English For Professionals

importance of paralinguistic in communication

Everything You need to know about paralinguistic communication

Speaking allows you to accomplish a lot more than just talking. The impact of body language, facial expression, and nonverbal speech characteristics (pitch, speed, tone, accent, pronunciation and articulation are paralinguistic features of nonverbal communication) is much more than most people even realise. 

The breakdown of communication, according to studies from the 1960s that have been frequently verified and repeated, is 55 – 38 – 7.

55% of it is, body language (kinesics)

38% of communication is nonverbal yet vocal (paralanguage)

7% of it is language

Therefore, only 7% of how you come across to others when you communicate is influenced by what you say. Everything else determines the other 93 percent of the effect you have.

The exchange of information without using words is known as nonverbal communication. 

Nonverbal communication falls into two main categories: 

1- Body language. 

2- Paralanguage.

Para-what?

The term “Paralinguistic Communication.” Isn’t it a big load? 

What Paralinguistic Communication really means is: When you talk, what are you saying with your voice rather than your words? 

Let’s talk about paralinguistic elements of communication. Paralanguage is an essential part of non-verbal communication and as it is non-verbal, it does not consist of words but without it words do not convey the intentional meaning. Paralanguage refers to all non-verbal communication (anything spoken or done without using words).

Para means “like,” hence “paralinguistic” is the systematic study of how a speaker verbalises. Paralanguage is literally “like language.” Paralanguage reveals what people are communicating even when the words are not spoken.

Importance of paralinguistic in communication

We’ve all heard people conversing in social settings, public spaces, and workplaces, as well as in rooms close by. Although we may not be able to hear what they are saying clearly, we can infer what they are discussing by the way they speak, including their voice, tone, pitch, and intensity. We may make out what they are talking about, i.e. is there some serious matter, or a joke, enjoyment or fight. This is the power of paralanguage that the voice communicates something beyond language.

Body language describes a person’s postures, gestures, and facial expressions. Non-lexical aspects of speech, such as pitch, tone, intonation, volume, pauses, etc., are referred to as paralanguage. 

The primary distinction between body language and paralanguage is that one studies the nonverbal aspects of speech while the other studies the motions and poses of the entire body-aka-paralinguistic communication activities.

Paralinguistic communication in business-

Paralanguage is everything in your voice other than the actual words that you are saying.

It can be helpful to know and appreciate how paralanguage affects clarity in order to have more productive conversations at work. 

Managers’ organisational influence and communication effectiveness can both rise when they can create higher degrees of logical consistency between the words they speak and the paralanguage that goes along with them.

Writing and verbal communication abilities are indeed critical components of professional success, according to a number of studies. The appropriate use of language is linked to employee resistance, misinterpretation, lost employee effort, conflict, and general labour relations. 

As leaders gain greater influence and power, the idea becomes even more crucial. They will find it challenging to express their strategic visions effectively if they unintentionally send out conflicting messages that are viewed differently by various groups of society.

To illustrate it further, when giving an employee praise, support, or helpful criticism at work, a manager’s tone can say a lot. A pleasant voice conveys respect, admiration, and a desire to assist. Workers love working for a motivated leadership whose words and actions are consistent.

On the other hand, when talking with subordinates, managers who raise their voice or use a sarcastic or insulting tone may frighten workers. Make sure your tone of voice supports the message you want to convey while speaking to staff.

Body language

Body language is a form of nonverbal communication. Body language is the intentional or unconscious use of physical activity such as gestures, body posture, eye movement, and facial expressions to communicate sentiments and intentions.

However, it’s also critical to remember that how body language is interpreted varies across nations and cultures. For instance, while making direct eye contact may be regarded as impolite in some cultures, it may also be seen as a sign of sincerity and honesty in others.

Paralanguage, to understand the emotions being expressed through nonverbal aspects of speech, such as speech rate, pitch of voice, tone, volume, modulation, inflection, accent, and accentuation, are observed. For instance, speaking with a forceful tone and constant pitch gives the impression of authority. Anger is typically shown by speaking at a high pitch and in an accusing, spiteful manner.

The study of paralanguage also includes the study of speech pauses, interruptions, and respiratory features like gasps and sighs. These characteristics also enable us to ascertain a person’s moods and emotions. For instance, gasps could signify shock, disgust, or disbelief.

Conflicts

There are often contradictions between our paralanguage and actual spoken language because we don’t always say what we mean. For example, a smile on the face may contradict an aggressive tone of voice, or we may express our enthusiasm for something while slouching, being preoccupied with something else, or adopting a defensive body posture.

Two general guidelines are applicable when such disputes arise:

  1. People always accept the bigger figure; thus, they are more likely to believe your paralanguage than your words because the former accounts for 93% of your effect while the latter only accounts for 7%.
  2. People are skewed toward the negative, so if you speak in a positive tone but take an aggressive attitude, people are more likely to be swayed by that.

Advantages of Paralanguage 

No oral communication is complete without paralanguage as it is closely connected to language itself. 

To a large extent, paralanguage indicates the position and situation of the speaker, whether in an organization or in society. 

It also reflects the speaker’s personality and background to a great extent. 

Paralanguage is indicative of the mental state of the speaker. A discerning listener can derive the right conclusions from the pitch, tone and speed of a message. This can often be very useful.

Disadvantages of paralanguage 

Paralanguage is ‘semi’ or ‘like’ a language. It is not a language by itself. Therefore, not all the advantages associated with actual language can be attributed to paralanguage. 

Paralanguage involves the drawing of conclusions on the basis of a number of peripheral (side) attributes. Such conclusions need not always be right. In such a case, they may also serve to create undue bias. This, in itself, makes paralanguage misleading or confusing at times. 

Also, as speakers may come from different backgrounds, cultures and situations, the conclusions from paralanguage may be difficult to draw, especially to convey a message in its entirety.

Let’s summarize

Body language and paralanguage are two different things.

Body language describes a person’s postures, gestures, and facial expressions.

The term “paralanguage” describes the non-lexical elements of speech, including volume, pitch, tone, intonation, and pauses.

Body Components

The entire body communicates through body language.

The mouth is used to communicate in paralanguage.

Areas

Gestures, body posture, eye movement, and facial expressions are all examples of body language.

Nonverbal aspects of speech, such as speech rate, pitch, tone, loudness, modulation, inflection, accent, and accentuation, can be used to represent paralanguage.

Hearing and Vision

Visual perception or sight can be used to interpret body language.

Hearing is necessary to understand paralanguage.

To make the communication effective it is important to notice that the “what” and “how” of the message should be in harmony, i.e., what we are saying and how we are saying should be in the right blend.

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