Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication


Drawing significantly on both classic and contemporary research, Nonverbal Communicationspeaks to today's students with modern examples that illustrate nonverbal communication in their lived experiences.

This new edition, authored by three of the foremost scholars in nonverbal communication, builds on the approach pioneered by Burgoon, Buller and Woodall which focused on both the features and the functions that comprise the nonverbal signaling system. Grounded in the latest multidisciplinary research and theory, Nonverbal Communicationstrives to remain very practical, providing both information and application to aid in comprehension.


Communication plays a central role in our lives. In fact, being a skilled communicator enhances one’s prospects for sustaining a happy, healthy, and productive life. This isn’t just our opinion. A local conciliation court recently reported that, for the 14th year in a row, the most reported problem among troubled marriages is the lack of good communication. Successful relationships are built on a solid foundation of communication skills. Communication is also instrumental to our success or failure in the workplace. Surveys among business leaders, major employers, and employment counselors emphasize the importance of communication skills in acquiring jobs and performing effectively on the job. A study by the Administrative Management Society, for example, found that 80% of managers rated communication skills as among the most important qualifications of prospective employees; 65% also cited interpersonal and leadership skills. Another study involved asking female managers about the strategies or techniques that they credited with helping them reach their current positions. Rated as very or extremely important were communication skills (89%), personal power (78%), and charisma, charm, and social skills (53%). In a study by a college placement service, several hundred alumni reported that communication abilities were more important to their job success than the major subject they studied.

These testimonials probably pale in comparison to the vividness of your own firsthand experiences. What could be more persuasive evidence of the importance of communication than the recollection of butterflies in your stomach when you fretted about what to say on your first date, the flush of pleasure after making a well-received presentation in class, the exhilaration of receiving a job offer after a grueling interview, the satisfaction of winning an argument with your parents, or the sadness of losing a friendship over a silly disagreement? Clearly, communication plays a pivotal role in the significant—as well as insignificant—moments in your life, and the nonverbal dimension is a major contributor to the success or failure of communication.

The fascination with nonverbal communication has spawned thousands of legitimate books and articles on the subject. Knowledge about nonverbal communication now springs from such fountainheads as psychology, psychiatry, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, semiotics, and biology, in addition to the field of communication itself. In fact, the unceasing interest in nonverbal communication has created a state of information overload. Trying to make sense of this diverse body of information is no small task, especially given that scholars from different fields approach nonverbal behavior with differing perspectives, assumptions, and methodologies. At the same time, the popularity of “body language” has spawned a slew of charlatans and self-proclaimed nonverbal “experts” who purport to read politicians’ every move like a book. It is our hope that by the time you finish reading this textbook, you will be able to tell fact from fiction and distinguish valid scientific conclusions and complexities from simplified assertions and suppositions that often trivialize the topic.

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