Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication


  • Intonation Activity
  • Class Notes
  • Non-Verbal Activity
  • Blog instructions


5 Reasons the Connection Between Language and Meaning Isn’t so Simple:

  1. The meaning of a word varies from person to person.  
  2. Words have two levels of meaning:   Denotation-direct, explicit meaning a speech community formally gives a word  Connotation-the feelings or evaluations we associate with a word
  3. Meaning of a word varies depending on its syntactic context- the position of a word in its sentence and the other words around it.
  4. The language of every speech community changes over time.  New words are constantly being added to the dictionary.  Old words are being phased out.  Changes in word meanings are constant.
  5. As a society absorbs immigrants who speak different languages and becomes more multicultural, the language of the dominant group gradually absorbs some of the words.

Cultural and Gender Influences on Language

  • Low Context Cultures-the United States and most northern European countries.  Most messages are direct and language is very specific.  
  • High Context Cultures-Latin America, Asian and Native America.  What a speaker really means for you to understand from a verbal message depends heavily on the setting or context in which is is sent.  Receivers in high context-cultures rely on textual cues to help them understand the speaker’s message.
  • Feminine styles of language-typically use words of empathy and support, emphasizing concrete and personal language, showing politeness and tentativeness in speaking.
  • Masculine styles of language-use words of status and problem solving emphasize abstract and general language and shows assertiveness and control in speaking.

Improving Language Skills

  • Langauge should clarify a meaning–  specific words help to clear up confusion caused by general words.  They are more concrete and precise than general words.   Concrete words are words that appeal to our senses.  Precise words-narrow a larger category to a smaller group within that category.  Dating information provides details that specify a time or period that a fact was true or known to be true.   Indexing generalizations– the mental and verbal practice of acknowledging individual differences when offering generalizations.
  • Make your messages memorable- Vivid wording is full of life, vigorous, bright and intense.  Simile–  direct comparison of dissimilar things and is usually expressed with words like or as. Metaphor is a comparison that establishes a figurative identity between objects being compared.  Emphasis is the importance you give to certain words or ideas.  Tells listeners what they should focus on.

Use Linguistic Sensitivity

  • Adapt your vocabulary to the level of your listener
  • Use jargon sparingly  Jargon-refers to technical terms whose meanings are understood only by a select group of people based on their shared activity or interests.
  • Use slang appropriate to the listeners and to the situation.  Slang is informal vocabulary developed and used by particular groups in society.
  • Use inclusive language  Generic language uses words that apply only to one sex, race or other group as though they represent everyone.  Instead of his…say their.
  • Use non-offensive language- choose words that don’t offend your listeners


Non-verbal communication behaviors are those signals that typically accompany our verbal messages- our eyes and face, our gestures, our use of voice, and even our appearance.

4 Importance Characteristics of non-verbal communication:

  1. It is inevitable-  We cannot NOT communicate
  2. It is the primary conveyor or our emotions-  almost 93 percent of the emotional meaning of messages is conveyed non-verbally.
  3. It is multi-channeled-  posture, gestures, body movements, appearance, and vocal mannerisms all play into the meaning of our words.
  4. It is ambiguous-  very few non-verbal behaviors mean the same thing to everyone.  Based on culture, sex, gender, etc.  Eye contact, different

Types of Non-Verbal Communication

  • Use of the Body:  Kinesics- the technical name for the interpretation of what and how body motions communicate.
  1. Gestures the movements of our hands, arms and fingers to clarify or emphasize a point.  Illustrators– augment a verbal message.  Emblems– can stand alone and substitute completely for words.   Adaptors are gestures that can occur unconsciously as a response to a physical need.
  2. Eye Contact-or gaze   The eyes are the window to the soul, showing anger, fear, sadness and affection.
  3. Facial Expression– the arrangement of facial muscles to communicate emotional states or reactions to messages.  They show happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger and disgust.
  4. Posture- how we position our body and move our body.  Based on our posture, others judge how attentive, respectful, and dominant we are.  Body orientation– refers to our posture in relation to other people.  Facing another squarely is called direct body orientation. (attentiveness and respect)  At an angle- indirect body orientation. (inattentiveness and disrespect)   Body movement– can be motivated or unmotivated. .
  5. Haptics- the technical term for what and how touch communicates.  Touching behavior is a fundamental aspect of non-verbal communication.
  • Use of the Voice:  Vocalics–  The interpretation of a verbal message based on the paralinguistic features.   Paralanguage is the voiced but not verbal part of a spoken message.   Made up of six vocal characteristics:
  1. Pitch- the highness or lowness of vocal tone.
  2. Volume– the loudness or softness of tone.
  3. Rate–  the speed at which a person speaks.
  4. Quality– is the sound of a person’s voice that distinguishes it from others.
  5. Intonation- is the variety, melody, or inflection in one’s voice.
  6. Vocalized Pauses- extraneous sounds or words that interrupt fluent speech.  The most common vocalized pauses-  uh, um, er, well, ok, like.  Natural pauses are normal when thinking of what to say.
  • Use of Space:  Proxemics -the formal term for how space and distance communicate.  People will interpret how you use the personal space around you, the physical space you occupy and the things you chose to decorate your space.<
  1. Personal Space- the distance we try to maintain when we interact with other people.  Intimate distance- 18 inches apart, appropriate for private conversations between close friends.  Personal distance – from 18 inches to 4 feet, the space in which casual conversation occurs.  Social distance– from 4 to 12 feet, impersonal business such as job interview.  Public distance– anything more than 12 feet.
  2. Physical Space– the part of the physical environment over which we exert control.
  3. Artifacts- the objects and possessions we use to decorate our physical space we control.
  • Use of Time- Chronemics –  how we interpret use of time and is based largely on cultural context.  Western culture, very conscious of time.  Planners, alarms, etc.  Mexico, loose times for dinner, etc. Japan, social interaction before business.   U.S. -get to business immediately.

Self Presentation Cues

  • Physical Appearance – people reach a conclusion about a person based on physical appearance.  kind, confident, gentle, etc.
  • Clothing and Grooming

Mastering Non-Verbal Messages

  • Be conscious of the non-verbal behaviors you are displaying- pay attention to what you are doing with your body, voice, space, etc.
  • Be purposeful in your use of non-verbal communication- persuading someone?  direct eye contact, serious facial expression, relaxed posture, loud, low-pitched voice and professional dress
  • Make sure your non-verbal cues do not distract from your message.  Fidgeting, tapping fingers, pacing, mumbling.
  • Make your non-verbal communication match your verbal communication-  credibility
  • Adapt your non-verbal behavior to the situation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s