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Nonverbal Communication Differences in Gender Communication

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Nonverbal Differences in Gender Communication
  3. Some of the types of nonverbal cues by both men and women
  4. Conclusion


Looking back at the listening profile assessment, I noticed that I scored pretty close to my expectations for more than half of the questions asked throughout the assessment. Being that my scores on the assessment were right around where I thought I would land, I decided it would be fun and exciting to retake the assessment to see if I had any changes. After completing the assessment for the second time, I concluded that I am, in fact, in tune with myself and feel confident that I am a great listener, but still could use improvement regarding hearing those that are speaking. All of my six components were ranked the same way as they were when I initially took the listening assessment in week one.

The top three ranked components in my assessment were remembering, evaluating, and understanding. While taking the assessment, both initially and the second time, I answered everything truthfully, and I do not understand why I ranked low in the “responding” component. Maintaining good conversations has been easy for me and something I love to do, but according to this assessment, I need to work on it more.

Listening is such a large part of our everyday life, and although we would like to think of it as something that comes natural or easy, unfortunately, that is not the case. Listening is absolutely a skill we must learn and educate ourselves on in order to become proficient and successful in the communication process. Before taking this class, if someone would have asked me if listening and hearing were synonymous, I would have answered either yes or I am not sure. Listening and hearing are not synonymous, and without listening, messages during the communication process become misinterpreted.

During this class, I have learned so much about listening and the numerous distractions, internally and externally, that have an impact on our listening. Not only have I learned about the internal and external distractions that impact our listening, but I have also studied how the delivery of a speaker can hurt the listening process.

Taking this listening class among other applied communications classes has also convinced me that during the communication process, as the listener, we are responsible for not only listening to the speaker but “listening” to their nonverbal communication as well. If the opportunity was available to take a more advanced version of this class, I would certainly do so because of all the knowledge there is to be gained that can promote a better everyday quality of life.

Nonverbal Differences in Gender Communication

Nonverbal communication occurs every day in the life of everyone who communicates with another individual. Whether in business, classroom, hospital, or personal household setting, nonverbal communication is present and plays a significant role in the communication process. Nonverbal communication varies between the various personalities we encounter in our everyday life, but when looking at the broader picture, we notice that men and women tend to have opposite nonverbal behavior when communicating.

Many of our communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal, were learned during our childhood years, and because of our culture, boys and girls often are taught different communication behaviors that they eventually view as the norm. For example, concerning nonverbal skills, girls are taught to keep a small body posture, whereas boys were taught to appear large and more aggressive because it is our culture for men to be dominant and women nice and attractive.

Nonverbal communication has as much if not more (depending on the situation) impact than verbal communication. When an individual is displaying nonverbal communication, he or she provides more meaning to their words that are being conveyed to people regardless of the setting or situation. Nonverbal communication can be viewed in many different ways, depending on whom you are talking to because of the many cultures that we come across every day.

Across many different cultures, we see that men and women behave according to how they were brought up in their respective cultures. Although our cultural upbringing can influence the way we behave during communication, it appears that men and women, regardless of their cultural background, tend to behave the same (men behave the same/women behave the same).

Some of the types of nonverbal cues by both men and women

Body Movement

During the communication process, our body movements and gestures, whether positive or negative, send cues to the other individual. Looking into the different kinds of body gestures, we find that there are three kinds of gestures: emblems, adaptors, and illustrators. During conversations where we find ourselves nervous or anxious, we may start to start making a bunch of different bodily gestures subconsciously, this gesture is known as an adaptor. The second gesture is the illustrative gesture and is the most commonly occurring gesture out of the three.

The illustrative gesture is how we use our body to support the verbal message that we are conveying. Some examples would be using our hands to show distance or the size of something in our message. The third and final type of gesture is using emblems. The emblem gestures are those that have a universal meaning throughout a culture. If an individual were to get in an argument with someone and ball their fist, that is a cynical gesture that would be understood by everyone in the American culture.

Regarding gender and nonverbal communication, both men and women tend to take on the emblem gesture as well as the illustrative gesture. Head nodding is also a frequent body movement that shows comprehension while listening to someone speak. Men tend to the nodding of the head movement, while women do nod as well, more frequently, they use their smiles and facial expressions.


Body posture is critical during the communication process, and we can typically find ourselves in one of two different postures; standing or sitting. Posture is another nonverbal cue that can send off a positive or negative signal and is developed by our culture in most cases. In American culture, many women take a closed-off body posture, whereas men typically take a more open and broader posture to appear more prominent and more dominant. The open posture displayed by men can send off a message that the individual is open, friendly, and confident. When a woman or anyone takes a closed posture, this position may lead people to interpret the individual as unfriendly or not willing to communicate.

Eye Contact

Good eye contact helps those we are speaking/listening to feel like we are sincere with every word that comes out of our mouth and that we are giving them our full attention. With proper eye contact, we show that we are engaged and enable us to monitor the nonverbal cues from other individuals. When looking into the eyes of individuals, we can see all different kinds of human emotions in them (if they are feeling any at that moment), happiness, fear, sadness, and anger, to name a few.

Maintaining eye contact is dependent on the individual, but studies show that women do not typically maintain eye contact as much as men. Many women will lower their eyes in a submissive manner, but others will make it a point to maintain eye contact to develop a robust relationship. On the other hand, men will often stare in order to establish some superiority, dominance, or intimidation.

Facial Expressions

Our faces have our eyes, which are the “window to the soul” and hold our beautiful smiles, which makes our faces the most communicative part of our body. Although our smiles and eyes can be a “tell-all” to our audiences, friends, and coworkers, we cannot forget about our eyebrows and nostrils. More people than not are known to let their eyebrows and nostrils made sudden movements when feeling some stress or frustration. Facial expressions can let an individual know how great or bad your day is going, and this, in addition to appearing weak, leads men to hide their facial expressions and smile a lot less typically.

Personal Space

When researching nonverbal communication in gender, I surprisingly came across personal space and how vital of a role it plays in the communication process. Although it was a surprise to learn that personal went into nonverbal communication, it makes sense. According to Anthropologist Edward T. Hall, there are four levels of social distance for different situations. Intimate, Personal, Social, and Public distances are necessary for people to feel comfortable and vary depending on the individual’s culture. Men seem to enjoy and protect their personal space more than women. I would like to tie in “touch” with personal space being that we have to get into someone’s personal space in order to touch them.


Men and women display different nonverbal cues when communicating. Women seem to make sure they are closer to the individual they are speaking to in order to create a better relationship, whereas men like their personal space. Depending on culture, nonverbal communication can be interpreted in various ways.

Women use physical touch in a way that they feel is friendly and genuine and can be viewed as such from the same sex. Men often view and misinterpret physical touch as the woman is interested in them. It is safe to say that culture plays a significant role in how we interpret the nonverbal communication we encounter every day. The only way we will be able to understand the different nonverbal cues used by men and women is if we start to educate ourselves on the subject.

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