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ORAL COMMUNICATION

Elements of Verbal Communication

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In order to communicate properly, speakers must not only communicate using their words, but also with their actions. Their words and actions must match. Otherwise, miscommunication can occur.

The following discusses some verbal elements of communication individually:

Pause

A speaker takes pauses between utterances in order to allow listeners to process what the speaker said. A speaker may pause for longer than usual after an important utterance in order to produce emphasis by waiting for the utterance to sink in among his listeners. A pause can also be a speaker’s signal to the audience that he or she is waiting for some indication from listeners as to whether or not they understood what was said. This is especially true if the speaker thinks what was uttered was something that may be difficult to hear, comprehend, or accept.

Loudness or Softness

Depending on the speaker’s style, emphasis can be achieved by either speaking loudly or softly. An adept speaker knows when to raise or lower his or her voice. In some cultures, speaking loud is appropriate in emphasizing a point. However, the opposite is true in other cultures; speaking softly shows that a speaker is emphasizing a point. In addition, other emotions can be expressed using the loudness or softness of voice. For example, using a soft voice can be a speaker’s way of showing that what is being expressed is something of intimacy or heartfelt.

Rhythm

The way a speaker talks can be a powerful tool to engage listeners. Rhythm refers to the speed and flow of a speaker’s utterances. A good rhythm catches and holds listeners’ attention. On the other hand, a sing-song tone or a manner of speaking involving alternating rising and lowering of pitch can indicate that the speaker is trying to entertain his or her listeners or to try to arouse a particular emotion. The rhythm employed by a speaker must be appropriate to the content of his or her message as well as the context in which the speaker delivers a speech or participates in a discussion. For example, a sing-song rhythm is not acceptable in academic discussion because academic discussion is intended to be devoid of emotion.

Repetition and Rephrasing

Unlike in reading, a listener cannot go back to what a speaker has spoken if the speaker did not understand that particular utterance. As part of the speaker’s effort to help the listener understand, the speaker will do well to repeat his or her utterances especially if the content of the utterance is difficult to understand. Another way to foster understanding of a complex or difficult idea is to rephrase what has been said. For this purpose, the expressions “in other words” or “that is” are very useful.

Tone

Tone of voice is essential in communicating effectively. The tone of voice often shows the attitude of the speaker toward the topic or the listener. Listeners certainly do not appreciate an insolent or impolite tone. The tone of voice must be matched with other elements of the communication situation including the relationship between the communication participants, the topic, degree of formality, and emotions associated with the situation or topic. The tone of voice is determined by the culture to which the participants belong.

Appropriate Form of Language

A speaker must use the appropriate form of language to be used in a given setting. The technical term for the form of language used is register. There are different registers of any given language depending on the formality of the communication setting, participants, topic, and other factors. For example, there are different registers for speaking in a showbiz talk show, funeral, academic forum, casual conversation, and others. A speaker must know which register to use and the elements of that register when speaking to a specific audience. For example, when a doctor speaks to an audience of doctors, he or she as a speaker may use medical jargon, which are words or terms specific to a field, in this case, medicine. However, when the doctor speaks to an audience composed of doctors, he or she must not use medical jargon because this is unknown to the general public. Register may also change because of a shift in topic or setting. For example, during a conference of doctors, a speaker must use formal language but during their entertainment night, the speaker must definitely use informal language because the topic is not academic but about entertaining stuff.

Understanding the elements of verbal language is crucial in communicating effectively. In addition, the non-verbal language is also critical in communicating well.

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