Week 3: Body Language

Part of:
Context and Communication

Speech is great and all, but what if I want to make italics with sound? Really emphasise a specific word? 👏Really 👏 get 👏 my 👏 point 👏 across! 👏

How would I do that?

That’s what nonverbal communication is for! Nonverbal communication is body language and all the little parts of speech like inflection, volume, and tone; everything that is communicated other than words themselves.

Nonverbal communication primarily modifies what is being said over the verbal channel. It can repeat, substitute for, accent, complement, and regulate what we state verbally.

Repeating - By repeating the same signal over a nonverbal channel and a verbal channel, you can emphasize and clarify your meaning. Like saying “I don’t know” and shrugging.

Substituting - Nonverbal communication can substitute verbal communication in some cases. Like just shrugging instead of saying “I don’t know.”

Accenting - When you gesture emphatically or increase your volume for a word to intensify its meaning, you are accenting your verbal communication.

Complementing - Complementing is like accenting, but the nonverbal elements that complement our verbal messages are the ones that are harder for us to consciously control. Crying while telling a sad story and blushing while communicating embarrassment are categorized by the people who study such things as complementing behaviors.

Regulating - Nonverbal cues are extremely important as feedback in regulating verbal communication. Examples are: nodding along to let your interlocutor know to continue, making eye contact and inhaling to signal you want to speak, and leaning back and relaxing to signal that you are done speaking.

However, nonverbal communication can be incredibly ambiguous. There are some universally consistent cues and behaviors across cultures, but there are many gestures and behaviours that aren’t. Gestures can mean different things in different contexts, and sometimes we don’t realize we are sending nonverbal messages at all!



  • Make a Trigger Action Plan to notice what you are communicating with your body language. (For example: when you have finished speaking, take a second to notice how you are positioning your hands. Or when you see someone frown, notice what your own facial expression is set to.)
  • Have a conversation where you try to minimize your nonverbal communication. Don’t use gestures, keep your face blank, and speak with a monotone. If you choose to have this conversation over a phone call, work to eliminate nonverbal inflections and stay monotone. Write a paragraph about your experience. How easy was this to do? How did your interlocutor react?


  • Talk about the homework
  • Come up with a sentence (for example: “I never said you stole my money.”) and say it with different emphasis on different words or in different tones of voice or with different gestures. How do different nonverbal elements change the meaning of the words?


  • Sign up for a martial arts class or a dance class.
  • Give me a writeup of specific techniques or ideas you would like to have presented in a class on body language.

Community Notes

This section contains links and information that Guildmembers found helpful.

No notes available.

Write a Note

You must be signed in to write a note.