Kinesic communication is the technical term for body language, i.e., communicating by body movement. We call the study of kinesic communication kinesics. Kinesic communication is a non-verbal form of communication. However, it is not the only non-verbal way of communicating with other people.

Non-verbal communication is one of the processes of conveying messages without writing or uttering words.

Kinesics is all about communication through body movements, such as gestures and facial expressions. It is all about non-verbal behavior using any part of the body. It also includes communicating using the body as a whole.

 The founder of kinesics, American anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell said kinesics meant:

“Facial expression, gestures, posture and gait, and visible arm and body movements.”

Birdwhistell filmed people in social situations and analyzed them. He showed how humans communicate in ways we had not seen before.

He argued that all body movements convey meaning. He believed that non-verbal behavior had grammar. A grammar that we could analyze in similar terms to spoken or written language.

Building on Birdwhistell’s work, Professor Paul Ekman and his colleague Wallace V Friesen classified kinesics into five categories: emblems, illustrations, affective displays, regulators, and adaptors.


  • Emblems are nonverbal signals that can generally be translated directly into words. Most people within a culture or group agree on their meaning.
  • A good example is the “A-OK” symbol made with the thumb and forefinger. Because these gestures can be directly translated into words, they are quick to use and unambiguous in their meaning. 
  • The list of possible interpretations and different meanings is, unfortunately, sheer endless. In short, emblems are signs used to refer to certain words. Its interpretation may vary across different cultures and groups of people.


  • Regulators are nonverbal messages that accompany speech to control or regulate what the speaker is saying. 
  • These might include the nodding of the head to indicate you are listening or understanding something, for instance, and you are encouraging the speaker to continue.
  •  Regulars are often associated with turn-taking in conversation, influencing the flow and pace of discussion. For instance, we might start to move away, signaling that we want communication to stop, or we may raise a finger or lift our head to indicate we want to speak, or perhaps show our palm to indicate we don’t want a turn at speaking.


  • Illustrators are movements that complement verbal communication by describing or accenting or reinforcing what the speaker is saying. 
  • People use illustrators to indicate the size of an object or to draw a picture in the air or to emphasize a keyword in what they are saying. These might include pointing to an object in the room or pounding on the table. 
  • The frequency of use of illustrators may vary by culture, but they are used widely. The use of illustrators can help indicate interest, efforts to be clear, or enthusiasm for the topic being discussed.

 Affect Displays

  • Affect displays are nonverbal displays of the body or face that carry an emotional meaning or display affective states. 
  • Our gait (bouncing, suggesting happiness for instance, or slouched and shuffling, suggesting depression), and our facial movements (breaking into a big grin, suggesting pleasure, or frowning suddenly indicating displeasure) send a message about our feelings. 
  • Affect displays are often spontaneous and thus they may send signals that we would rather not convey based on social norms or our goals for communication. We will explore facial expressions more in a later section.


  • Adaptors are forms of nonverbal communication that often occur at a low level of personal awareness. They can be thought of as behavior that is done to meet a personal need as one adapts to the specific communication situation.
  •  They include behaviors like twisting your hair, tapping your pen, scratching, tugging on your ear, pushing your glasses up your nose, holding yourself, swinging your legs, etc. 
  • Given the low level of awareness of these behaviors by the person doing them, the observer is sometimes more aware of the behaviors than the doer of them. Adaptors may thus serve unintentionally as clues to how a person is feeling. 
  • Adaptors are not intended for use in communication, but rather may represent behaviors learned early in life that are somehow cued by the current situation and which may be increased when the level of anxiety goes up in the situation.

Role of kinesics in communication:

  • Kinesics is one of the main powerful ways that humans communicate non-verbally. Spoken language and voice is only 7% to 38% of communication. 
  • Kinesics is used to portray moods and emotions effectively. One of the best examples for kinesics that we use in our daily routines is: 
  • subtle cues like eye contact, hand gesture, posture, and mirroring(people copying each other’s postures during conversation) show a person’s interest in the conversation
  • usually, those who use hand gestures may be more self-confident and energetic or may be perceived as such
  • studies have even shown that sitting or standing in more open and widespread postures reduces stress levels 
  • kinesics can also make some people seem dominant and others submissive; those who have a confident posture usually are seen as more dominant
  • In a face to face interaction, body language plays an important role. We begin to form an impression of a speaker as soon as we see him. The way he is dressed, the way he walks, the way he smiles, the way he stands,-all these things show his personality.
  • These movements reflect an individual’s thought process and regulate communication. The key to effective gestures and postures is they need to appear natural and authentic. If the body language appears to be faked then others will perceive you as unauthentic.
  • In a current application, kinesic behavior is sometimes used as signs of deception by interviewers looking for clusters of movements to determine the veracity of the statement being uttered, although kinesics can be equally applied in any context and type of setting to construe innocuous messages whose carriers are indolent or unable to express verbally.
  • Body language is especially meaningful in an interview as your interviewer will be paying as much attention to nonverbal cues as to what you have to say. You want to avoid nervous or bored body language. So we should avoid some gestures like:

1.Touching your face

  •  28% of hiring managers said playing with your hair or touching your face was an interview no-no. 
  • The first makes you look childish and under confident.

2.Not sitting up straight

  • Slumping in your seat doesn’t convey confidence. 31% of HR experts said it made candidates look less than polished in an interview. 
  • Sitting up straight and squaring your shoulders not only makes you look confident, but it also shows you respect your interviewer and the situation you’re in.

3.Crossing your arms

  • Crossing your arms in front of your chest makes you look defensive and hostile, so it’s no wonder that 32% of HR managers said this was not something they liked to see in people they interviewed.
  • You should appear open and approachable, which means your hands should be in front of you and ready to gesture naturally.


  • Hiring managers don’t look kindly on job seekers who have trouble sitting still, with 32% saying that too much shifting in your seat or foot-tapping was a big interview mistake.
  • Unfortunately, you might get fidgety during job interviews and not even realize it. 

 5.Not smiling

  • Stony-faced candidates don’t do well in interviews, with 39% of people surveyed saying not cracking a smile was one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker could make. After all, who wants to work with someone who’s always grumpy?
  • Not only does smiling make you seem warm and friendly, but it might even calm your interview jitters. 

6. Not making eye contact

  • Make direct eye contact with your interviewer, both while listening and speaking.Every word you say should land on your interviewer’s eyes. 
  • You develop immediate rapport by making direct eye contact. The interviewer will see you as a confident and competent candidate. 

“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.”   – Deborah Bull

Kinesics helps in effective communication as it helps to improve our body language and interaction quality. It helps to know what our appearance helps in your effective communication. It helps in learning the facial expressions while speaking to a particular person. It helps in maintaining eye contact, proper posture, and effective gesture throughout the whole communication process.



Written by:- 


She is pursuing BBA from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women. She is an enthusiastic learner and an ardent researcher. 

Edited by:-

SHWETA MITTAL, Senior Editor