The Impact of Gender Differences in Nonverbal Communication Abstract

TheImpact of Gender Differences in Nonverbal Communication


Facialexpressions, hand gestures, touching, body movement and posture areexamples of non verbal communications encountered in humaninteractions. Other nonverbal communication may include clothing andparalanguage. These nonverbal cues convey a particular tone orindicate a mood or intention. Due to their nature nonverbal cues maybe difficult to decipher due to their ambiguity. In dating and inparticular in a first date someone might smile to hide anxietywhereas in everyday social set up smiling indicates joy. Ability touse effective communication, both verbal and nonverbal enables one tocreate effective relationships in their lives. Research has alsoshown a high percentage of communication to be nonverbal thereforeit is not only what you say that counts but also the non verbal cuesyou use. Generally, every person uses different nonverbalcommunication cues. Furthermore, depending on education level anddifferent cultures, some individuals will normally use more nonverbalcues than others (Caroll 129). However by close observation ofnonverbal communication like facial expressions, one might identifythe true emotions of the sender and the receiver. Generally women areobserved to be more communicative both verbally and nonverbally abouttheir emotions (Hall 302). While men in their communication focus onproviding information, women are more emotional and they focus onbuilding relationships (Barret 135). Women have been observedto use more nonverbal communication cues like touching, leaning closeor even holding hands and to also be able to understand nonverbalcues better. Common stereotypes include that while women are observedto be supportive and submissive, men are dominant and assertive(Sieglmann 10). This might explain why men are likely to have facialexpressions of anger more than women. Also men are observed to takeup more personal space, while women are observed to shrink from theirpersonal space for example by pulling in their bodies. Women werealso observed to utilize low power communication style however thismay not be the case where women have high power position for exampleHillary Clinton (Knapp 709). In these cases women were observedto have almost similar nonverbal cues to men especially in terms ofposture and gestures in addressing supporters. Due to the complexityof nonverbal communication and difficulty in identifying their impactin an interaction, their impact in different gender interactionremains difficult to describe.


Dueto the difference in nature of communication amongst different sexesand difference in ability to interpret nonverbal cues, there mightoccur disruption of conveyance of messages amongst sexes ( 354). The effects of external stimuli which excite or aggravatean individual can be inferred from their body language. Althoughsmiling is a universally accepted nonverbal cue, factors that triggersmiling vary from culture to culture (Payne, 2001). Therefore due todifference in culture, interaction between genders from differentculture may exhibit nonverbal cues that are different from what isexpected amongst the two individuals. This may occur in the case ofintercultural marriage for example between a white and black couple,where differences in nonverbal communication may be exaggerated dueto what the individuals are used to. Inappropriate sexual advancesmay be blamed on how different sexes infer nonverbal communication toindicate sexual come on (Morreal 99). It has been observed thatmen will usually infer even friendly cues from their femalecounterparts as sexual in nature. For example when a college guy asksa lady to come watch a movie at his house, depending on their kind ofrelationship and timing of when he has made the invitation he mayinterpret the invitation as a sexual advance (Moreall et. al 163). Astudy done amongst students where young men and women where tointerpret images as friendly, interested, sad or rejected found thatthe women were able to identify the images better than men (Knapp 398). Factors such as that men are taught to hide their emotionsmay explain why they use subtle facial expressions. Nonverbalcommunication will reinforce or contradict a verbal message. Anexample is where a man says he does not like a girl while stretchinghis hand to greet her. The lady may laugh at the comment. Anotherexample is in the workplace when a colleague walks in the officered-faced and tight-lipped and does not talk to anyone and when youask ‘are you ‘ok’, she answers ‘I ‘am fine’ and sitsdown. In this case her verbal communication clearly contradicts hernonverbal communication. In this thesis, I tried to examine theextent to which gender difference in nonverbal communication and howmuch this affects interactions in normal social set up. Clothing andgrooming of individuals helps form first impressions which arelasting impressions. It has been observed that people are moreattentive and attracted to others who are more expressive as may beinfluenced by choice of clothing. Pop stars wear very strikingoutfits. An impressive outfit and grooming may indicate that anindividual is outgoing. Issues that have yet to be explored includethe frequency with which people use nonverbal cues. It is observedthat some people may use the thumps up ‘ok’ gesture in normal dayset up, or other gestures, more than others. Some people are moregregarious in their conversations and will touch others to emphasizetheir points while others will hardly touch others. In conversationmen are also observed to sit side by side while women are observed tosit facing each other (Griffin et. al 465). There is also the aspectof a person’s communication skills being partially genetic,although other aspects like culture, society and education alsoinfluence a person’s communication skills. It is also observed thatin conversations, females gaze more than males (Fischer 50). While inconversation between two men gazing was less, in conversationsbetween two females it occurred more frequently. It was also observedthat in younger less committed couples, the males touch their femalecounterparts more. However in older relationships, the femalesusually initiate touching (Guerrero et. al 387). In dating andmarriage relationships, couples who disagreed often were observed tolook at each other less frequently than other couples. Men are alsoobserved to smile less than females (Cannary et. al 132).


Inthis thesis, I hope to test if there is any impact at all innonverbal cues due to gender. Are men really from Mars and women fromVenus? Is it true that while women use more non verbal cues, men tendto use more expressive nonverbal cues when they do use them?. Thesources used were previously documented research plus interviews ofindividuals and observation of communication amongst differentgenders in different social setting. Another hypothesis to beexplored was whether by using more nonverbal cues amongst theirfemale friends were women able to maintain more relationshipscompared to men? Also can men really improve on their nonverbalcommunication or would this make them more ‘ladylike’? Otherhypothesis includes the fact that men are more likely to touchthemselves when thinking than their female counterparts. Anotherobservation is how sexuality affects nonverbal cues.

ResearchObjective, Questions and Hypothesis

Theimpact of gender difference in nonverbal communication may explainwhy women are more able to find supportive networks and friendshipsas they are able to communicate better. It may also explain why menare able to get top management positions due to their ability to usenonverbal communication like posture to ooze power and dominance inthe workplace. It may also expose if women are able to be bettermarketers due to their ability to use better gestures while speakingand also to have attractive clothing and grooming that drawsattention to them.

Expectationson the findings include the fact that women use and interpret andnonverbal cues better than men. The impact of gender difference innonverbal communication can be felt especially so in socialrelationships such as dating. Also cues like better clothing to suiteach occasion and to give best appearance and opinion by others andbetter use of gestures can be improved. It is observed that the nonverbal cues in a relationship between different sexes may change overtime. Initially when a man and a woman are getting to know each otherthey are more attentive to each other. This may change depending onwhether the attraction between the different sexes grows or fadesaway. Explanations of the gender difference in nonverbalcommunication may be due to societal roles that men and women play insociety.


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