The easiest way to put it is that verbal communication is what you say and nonverbal communication is what you do. However, they both convey distinct messages. You may speak the right words, but the wrong nonverbal communication may make your listener think otherwise.
Tone of Voice
Tone of voice is mostly a means of verbal communication and it can greatly affect the meaning of your words. For example, you can say you’re really happy about something, but if you mumble the words because you’re distracted, the person you’re talking to will likely think you’re being insincere. Sarcasm is also often implied by tone of voice. There’s big difference between saying, “Oh I think you would be great for that job,” in a cheerful voice and saying it in a flat monotone; the latter implies sarcasm. Tone of voice does have a nonverbal element to it as well, because your facial expression naturally changes to match your tone.
Even if you say the right words the right way, the wrong expression will betray you if you’re being insincere. If you look disappointed when someone tells you news, even if you say you’re happy about it, they will quickly realize you’re not. Facial expressions can also help make words that could be construed as rude seem friendly. For example, there’s a huge difference between telling one of your friends they are a complete loser while you’re glaring at them and saying it with a smile; the latter is more of a joke that implies you’re laughing with them, not at them.
There is an old expression that says, “Well, he sounded sincere but his hands betrayed him.” What that means is that person had the right tone of voice and used the correct words, but he or she might have had his or her hands in their pockets or doing something else distracting that led the listener to think that the person didn’t really mean what they said. Something as simple as placing your hand on your chin can indicate boredom and you may not even be aware that you’re sending out that signal. Hand motions are often instinctive and many people don’t always realize how much they say about their feelings.
People tend to sit or stand in a way that naturally feels comfortable to them. That’s understandable, but people make interpretations based on your posture. If you’re standing up straight, they know you are paying attention and taking them seriously. On the other hand, if you are leaning nonchalantly against a wall, they may think you are indifferent to what they’re saying. What feels natural to you may give a bad impression to someone else.
If you want to communicate better with people, you should realize how verbal and nonverbal communication work together and how they can potentially contradict each other. What you do needs to match what you say if you want to give a clear message. Be aware of what your body language may suggest to others and you’ll be able to communicate much more effectively.
About the Author: Tony Smith is a full-time writer with a passion for business and communications. He enjoys incorporating email fax services, online database solutions, and website apps into his day to day business routine – streamling each process as much as possible while maintaining the clearest levels of communication possible.