Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication


  • Intonation Activity
  • Class Notes
  • Non-Verbal Activity
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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

Communication Perspectives

Years of Studies have shown employers seek out 3 central things in their employees:

1.) Good oral communication skills  2.)  Teamwork skills   3.)  Interpersonal abilities

Survey by National Association of Colleges and Employers-  TOP 10 SKILLS:


It’s a process of creating or sharing meaning in informal conversation, group interaction, or public speaking.

Elements of Communication:

Participants (who,) Messages (what), context (where), channels (how), interference (distractions), and feedback (reaction).

Participants– The sender and receivers of the message (can be visual, verbal, symbolic)

Messages– The verbal utterances, visual images and non-verbal behaviors to which meaning is attributed during communication.

                  Meanings-The thoughts in your mind as well as the interpretations you make of another’s message

                  Symbols– to express yourself, you form messages made up of verbal symbols (words), non-verbal cues (behaviors) and visual images..

                  Encoding and Decoding– Encoding is the process of putting your thoughts and feelings into words, non-verbal cues and images

Decoding is the process of interpreting another’s message.

                  Form (Organization) When the meaning we want to share is complex, we may need to organize it in sections or in a certain order.

Context- This is composed of physical, social, historical, psychological, and cultural situations in with a communication encounters occurs- to include what precedes and follow what is said.

               Physical Context- includes the location, the environmental conditions (temperature, lighting and noise level), the distance between communicators

and the time of day.

               Social Context- the nature of the relationship between the participants.  Whether communication takes place among family, friends, work associates or

strangers influences how the messages are formed, shared and interpreted.

               Historical Context-the background provided by previous communication episodes between the participants.

               Psychological Context-includes the moods and feelings each person brings to the interpersonal encounter.

               Cultural Context–  Includes, the values, attitudes, beliefs, orientations, and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in a society.

Channels- the route traveled by the message and the means of transportation.  Messages are transmitted through sensory channels.  Face-to-face communication

has three basic channels:  Verbal symbols, non-verbal cues, and visual images.

Interference (Noise)- any stimulus that hinders the process of sharing meaning.  can be physical (external sounds or images), psychological (based on internal distractions), or semantic (based on our emotional reaction to certain symbols)

                Physical interference- sights, sounds, and other stimuli in the environment that draw people’s attention away from intended meaning.

                Psychological interference – internal distractions based on thoughts, feelings, or emotional reactions to symbols and can fall into 2 categories:

                Internal noise–  refers to the thoughts and feelings that compete for attention and interfere with the communication process.

                Semantic Interference– refers to the distractions aroused by certain symbols that take our attention away from the main message.   When we

react emotionally to a word or behavior, we are experiencing semantic interference.

Feedback–  the reaction and responses to a message that indicate to the sender whether and how that message was seen, heard, and interpreted.


COMMUNICATION SETTING-  Communication contexts..  the environments in which we communicate.  Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, small groups and public communication settings.

              Intrapersonal is essentially communicating with yourself.

             Interpersonal communication–  informal interaction between two people who have identifiable relationships with each other.

             Small group communication– involves 3 to 20 people who come together to communicate with one another.

             Public Communication–  communication delivered to an audience of more than 20 people.


Communication Has A Purpose- we communicate to develop and maintain our sense of self.  To meet our social needs, to develop and maintain relationships, to exchange information, to influence others

Communication in Continuous- because we communicate verbally and non-verbally, we are always sending behavioral messages from which others draw inferences or meaning..  Even silence is a form of communication if someone infers meaning from it.

Communication Messages Vary in Conscious Thought – sharing a meaning with another person involves encoding and decoding verbal messages, non-verbal cues, and even visual images.

Why Public Speaking Matters

  • Employers were asked which qualities they looked for in potential employees and here is what they reported:

1. Communication skills

2.  Honesty/Integrity

3.  Teamwork skills

4.  Interpersonal skills

5.  Strong work ethic

6.  Motivation/initiative

7.  Flexibility/Adaptivity

8.  Analytical skills

9.  Computer skills

10.  Organizational skills