Role of Verbal & Nonverbal Communication

By Flora Richards-Gustafson; Updated July 05, 2017
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Communication is the act of providing information. It is a two-way process where thoughts, ideas, feelings and information are exchanged. In order for there to be communication between two parties, there must be a medium or means with which to provide it. These means can include writing, different sources of media, verbal (auditory) means and nonverbal means.

How Communication Takes Place

For communication to happen, five things need to take place. First, a message or idea is formed. It is spoken or written. The transmission of the message is then sent by speaking, writing or acting. The message is then received (or heard) by the other party, and then understood.

Types of Communication and Theory

According to Albert Mehrabian, professor at UCLA, there are three types of communication: words, tone of voice and body language. Through his research on subjects communicating with one another, he concluded that 55 percent of information gathered when people are speaking to each other in person is determined through body language. Thirty-eight percent of information relayed in a conversation is through tone of voice, and only seven percent of the words that are spoken are used to understand what is being said.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication comes in two forms: oral and written. Examples of verbal communication include speaking to someone in person or on the phone, giving presentations and participating in meetings. Written communication uses symbols that are hand-written or printed with an electronic device. The symbols can range from letters in the alphabet to the use of identifiable images (like the “no smoking” image). Examples of written communication include letters, memos, reports, bulletins and emails.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is when a message is sent without spoken or written words. Examples of nonverbal communication include body language, gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice and even eye contact. According to Dr. Edward G. Wertheim, nonverbal cues in communication have five roles: they repeat and confirm what a person is saying if they are being honest, they contradict a person’s words when they are dishonest, they can be a substitute for verbal forms of communication and they compliment or accent what a person says.

It is often said that it doesn’t matter what a person says. Rather, what counts is how it is said. For example, a person could be telling a friend about a sad event; but if the story is being told while smiling, it would be hard for the listening party to say the other person truly feels sad. Nonverbal communication often gives clues to how a person really feels about a subject.

Body Language

Body language is one of the most observed features of communication. The way a person stands, how close they are to another person, the direction in which a person is facing and the use of physical contact are all static features of nonverbal communication. Other important aspects include those which are dynamic: gestures, line of sight or eye contact, and facial expressions.

About the Author

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.