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Verbal Vs. Nonverbal Communication

by Heather M. Moss

Communication occurs when you transmit information to another person. Successful communication occurs when the recipient of the message actually understands what you are trying to tell him and then provides feedback letting you know that he understands the message. We are constantly communicating with each other, both with words and without. Because communication goes beyond the words we say, we often experience problems in our attempts to communicate effectively with others.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication consists of the spoken, as well as the written word. You can effectively express your message by using denotation, the dictionary meaning of a word, and connotation, the feelings associated with a word. Choosing exactly the right word increases the chances of your listener understanding the message you want to send. A common cause of misunderstanding during verbal communication is that our language constantly changes. New words are created and meanings of established words change with the generations and developments in technology.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication can complement or contradict the spoken message. The tone and inflection of the speaker's voice can emphasize the point, show conflict between what is spoken and what is meant, and reinforce the emotion of the message. Body language, such as eye contact and posture, can show interest or disinterest, welcome or warn, and reveal your level of confidence. Your appearance also communicates a message to listeners. If your attire or accessories are loud and distracting, they may take away from the effectiveness of your message. Likewise, dressing appropriately and neatly adds to your credibility as a speaker.

Combining Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues

A combination of verbal and non-verbal cues is a good strategy for effectively communicating your message. Smiling, laughing, and using a friendly tone of voice while saying, "That is so funny," lets your listener know that you really do think the situation is funny. However, making the same statement while using an unfriendly tone of voice accompanied by no smile, clearly lets your listener know that you do not, in fact, find the situation humorous. Pointing a finger in the direction you are describing is also an example of combining the verbal with the non-verbal for successful communication.

Miscommunication

Language barriers often lead to miscommunication. This does not only apply to foreign languages, but to familiar words with different meanings and differentiating dialects. For example, you order a soda in one area of the country and a pop in another. If you ask someone from England to show you to the elevator, he may not understand you; however, if you ask him to show you to the lift, he will surely be accommodating. Though there is potential for miscommunication through the spoken word, a friendly gesture is almost always welcome when paving the way for communication to occur.

Tips for Successful Communication

Be prepared. Know your audience. Choose your words carefully. Adjust your body language and appearance to suit your audience. Look for feedback that your audience understands your message.

References

  • Speech for Effective Communication; Rudolph F. Verderber; 1994

About the Author

Based in Oklahoma, Heather M. Moss is a professional writer, editor, and teacher. She holds an English degree from Oklahoma State University and has been published in "The Stillwater Forum," "Papyrus Literary Magazine," and eHow. Though Moss is a skilled research writer, she is also a creative writer and is currently working on a novel.