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The Psychology of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

In this lesson, learn the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication and how you use them in your life. Also, study the different components of these two major communication styles so you can improve your skills and communicate more effectively.

The Importance of Communication

Communication is a theme that intertwines itself throughout every facet of our lives, and is one of the most important skills we can ever have. Think about different areas of your life; school, hanging out with friends or family events. Chances are that you will communicate differently depending on who you are talking to. Verbal and nonverbal communication are two styles oftentimes used interchangeably; therefore, knowing how they work will increase your success in communicating.

Communication involves the use of both verbal and nonverbal cues.

OMG, I'm Reading You Loud and Clear!

Verbal communication is the use of words and sounds to express yourself to another person. Basically, it refers to the noises that come out of your friends' mouths, conveying words that will create a dialogue for you to engage in. When communicating on a verbal basis, you will concentrate only on the words that the person is saying, which will help you understand their needs and ideas. Verbal communication must be efficient, so let's take a look the ways we can improve our verbal communication.

Opening communication. When starting a conversation with other people, it is a good idea to watch how you start the conversation. For example, you probably greet your friends differently than you do your principal at school. We can start conversations with our friends less formally by saying, 'what's up', or 'how's it going?', yet when addressing a stranger or older adult, we typically say 'good morning' or a simple 'hello'. It is important that when communicating verbally, we communicate appropriately, as the opening statement will direct the way the person responds to our words and the rest of the conversation.

Clarity of speech. It is important not to mumble and to speak clearly when communicating with others. This allows your friends, teachers, and parents to clearly understand what you are saying. Your friends may understand slang words such as 'on fleek', 'merked', and 'jeah'; however, your parents or grandparents may not be so hip as to today's slang words. Always think of your audience when communicating with others and ensure that they can understand the words you are using with clarity.

Staying focused. Always stay focused during a conversation and ensure that the words you are using are consistent with the conversation. For example, stay on topic with what you are talking about, so that the other person doesn't get confused. Switching topics without warning can confuse the receiver, so be sure to communicate effectively and stay on track!

Actions Speak Louder than Words!

Nonverbal communication will always take place when communicating with people face-to-face. According to research, experts say that nonverbal communication is even more important than verbal communication, simply because up to 90 percent of our communication is not in the words that we say, but the actions we use.

When talking with your friends, chances are that you will make eye contact with them during a conversation. When making eye contact, we are also taking in their non-verbal communications. For example, we can tell if our friends are happy, sad, surprised, or angry, simply by looking at their facial expressions or body language. Since nonverbal cues are the most important aspect of communication, we need to identify how we can tell someone's behavior based not only on what they are saying, but how they are saying it. Let's examine how nonverbal cues play a part in our conversations.

Emotional/Social Intelligence. Having the ability to read facial expressions and body language comes down to our level of emotional and social intelligence. Some people are very aware and very good at reading nonverbal cues; however, it is important to know that not everyone can be good as you! An example of this is someone that could suffer from Asperger Syndrome, a condition where individuals struggle with social cues and interactions.

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