Characteristics of Effective Verbal Communication

The effectiveness of verbal communication depends more on the communicators involved in the communication process. These communicators must see to it that the message is clear, direct, appropriate, and vivid. In this section, we will try to uncover what makes up effective verbal communication.

1. Clarity.

Effective verbal communication must use language that is grammatically correct to avoid confusion. Clarity also requires avoiding the use of abstract words. For instance, when you ask your teacher what he or she thinks of your project, you do not want a vague answer like, “It’s kind of okay. There are some mistakes but overall, you did okay.” It would be better if the teacher identifies these mistakes so you can learn from them and improve your work. In relationships, saying things like, “You’re so obnoxious; I hate you” is unclear and would likely cause misunderstanding. Being specific about the things you don’t like such as, “I don’t like it when I talk to you and you don’t respond” would focus the attention on the behavior instead of the person. For language to be clear, it must also make use of simple words. Using jargon, technical terms, and highfalutin words adds difficulty for your listeners to decode and comprehend your message.

2. Directness.

In contrast to writing, oral communication such as friendly conversations, requires that language be direct and informal. Avoid long, complicated sentences, passive instead of active constructions, and highfalutin vocabulary. Personal pronouns, idiomatic expressions, and repetitions also aid listening comprehension.

3. Appropriateness.

Language use must be appropriate to the audience, the situational context, the purpose of communication, and the personality of the speaker. An audience who has little knowledge about your topic will be more uninterested in listening to you speak. It is a must to tailor your message depending on the audience. Are they professionals in the field of medicine? Teenagers? People of different cultural backgrounds? The situational context should also be considered in communication. Do you talk casually or formally in an interview? Do you discuss academic topics with your friends during a vacation? One’s speech purpose and personality also determines what language style to use. In the context of graduation ceremonies, how do invited guest speakers present commencement speeches depending on their purpose (e.g., to inspire, to congratulate, to evoke action, to motivate, etc.) or their personality (e.g., a comedian, a senator, a professor, an entrepreneur, etc.)?

4. Vividness.

Effective language makes use of vivid descriptions and helps your listeners create mental images and picture what you want to express. Use figurative language such as imagery to allow your audience to experience the scene and manage to relate to what you are talking about. By doing so, the listeners can actively participate in meaning-making instead of passively relying on the information you present. For instance, instead of relaying what you just heard, you may use auditory imagery by mimicking sounds or by presenting it as a dialogue, complete with different tones and voices. Instead of saying someone is beautiful, you can describe how the person looks like. Still, not everything should be described in detail. Focus your listeners’ attention on the most important points of your speech.