University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Outline the different forms of verbal and non-verbal communication
Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages or information; as by speech, visuals, signals, written work or behaviour. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more living creatures. Communication requires a sender, a message and a recipient although the receiver does not have to be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication works in two systems which are verbal communication and non-verbal communication whose forms this essay seeks to outline and discuss. Verbal communication is communication through a figure of speech and non-verbal communication is the process of communicating through sending and receiving wordless cues between people. Verbal communication refers to the form of communication in which message is transmitted verbally; generally this is communication by word of mouth or a piece of writing. Verbal communication is further divided into two forms which are oral communication and written communication. In oral communication, spoken words are used. It includes face to face conversation, video, radio, television, voice over the internet. In oral communication, communication is influenced by pitch, volume, speed and clarity of speaking.
Furthermore, oral communication, while primarily referring to spoken verbal communication, can also employ visual aids and non-verbal elements to support the conveyance of meaning. Oral communication includes speeches, presentations, discussions and aspects of inter-personal communication. Oral communication also garners immediate feedback. Examples of oral communication can include a mother asking her son about his day at school, because of message and feedback a dialogue is created. More so, oral communication under verbal communication has its own advantages and in a face to face conversation, by reading facial expression and body language one can guess whether they should trust what is being said or not. In addition, oral communication carries a disadvantage because in a face to face discussion, user is unable to deeply think what he is delivering, so this can be committed as a stream of sub consciousness hence content or message cannot be trusted to be reliable as well. In-addition, in written communication, written signs or symbols are used to communicate a written message may be printed or hand written. In written communication messages can be transmitted via email, letter, report, memo, only to mention to mention a few. Message in written communication, is influenced by the vocabulary and grammar used, writing style, precision and clarity of the language used. Examples of written communication used for internal communication or personal attention are memos, reports, bulletins, employee manuals and electronic mail. For communication with the external environment in writing electronic mail, internet websites, letters, proposal, telegrams, only to mention a few.
Furthermore, written communication has its advantages. Messages can be edited and revised many times before they are actually sent; hence clarity and transparency of information can be refined to suit the recipient. Also, written communication provides record for every message sent and can be saved for later study thus it can be used as proof or evidence of the existence of certain situations. A written message enables receiver to fully understand it and send appropriate feedback. However written communication also has disadvantages. Unlike oral communication written communication doesn’t bring instant feedback since the receiver has to first analyse the message sent and gather appropriate feedback, more so, if it is external communication through a letter the receiver might be far away thus a delay in the deliverance of the message. Furthermore, it takes more time in composing a written message as compared to word of mouth and a number of people struggle for writing ability. On the other hand, the other system of communication is non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is the sending or receiving of wordless messages. Therefore communication other than oral and written, such as gesture, body language, posture, tone of voice or facial expressions is called non-verbal communication. According to Mehrabian (1972) ‘non-verbal communication describes the process of conveying meaning in the form of non-word messages’. Non-verbal communication helps the receiver in interpreting the message received. Often, non-verbal signals reflect the situation more accurately than verbal messages. Sometimes non-verbal responses contradict verbal communication and hence affect the effectiveness of message. More-so, non-verbal communication has three elements which are; appearance, body language and sounds.
Appearance includes the speaker, clothing, hairstyle, neatness and use of cosmetics, more-so, surrounding and furnishings. Body language includes facial expressions, gestures and postures. Sounds includes voice tone, volume and speech rate. According to Martes (2011) forms of non-verbal communication are classified in seven types which are kinesics, proxemics, physical appearance, haptics or use of touch, vocalics or use of voice, chronemics or use of time, artifacts or use of objects. Martes’s theory argues that kinesics or body activity can be with the use of eye contact, facial expressions, gesture, and posture. Eye contact is the way we look with people whom we are communicating. This shows paying attention. Facial expressions are important in conveying message to show our emotions. Gestures are the movements of our arms, hands, and fingers to describe or to give emphasis. Posture is the position of our body; it is also a way of paying attention hence kinesics involves more body activity. In-addition proxemics or the use of space shows nonverbal communication. Intimate distance for private conversations of close friends, Personal distance for casual conversations, Social distance for impersonal business, and Public distance for public speeches hence by one distancing themselves from others shows a difference of interests. Also, physical appearance is also another form of non-verbal communication. Choice of clothing and personal grooming also communicate a message.
The message one wants to send is determined on how he/she dresses and grooms themselves. People have a choice to choose which clothing styles and grooming behaviours they want but it should be accordingly. Haptics or use of touch also communicates as a non-verbal form. People communicate through touch by the use of hands. Hands can be used to hug slap, kiss, pat, hold, embrace, stroke and tickle. With these, a message in variety of meanings is conveyed. Touch can be gentle and firm depending on how it is done for which purpose. Vocalics or use of voice is also known as paralanguage. This is a nonverbal sound of what is heard or how something is being said. It has 4 vocals characteristics: pitch volume, rate and quality. The presence of vocal interferences or extraneous sounds interrupts a conversation of fluent speech. The use of time also known as chronemics also conveys meaning. Duration is the time regarded as appropriate for certain events or activities. Activity refers to what people perceive should be done in a given time period. Punctuality is the extent to which one adheres strictly to the appointed or regular time thus a message can be trusted or regarded reliable through the duration, activity and punctuality aspects respectivitly.
Last but not least, artifacts are also a form of non-verbal communication. Artifacts are also use of objects. Object language refers to the meanings attributed to objects with we surround ourselves. It says something about someone because it represents the choices he/she make. However both verbal and non-verbal communications are liable to barriers of communication. Since verbal communication involves the medium of language, people speak in different languages since they come from different places thus communication may be difficult, understanding may not be found between the two sources of the speaker and the recipient. Non-verbal language is also liable to barriers of communication since not everyone is literate and educated enough to read one’s body language and discern the message within. In a nutshell communication occurs in two systems which are verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication also divides into two forms which are oral and written communication, non-verbal communication branches into seven forms which are kinesics, proxemics, chronemics, haptics, physical appearance, vocalic and artifacts.
Maetes (2011). Theories of Non-verbal Communication.
Mehrabian, A (1972). Non-verbal Communication. Transaction Publishers.