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Verbal Vs Non-Verbal Communication With Examples

verbal vs non-verbal communication

Smith was well prepared for the oratorical competition. He was confident that he wouldn’t miss a word or even a comma during his speech. He felt that practice would help him win the competition and so he practised well. On the day of the competition, he woke up with excitement knowing that he will be coming back home with a trophy bigger than him in size.

It was time for his speech and as he believed, he didn’t miss a word or even a comma. He knew he was going to win. The results were out and he finds out that the results were contrary to his expectation. What could’ve happened?

When he asked for feedback from his friends, he learnt that he only said the content out of his memory but he didn’t actually deliver a speech. Technically, although his speech had a lot of sound verbal content, his non-verbal information was missing altogether.

Therefore it created an impression of just pouring out well by hearted information from memory without adding any effect to it. To the judges it felt like a well-cooked chicken without seasoning. It was bland and flavorless.

What Are Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication?

Verbal communication refers to the process of communicating through the use of words, sentences and language. Non-verbal communication refers to the process of communicating information through body language, facial expressions, eye contact, intonations, artefacts etc.

During most instances, we communicate using a combination of both verbal and non-verbal communication. However during some instances, one might dominate the other or one might just be the sole medium of communication.

Which Are The Instances Where Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication Are Used Simultaneously?

As mentioned earlier, both types of communication are used together, and this happens deliberately or instinctively. However, we consciously mix the use of these two types of communication for a few reasons:

  • When we wish to emphasize a point, we couple our verbal content with non-verbal gestures.
  • To facilitate easy comprehension on the part of the listener, we use verbal and non-verbal information at once. For example, if the listener faces language barriers or if they have hearing impairment or any other psychological or physiological issues, people use hand gestures and body movements along with verbal information.
  • We also use both types of communication when we want the former and latter to complement each other.

Studies focusing on the similarities between verbal and non-verbal communication show that there is an intrinsic relationship existing between the two. There seems to be a strong link between lexical access (the ability to find the right words to use) and gestures when talking. They seem to help each other establish themselves.

For example, using gestures can help in lexical access and vice versa. Research also reveals that when speaking halts, so do gestures. They are interwoven with each other and complement each other efficiently.

What Are The Differences Between Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication?

The differences between verbal and non-verbal communication can be discussed based on many different criteria/parameters of communication.

Point a and b represent Verbal and Non-verbal types of communication respectively.

1. Medium Of Communication:

a. Verbal: Use of words and languages. Oral communication and written communication.

b. Non-Verbal: Absence of words or language. Expressed through body movements, gestures, facial expressions, silence, space, touch, smell etc.

In the earlier example of Smith, he delivered his speech only using verbal information and the lack of non-verbal cues in his speech made it sound like a mere recitation of what he had memorized earlier.

2. Consciousness Of The Message Sent:

a. Verbal: Exchange of messages occur consciously

b. Non-Verbal: Non-verbal body cues may occur alone or along with verbal communication. Normally expressed using body and hand gestures voluntarily or involuntarily motions.

In most cases, we say things only when we want to say those things. But we don’t necessarily plan on doing specific body gestures or moving our eyes towards a particular direction when communicating.

3. Direct And Indirect Messages:

a. Verbal: Since the messages are expressed in words, it is easy to decode verbal information than non-verbal information.

But sometimes even verbal messages can turn out to be indirect or vague depending on how a sentence is framed.

b. Non-Verbal: Non-verbal bodily cues alone can never bring out the direct meaning of the messages.

When Jaden proposed to Fiona, she walked away with a smile. This made him confused and made him wonder what could exactly be the meaning behind that smile. He felt that if she’d told him something in return, it would’ve saved him the agony and anxiety.

4. Decoding The Message:

a. Verbal: In the case of verbal content, it is easy to decode the meaning behind it.

b. Non-Verbal: Decoding the bodily cues is a bit difficult, since a single gesture or a minute facial expression may hold many different meanings behind it.

For e.g. When Kelly screamed “thief”, Taylor immediately turned around and pinned the thief to the ground. But if Kelly had just looked at Taylor with a shocked facial expression mixed with fear, he may not have understood the meaning behind it right away.

5. Mode Of Communication:

a. Verbal: Verbal communication occurs in a written and oral format. Writing e-mails, letters and SMS includes written messages. Whereas oral communication denotes our speech and interaction with others.

b. Non-Verbal: Non-verbal messages could be transferred through various modes such as visual, aural, spatial proximity and gestural including facial expressions, eye movements, body postures and movements, etc. Most importantly a firm handshake, a state of silence counts even.

6. Time Consumption:

a. Verbal: It is quite easy to conclude that sharing information verbally is less time-consuming. The meanings behind verbal messages are straightforward and do not need further understanding.

b. Non-Verbal: Sharing information using gestures and other non-verbal cues is more time-consuming than the former. A single non-verbal message may hold many potential interpretations and needs further knowledge of the true intention of the message conveyed. So a person must understand the mood, situation and context of the message delivered. Obviously, it’s time-consuming.

In the previous example of Kelly and Taylor, the thief was easily fought off by Taylor because Kelly verbally informed him about a thief standing behind him. If she’d tried making gestures and facial expressions, it would’ve easily taken more time for Taylor to successfully interpret the message accurately.

7. Physical Presence:

a. Verbal: With the advancements in technology, today verbal messages could easily be transmitted across the globe within a matter of seconds. Therefore verbal communication transcends the boundaries of space and time.

b. Non-Verbal: However, non-verbal communication would require the physical presence of the person sending in the message. Although physical presence is a prerequisite for non-verbal communication, technology has bridged that gap to a certain extent as well.

Through the use of video-conferencing, people can see each other although they are seated at two opposite poles of the world. This gives room for non-verbal communication to take place.

Even in the case of texting, the novel usage of emoticons replicates non-verbal communication to a certain extent which can be used to interpret the emotions and thoughts lying behind a person’s message.

Salient Features Of Verbal Communication

  • Verbal communication is the process of interacting using words, sentences and language through the only medium available i.e. talking.
  • In recent times, verbal communication can also be done through e-mails and text messages.
  • A good verbal communicator is highly influential as they connect themselves well with the audience.
  • Although words and sentences have one literal meaning all around the world, they may differ due to cultural differences. For example, the British use the phrase “I am chuffed to bits” which they mean to imply “I am very pleased”.
  • When verbal communication happens with others it is called “interpersonal communication” and when it happens with oneself it is called “intrapersonal communication”.
  • Verbal communication has better scope for clarity and precision in the message passed across compared to non-verbal communication.

Salient Features Of Non-Verbal Communication

  • When interaction takes place between individuals in the absence of language and the presence of body movements, facial expressions, gestures, eye movements etc. it is known as non-verbal communication.
  • Non-verbal communication happens through a wide array of behaviors, unlike verbal communication which takes place only through talking.
  • Non-verbal communication is continuous and impressionistic.
  • During conversations, non-verbal information holds more salience than verbal information.
  • It is not perceived discreetly but rather as a bunch of cues. For example, a person who is surprised would deliver not just one cue but many at once such as raised eyebrows, dilated pupils, open mouth, hands to the mouth, face or the chest and sometimes even a flushed face.
  • Non-verbal information is indirect and open to an array of interpretations.
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