Body Language: Nonverbal communication

In his message, which was voiced by King, he condemned slavery, saying that all people should be equal in rights. In addition, the speaker told about the grief and humiliation that blacks are forced to endure. Separately, he stressed that aggression is not the best way to resolve the conflict arising from segregation. Martin Luther King holds them in front of him at the level of the diaphragm, and opens his palms towards the viewer (Rare Facts, 2017). The speaker controls the viewer’s attention with his hands, uses them in the most important moments of speech (Harrison, 2018). Non-verbal gestures in the presentation are synchronized with the topic of the statement, and King makes inviting movements, folds his palms to emphasize the essence. In addition to this, it is worth highlighting the place where King delivered his speech. In this particular case, Lincoln is a symbol of the nation, therefore, the speech opposite to his silhouette is a dissonance in the worldview of that society, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of the event.

During the presentation, Martin Luther King gestures but uses a rather narrow range of gestures. Among them – the right hand, showing the crowd, head nod that shows agreement, a straight palm directed towards the audience. At the same time, the speaker avoids crossing his legs and arms, since such gestures indicate that the person wants to close and not communicate with the audience. It was thanks to the synergy of all the gestures that King managed to win over the crowd (Rare Facts, 2017). This is explained by the fact that thanks to all these gestures, the speech becomes interactive (Hall et al. 2019). This made the speaker not a separate element of speech, speaking from the outside, but an integral part of the audience itself.

The second speaker, Alicia Garza, also talks about the problem of slavery, but nowadays. She cites statistics and polls as evidence that segregation has not been eradicated completely. In addition, the girl insists on urgent changes in the behavior of society and the state, as white pressure continues. Nevertheless, by analyzing the speech of Alicia Garza, it can be concluded that it differs significantly from King, despite the fact that gestures are also the main tool. The fact is that the speaker often folds her hands in a triangle in front of her stomach, as if limiting herself from the audience (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2015). In addition, such a gesture also denotes the undoubted correctness of the speaker, that is, it creates the appearance of confidence and indisputability of all the information provided. The main virtue of her performance is confidence and firm conviction, supported by gestures, which also predisposes the audience to the character. The meaning of the speech becomes extremely simple, and the audience does not have possible doubts about the arguments and reasoning. This psychological technique works positively and effectively for Alicia, so her performance is a benchmark. It is also necessary to analyze the place where the performance takes place. The tones of darkness and the stage raised above the people provide the audience with complete focus and give the woman confidence. The phenomenon consists in the fact that the dark atmosphere and the elevation above the other allow the speaker to avoid potentially unpleasant psychological barriers.

Separately, it is worth highlighting the facial expressions of both analyzed speakers. They have strong facial features and large mouths that allow them to focus on the necessary words and transmitted emotions. The audience gets the feeling that the characters are talking about the personal and the actual, they are experiencing all the emotions and are not making dry speech (Harrison, 2018). This has a positive effect on the overall plan of the speech because it hooks the audience and makes them believe in the sincerity and topicality of the topic discussed in the speech.


Center for Constitutional Rights. (2015). RadTalks: Alicia Garza. [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Hall, J. A., Horgan, T. G., & Murphy, N. A. (2019). Nonverbal communication. Annual Review of Psychology, 70(1), 271–294.

Harrison, S. (2018). The impulse of gesture. Cambridge University Press.

Rare Facts. (2017). I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King. Jr HD (subtitled). [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Body Language: Nonverbal communication." September 22, 2023.