Verbal Versus Nonverbal Communication

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Communicating with others makes up the majority of our daily interactions. According to Dr. Edward Wertheim of Northeastern University, communication is a multistep process with room for misinterpretation along the way. The speaker has a message to convey which must first be "decoded" or put into words. When the message is spoken, the receiver interprets its meaning. Tone, body language and other factors are often just as important as the words in conveying a message.

What Is Verbal Communication?

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Spoken words make up verbal communication. Verbal communication may take place face-to-face or through some media such as the telephone. The two types of verbal communication are interpersonal and mass communication. Your everyday conversations with friends, family and coworkers are interpersonal and make up the majority of your verbal communication. When you address a crowd, you are engaging in public speaking or mass communication. Examples of public speaking include delivering a toast at an event or giving a presentation at work.

What Is Nonverbal Communication?

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Nonverbal communication is made up of tone of voice, body language, gestures, eye contact, facial expression and proximity. These elements give deeper meaning and intention to your words.

Tone includes the pitch, volume and inflection of your voice. Posture is an important part of body language; sitting up straight conveys confidence while slouching conveys apathy. Eye contact suggests interest. Gestures are often used to emphasize a point. Facial expressions convey emotion. Proximity can demonstrate aggression when the speaker is too close, or fear when the speaker draws back.

How They Work Together

According to Wertheim, nonverbal communication plays one of five different roles in conjunction with the spoken word. Nonverbal communication can reiterate the spoken message, contradict the message, or emphasize, substitute or complement meaning. Sending contradictory messages can make the speaker seem untrustworthy. Good speakers use these elements to their advantage in interpersonal conversations as well as in public speech.

Communication in Relationships

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Communication is the most important aspect of a healthy relationship. It is important for couples to use verbal and nonverbal communication in ways that avoid misinterpretation. For example, the use of humor can be a great way to resolve minor conflicts. However, if your partner is not in the mood to laugh, your humor may be misinterpreted as sarcasm and exacerbate the problem.

Communication in the Workplace

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Healthy communication in the workplace leads to improved employee morale and greater productivity. It is important for managers and supervisors to communicate clearly and efficiently with their employees. Using nonverbal communication to convey respect and trust makes it easier to delegate responsibilities, solve problems and resolve conflict.