How you talk is more important than what you say.

August 30, 2016

It may be no surprise to you that how you say something can have a bigger impact than what you say.  Today's blog post is about the elements of verbal communication.  Hopefully, staying attuned to your speech patterns will help you communicate more effectively.  Paralanguage is the vocal component of speech apart from the verbal content. There are six elements of paralanguage, which are pitch, resonance, articulation, tempo, volume, and rhythm.  Variations in these components can lead to misunderstanding and conflict.  The sound of what you say will reveal a great deal of who you are and how you feel about the other person.

 

Pitch 

Pitch is the tightening and loosening of your vocal cords.  When they are tight, the pitch rises your voice.  Intense feelings of joy, fear, and anger make your voice rise.  When you are depressed, tired, or calm, your vocal cords relax, and your voice goes down.   

 

Resonance 

Resonance refers to the richness and thinness of your voice.  The shape of your vocal cords and chest determines resonance.  Men have deeper fuller voices due to their large chest and heavy vocal cords whereas women have high pitch light voices due to thin and tight vocal cords.  Deep tones communicate firmness and confidence whereas high pitched voices communicate insecurity and weakness.

 

Articulation

Articulating means speaking clearly and pronouncing each syllable precisely.  Different situations call for a level of articulation.  A slight slur or drawl is appropriate for social gatherings but inappropriate for the work place.

 

Tempo

Tempo is the speed at which words are spoken.  Emotions and attitudes are communicated through tempo.  Fast-talking conveys excitement, but speaking too fast indicates nervousness.  Slow speaking communicates indifference and laziness or sincerity and thoughtfulness.  The tempo also tells people your region of origin .  Fast talkers and slow speaks may feel uncomfortable with each other as interruptions, and missed phrases occur.

 

Volume

Volume refers to the loudness of someone's voice.  High volume is associated with enthusiasm and confidence, but depending on the context, it can communicate aggressiveness and ego-centrism.  A high-status person may raise the volume at a low-status person, which indicates power and control.  Soft and low volume show caring and understanding but can reflect insecurity and inferiority.  A whisper communicates security, intimacy, but also sadness and fear.  

 

Rhythm

Rhythm determines which words are emphasized.  You have the option of emphasizing the beginning, middle, or the end of questions.  It also forms the words into a statement, phrase, or a question.  Additionally, rhythm determines the mood of the speaker and where to put one's focus. The rhythm changes the meaning of your words dramatically so be very mindful of your rhythm.

 

 

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Natalie A. Ma, PhD

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