In my experience people living together in difficult circumstances (e.g. close friends, family members) often learn to relate to each other's non-verbal cues.

For instance; A spouse may go shopping with a list in hand prepared by his partner, and return with a few items not mentioned on the list - only to have his partner indicate one or more items were missed by oversight. Similarly people sharing a room in a hostel may merely by a glance communicate an unspoken understanding of intent & action.

Understandably such incidents probably do not occur with high frequency. They are, however, not totally rare either. This brings me to my question:

Can such non-verbal communication be taught rather than acquired?

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    $\begingroup$ With the exception of emotional expression (the "faces" of certain emotions like anger and fear have been found to be rather common across many species) I'm not sure many forms of communication could not be considered acquired. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brocka Sep 26 '12 at 21:32

Can non-verbal communication in interpersonal relationships be taught rather than acquired? In many ways this question answers itself. As an acquired skill is one that is learnt, and by definition, anything that can be learnt can be taught.

As with many skills, non-verbal communication begins in childhood.

It is concluded that style of expression and skill in communication are influenced by the emotional expressiveness of the family environment.

Family socialization of emotional expression and nonverbal communication styles and skills.
Halberstadt, Amy G.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 51(4), Oct 1986, 827-836

Unlike, many, subconscious difficulties of the mind, learning to read body language can be practiced and improved. A simple google search reveals some of the books and online resources to teach people to improve these skills.

This article discusses the formal study of improving the non-verbal communication skills to children with deficiencies in this area.

Teaching Approach for Developing Nonverbal Communication Skills in Students with Social Perception Deficits
Part I. The Basic Approach and Body Language Clues
Esther H. Minskoff, PhD


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