Characteristics of Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication


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Each day, you send and receive hundreds of messages through both nonverbal and verbal communication. Nonverbal communication consists of sending messages without speaking, and verbal communication, commonly referred to as oral communication, is any type of communication that uses words to send a message. Telling someone that it's nice to see them is a form of verbal communication, while a nonverbal form would be giving them a hug.

Complementary Communication Techniques

Nonverbal and verbal communications tend to complement one another. If they don't, they can lead to disappointment, mistrust and confusion. For example, if you speak to your friend and tell her that you would love to see her more often and then never answer her calls, there will be frustration and confusion. Your actions should complement your words.

Verbal Communication Informs

An important characteristic of verbal communication is that it provides direction and information. According to the Robert M. Krauss in his 2002 article "The Psychology of Verbal Communication," you use this form of communicating to convey meaning. Whatever you say transforms based on your listener.

Nonverbal Communication Clarifies

According to the Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group, nonverbal communication used makes verbal communication more understandable and clarifies the words that have been spoken. This can be viewed with the use of images, facial or hand gestures or any additional objects that can be used to illustrate the message that you are trying to send. Nonverbal communication provides visual cues that aid the other person in understanding your message. For example, if you purchase an item from a store, you can tell when the cashier is ready for you to pay when she extends her hand.

Reflective of Personality

Both nonverbal and verbal communication reflect the self-perception, worldview and beliefs of an individual. The inner workings of an individual can be exposed by the delivery of his message and the words and actions he chooses to use. For example, if you make an attempt to shake someone's hand and he pulls it away, he may have an objection to physical touch.


Both nonverbal and verbal communication affirm the message of the speaker. If you are trying to show someone how to repair an appliance, you will use your words to verbally give instructions while nonverbally using your hands to demonstrate what you are telling him. Nonverbal and verbal communication reinforces the point of an entire conversation. This can be seen frequently in public speaking. The person speaking will often use a combination of nonverbal and verbal communication to get his or her point across to the audience