Taking a look at your Communication Skills

This month we have covered communication barriers and how to improve your listening skills. This week we are going to look into your verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

Verbal Communication Skills

The way you speak – not just what you say – makes an impression on listeners.  Always use proper grammar when speaking with co-workers, clients and others in the workplace.  Using improper grammar and slang expressions detracts from your professional image.  Factors such as pitch, tone, volume and rate of speech can affect your verbal communications.

Using the proper degree of formality when talking with co-workers and clients is also important.

  • Pitch

Pitch is an attribute of sound that can be described as high or low.  Someone who is nervous or frightened may speak in a high-pitched voice as her or his throat tightens.  Listeners may be less likely to believe your message if you speak in a high-pitched voice.

On the other hand, people who speak in a low-pitched voice project calmness and control.  Listeners are more likely to have confidence in a speaker using a low-pitched voice.  If you are nervous or tense as you prepare to speak at a meeting or with a client, make a conscious effort to relax your body.  Drinking something warm will help relax your vocal cords so you can speak in a low-pitched voice.

  • Tone

Tone is an attribute of voice that conveys the attitude or emotional state of the speaker.  The same words spoken in different tones can convey different meanings.  For example, the words “that’s great” spoken in a friendly and enthusiastic tone convey a positive message.  The same words spoken in a sarcastic or frustrated tone can convey quite a different meaning.  Be aware of your tone of voice to be sure you are sending the message you want to send.

  • Pace and Volume

If you speak too quickly or softly, the listener may miss part of your message.  Listening to someone who is speaking too loudly can be frustrating for a listener.  Control your voice to speak at a medium pace and volume so that your message can be received and understood.

Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Nonverbal communication is sending a message without spoken or written words.  Facial expressions and body language are all examples of nonverbal communication.  Nonverbal symbols can affect or even alter a message.   A job candidate in an interview who sits up straight, makes eye contact with the interviewer and looks interested in the conversation reinforces the message that he or she is interested in the job and company.   A candidate, who slumps in the chair, does not make eye contact and is not focused on the discussion sends the nonverbal message that he or she is not interested in the company or job.  Even though the candidate may express interest, nonverbal cues contradict the spoken words.  When nonverbal clues do not support a verbal message, the listener is more likely to accept the nonverbal message.  Be aware of your facial expressions, gestures and body language so that your nonverbal messages reinforce your verbal messages.

Nonverbal communication symbols have different meanings from culture to culture.  For example, the “okay” sign made by placing the forefinger and thumb into a circle and raising the remaining fingers has a positive meaning in North American cultures.  However, in some other cultures, this gesture is considered offensive.  People in different cultures feel differently about the use of personal space.  Standing one foot away when talking with someone is a comfortable distance for people in some cultures.  In other cultures, this distance is too close and will make the listener feel uncomfortable, as if her or his space is being invaded.  A listener in this situation may keep backing away from the speaker and have difficulty focusing on the message.

Learn about the nonverbal cues of people from others cultures with whom you communicate so that you can send the appropriate nonverbal messages.  Next week we will be taking a closer look into the different types of non-verbal communication.

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