kinesics a non-verbal communication

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Non-verbal communication plays a part in developing and sustaining non-verbal communication. They are used to communicate thoughts, sentiments with the use of gestures and actions rather than sentences. Kinetics, one of the facets of non-verbal contact, involves the gestures of the body – the ears, the arm, the hand and the body – employed during communication. Kinetics include “the use of gestures, rotation of the head and posture, eye contact, and facial expressions” (Hans & Hans, 2015, p. 47). Since contact creates meaning between entities, multiple variables can have an impact on the process of meaning-creation as far as it is concerned. This paper addresses kinesics and the three variables that influence the application and perception of kinesics. First, the context of communication allows some gestures and prohibits others. Secondly, gender differences affect the interpretation of non-verbal cues. Finally, cultural norms affect how non-verbal communication is used and interpreted.

Communication Context

Different contexts inform whether kinesics should or should not be used, and how they are interpreted. Mainly, there are relational contexts and professional contexts. In professional settings one is required to consider the status and the power different of those they are communicating with. For instance, while it is normal to use grins of eye movements to convey dissatisfaction with a colleague, this same cue can be interpreted as disrespect by an employer. Also in business meetings, a hand on the shoulder at the beginning of a business meeting to say hello may wrongly interpreted. Bambaeeroo and Shokrpour (2017) discuss non-verbal communication in teaching contexts. They posit that if there are no universally agreed kinesics, a teacher using them may be interpreted differently by different students. In some instances body language is encouraged because it means that one is paying attention while in other contexts direct eye contact is a sign of aggression.

In a normal social context a pat in the back is a way to congratulate or encourage someone. On the other hand, if this happened in a professional setting it would be deemed by some as unprofessional. In fact, in some professional environments, touching of any kind is prohibited (Lewis, 2008). International business negotiations do not only look at the culture clash between the communicators but also the business context of communication (Semnadi-Azad & Adair, 2011). In some countries, businessmen do not welcome social language or non-verbal cues and prefer people who use formal ways of communicating. To effective use and accurately interpret kinesics, one should be keen on the context it is being used.

Gender and non-verbal Communication

Although men and women are largely similar in the way in the way they communicate, there are some gender differences that can impact on the quality of communication (Thomson & Voyer, 2014). In terms of Kinesics, women are known to use more gestures as compared to men. In this sense, while women can take a woman using a lot of communication as normal, men can see it as a nuisance. Men, on their part are known to use larger gestures. This to women can be interpreted as exaggeration. In terms of posture, men are said to lean more than women. Further on posture, women prefer face-to-face orientation when communicating as compared to men (Thomson & Voyer, 2014). On this light, there is a general view that women are better at using non-verbal messages than men. In terms of revealing or concealing emotions, women are more revealing of their emotions using facial expressions. Men are known to conceal their emotions, exception for anger which they express more profoundly than women (Ternues & Malone, 2004). Gender socialization impacts the way men and women communicate. Women are seen to be caring and warmer than men. From a tender age, girls are rewarded for displaying emotions and boys for concealing them. Boys are encouraged to “take it like a man” but not grieving or celebrating openly. This affects the way they use and interpret kinesics.

Cultural Norms

Non-verbal communication is vary in different countries. Triggers to non-verbal cues as well as their use are based culture (Missaoui, 2015). For instance, although smiling can be termed as a universal behaviour, triggers to smile may vary across cultures. How people use hands and fingers can communicate different things. While bowing is interpreted as respect in some Asian and African countries, they could be scorned in Western countries. A country like Japan does not allow a lot of contact while making interactions. In this light, while carrying out business meeting, they would prefer bowing to handshaking.

Different cultures interpret different gestures differently. For instance the use of the Indian head wobble in India can mean different things depending on where one is. To some is means a ‘yes’, to others it is a ‘no’ and yet to others it is an ‘I don’t know’. Missaoui (2015) says that cross-cultural non-verbal communication dictate how customers perceive sellers and how sellers see customers. Cultural influence in non-verbal communication influences all contexts of communication. Therefore use of communicators should consider the cultural variation of their audiences and know which non-verbal cues to use for effective communication


Kinesics complement, substitute and accent verbal communication. These non-verbal cues help in making communication effective. However, communicators should consider the communication context, the gender of the audience and the cultural context of the meaning-making process. Understanding these three factors inform a communicator whether or not to use these non-verbal cues. Ultimately, the goal of kinesics is to aid effective communication, therefore, their use should serve this purpose.


BAMBAEEROO, F., & SHOKRPOUR, N. (2017). The impact of the teachers’ non-verbal communication on success in teaching. Journal of Advances In Medical Education & Professionalism, 5(2), 51-59.

Hans, A. & Hans, E. (2015). Kinesis, Haptics and Proxemics: Aspects of non-verbal communication. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 20(2), 47-52.

Lewis, C. (2008) Successful communication in multicultural environments.

Missaoui, Y. (2015). Non-verbal communication barriers when dealing with Saudi sellers. International Journal Of Organizational Leadership, 4(4), 392-402

Semnani-Azad, Z., & Adair, W. L. (2011). The Display of ‘Dominant’ Nonverbal Cues in Negotiation: The Role of Culture and Gender. International Negotiation, 16(3), 451-479. doi:10.1163/157180611X592950

Terneus, S. K., & Malone, Y. (2004). Proxemics and Kinesics of Adolescents in Dual-Gender Groups. Guidance & Counseling, 19(3), 118-123.

Thompson, A. E., & Voyer, D. (2014). Sex differences in the ability to recognize non-verbal displays of emotion: A meta-analysis. Cognition & Emotion, 28(7), 1164-1195. doi:10.1080/02699931.2013.875889

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