignorance, uncertainty, resignation, or simply ‘that’s the way things are. I can’t help it.

Get chest. Swollen with pride, we puff out our chests like a gorilla to say ‘here I am. Some athletes boast of their success like this. It is an innate gesture.

Reach out. Putting your hand open to the front showing the palm is a universal sign to ask for something. The origin must be sought in the behavior of chimpanzees.

Biting the tip of the tongue. This is an unequivocal sign of maximum concentration, of being involved in a task that requires all our senses.

Raise your fingers in a ‘V’. The victory sign is an expression of universal triumph, immediate, spontaneous, and common to all cultures.

Show teeth. It is believed that this gesture arose from primates as an expression of fear and later became a sign of protection against threats.

smile. We all associate a smile with happiness. In addition, the Max Planck Institute (Germany) showed that genuine smiles increase the willingness to cooperate.

Chimpanzees, the origin of universal gestures

The first to talk about bodily gestures was Charles Darwin (1809-1882), author of The Origin of Species. The naturalist proved that gestures are learned from us, observing that the blind also did them.

Likewise, many psychologists and anthropologists are in favor of identifying universal gestures by looking at other apes. In this way, if there is a body movement that we share with chimpanzees, it can surely be considered generalized for all.

Be that as it may, nonverbal communication plays a crucial role in the way we show ourselves to the world, as well as in the way we interpret the actions of others.

When we look at these nonverbal behaviors we have to consider the actions as a whole. That is, capture what a person says with his words, along with his expressions.

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