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Teaching social skills | Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal signals are used in the process of communication. Each one of the non-verbal behaviors we exhibit, such as our gestures, the way that we sit, the rhythm and the tone of our voice, the distance we keep from the person we talk to and the eye contact we make conveys strong messages which are still there even when we stop talking. Even when silent, the communication goes on in a non-verbal way.


Non-verbal signals allow people to:

  • Modify a verbal message or make it stronger. For instance, one can nod while saying “yes” to show that he strongly agrees with his interlocutor. A shrug or a sad expression of a person saying “I’ m fine, thanks” might imply that things are not going well.
  • Convey information about one’s emotional state.
  • Define or make the relationship between people stronger.
  • Provide feedback to the other person.
  • Regulate the communication course, marking the beginning or the ending.

The five different roles of non-verbal communication

Repetition: Non-verbal signals might function as a repetition of the verbal message, making it stronger.

Contradiction: Non-verbal signals might be in contradiction with the message one tries to convey.

Substitution: A non-verbal signal might substitute a verbal one. For instance, eyes can sometimes convey much more than words.

Completion: Non-verbal signals might add extra information or make a verbal signal complete.

Emphasis: Non-verbal signals might stress or put emphasis on a verbal message.

Source: Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D.


Types of non-verbal communication

There are many different types of non-verbal communication. Some of the main ones are mentioned below:

Facial Expressions

The human face is quite expressing, and many different emotions can be communicated without saying a single word. Facial expressions for joy, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are shared by all the cultures around the world.

Body Language

Our perception of the others is influenced by the way they sit, walk, stand or hold their head. The way we move and the way we stand convey a significant amount of information. Body movements and posture are included in this form of non-verbal communication.


Gestures are an integral part of our daily life. We often use our hands unconsciously, without even realizing it. However, the meaning of each gesture might differ significantly among different countries, so it is important to keep that in mind when we use them to avoid misunderstandings.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is quite important for most people, and thus forms a major type of non-verbal communication. The way in which we look at someone can convey many messages, such as interest, fondness, hostility and attraction. What is more, eye contact is important for the course of a conversation, being also used as a means to understand whether the person we are talking to is following us or not.

The Use of Touch

Touching has a key role in communication. Think of the following signals: a weak handshake, a gentle tap on the shoulder, a warm hug, a reassuring tap, etc.

Personal Space

Have you ever felt awkward during a conversation because the person you were talking to was standing too close, invading your personal space? We all have our boundaries as far as personal space is concerned, although these might vary according to the culture, the occasion and the type of the relationship. Space can be used to convey numerous non-verbal messages, such as intimacy, love, aggression or domination signals.


It is not just about what we say; it is also about how we say it. When we speak, people tend not only to listen to the words said but also to “read” the voice used. Our voice has a particular tone and volume through which sarcasm, anger, love or trust are indicated.

Physical Appearance

The colors, clothes, and haircuts we choose, as well as anything else related to the appearance, are also thought to be an important part of non-verbal communication. According to surveys, one’s mood can be affected by colors, the physical appearance being also the reason for different reactions, judgments, and interpretations.


Goals of Social Intervention Program



  • Ability to understand non-verbal skills (eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, body language, etc.)
  • Ability to understand emotions
  • Ability to be aware of the fact that other people’s opinions and emotions might vary
  • Ability to understand the emotional state of other people (empathy)


  • Response to greetings
  • Response to calls (of classmates, friends, etc.)
  • Response to closed format questions
  • Response to conversations
  • Response to compliments



  • Starting to greet familiar faces on his own initiative
  • Asking other children to play with him
  • Getting involved in a game that has already begun
  • Asking directly something that he wants
  • Asking for help, when needed
  • Starting conversations with the others
  • Getting attention from the others
  • Offering help, when needed


The new series of books “Great Social Skills” provides intervention material aimed at strengthening the social skills of the children on the autistic spectrum. The development of empathy, the ability to efficiently respond to communication and the involvement in effective interaction are the primary objectives of this e-book.

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