Paraverbal Communication Explained with Examples

Editorial Team

Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal Communication Definition

Paraverbal communication is defined as the messages conveyed by taking a crucial account of the tone, pitch, and voices’ pace (speed) of the person delivering the messages. In paraverbal communication, the emphasis is placed on specific words, phrases, or pauses while speaking, as well as the inflection, speed, pitch, and tone of voice. During message delivery, paraverbal communication deals with ‘how’ the messages are delivered, rather than ‘what’ the messages delivered. It put a stronger emphasis on the way a person delivers their words or messages, rather than the content of the words or messages.

Paraverbal communication involves the inculcation of all of the signals in communication that deal with one’s voice modulation. Voice modulation in this context refers to the way a person controls or adjusts his or her voice in a way that makes their voice sounds louder or softer, faster or slower, and dramatic or emotional. Without voice modulation, the message delivery process will sound bland and monotonous. The inculcation of dealing with voice modulation in paraverbal communication highlights the use of tone, pitch, and pacing of the voice in promoting the delivery of intelligible messages efficiently and effectively, thus avoiding the listeners to lose focus and become bored.

What is Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal communication corresponds to how we express ourselves verbally, such as whether we appear happy, upset, frustrated, confident, or forceful. According to several past research, paraverbal communication serves for about 30 to 38 percent of what a person communicates. Communication is an important aspect in life where all human beings communicate on daily basis. This further highlights the importance of integrating all the means of communication, namely; verbal communication, non-verbal communication, and paraverbal communication.

The use of paraverbal communication alongside non-verbal communication is concurrent with verbal communication where it may greatly influence the way the messages will be interpreted. Depending on the emphasis on words, the tone, pitch, and speed of one’s voice highlighted by the paraverbal communication concept, a sentence may express entirely different meanings. For instance, the phrase “I didn’t mean that you were slow” comprises several varying interpretations where it depends on which words the speaker emphasized in his speech.

The emphasis on paraverbal communication plays a crucial role in how effective, successful, and convincing one’s communication is. Paraverbal skills are those that focus on how fast a person says something, the tone, and the pitch of the voice. It is produced in a more subconscious manner where there is less control compared to verbal communication. The signals for paraverbal communication are transmitted in a more genuine and distinct manner. In mastering effective communication skills, it is highly recommended for a person to be good at both verbal, non-verbal, and paraverbal communication skills.

Paraverbal Communication 3 Key Components

In promoting powerful engagement, paraverbal communication plays an important role in enhancing the conversation or speech to be more impactful. In speaking, verbal communication which involves using words alone is not enough to promote effective communication. There are other aspects that are crucial to be mentioned where this falls under the non-verbal and paraverbal communication aspects. In striving to become a good speaker and communicator, paraverbal communication serves a huge role as it influences how the audiences see and define the person speaking.

There are three key components of paraverbal communication that help to ensure that one is incorporating it efficiently in his or her communication. The 3 key components are as followed:

  • Pitch

Pitch is the auditory quality of sound that is ranked from low to high. Pitch is the key at which ones’ voice is delivered. A high pitch is often associated with anxiety or distress, whereas, a low pitch conveys the seriousness and authority of the speaker. However, a high pitch can also indicate friendliness and happiness where one may use high pitch and raise their voice for several octaves. A squeaky high pitch may also indicate that the person is scared or terrified. Meanwhile, a lower pitch depicts tranquillity or laid back feeling.

People will notice and respond to the pitch of one’s voice when listening to a speech or engage in a conversation to guess the speaker’s character, attitude, and feeling. The variation in the pitch may help to keep the other party engaged better in communication as well as enhancing their interest to listen to the messages delivered. The variation of pitch (using both high pitch and low pitch) can be inculcated by encompassing all ranges of vocal cords by relaxing the throat when speaking. 

  • Tone

Tone refers to the combination of various pitches to develop and build a mood, as well as conveying the speakers’ messages meaningfully. When speaking or conversing, it is recommended to speak with more inflections in the voice, rather than speaking monotonously. If one did not adjust the way the words sound at various times when reading a speech, it can appear off as flat and sound monotonous.

The tone of the voice may also influence the mood of the conversation or speech. When inculcating variation in tones, it can improve the listeners’ engagement in the conversation or speech that takes place. As one talks gently, people are more likely to pay attention to oneself, whereas when the voice is raised, this may give off a different vibe.

  • Speed or Pace

Speed or pace of the voice refers to how slow or fast a person speaks in a speech or a conversation. The speed at which one talks has a significant impact on the ability to communicate. From a practical standpoint, someone who talks rapidly is more difficult to comprehend than someone who talks at a moderate speed. However, speaking at a very slow pace may lead the audiences to feel bored and lose their interest as the speech progresses. A fast pace voice may indicate that the speaker is feeling nervous and may also show excitement in several other contexts.

The tone and emotional content of the message are also affected by speed. When having a presentation, speaking at a fast pace may give the impression to the audience that the speaker is anxious because when one feels scared, the speech will naturally speed up. On the other hand, slowing down the speech moderately will express a sense of relaxation and power. When a speaker uses pauses, it indicates that the words spoken are significant while still provide the listener with the time to think about what the speaker has said before the silence.

Paraverbal Communication Examples

Paraverbal communication skill is deemed vital in enhancing the message delivery as it highly influences the listeners’ meaning-making process. An example of paraverbal communication is when a person is furious or excited, the speech tends to be in a higher pitch and at a more rapid pace. When someone is angry, their voice tends to become louder. Fear and anxiety, on the other hand, are conveyed through a muted and higher voice, as well as faltering. In addition, the pitch of one’s voice that is higher also signifies happiness and enjoyment. When one receives something especially good or thrilling, one is likely to squeal with delight.

On the other hand, when a person is feeling bored or down, the pace of the speech tends to be slow and monotonous. This may also affect the listeners because messages delivered in a monotonous tone and slow pace may sound boring and less engaging. When we pay attention to a speaker’s paraverbal messages, we will learn how he or she is feeling and how strong the feeling is. We may also establish hunches about what the speaker is communicating by paying close attention to body language and non-verbal messages.

In research conducted to test whether a person is lying, paraverbal communication serves as a good indicator of the conscious attempt to deceive by paying attention to the inflection, intonation, and emphasis of words. The wrong inflection, intonation, or emphasis assist to alert the researchers to the fact that someone is not telling the truth. For example, when a person’s voice is trembling and a few octaves higher than usual, it may seem obvious that the person is telling lies or trying to make up a story to sound convincing.

A past study also depicts that paraverbal communication is impactful on one’s leadership charisma perception. For example, in a company management, how words were delivered by the employer has a huge impact on the employee’s perspective on him or her. When giving a presentation to the executive stakeholders, it is important to use the right tone that is not monotonous, moderate pace in speaking with the right pauses and emphasis, as well as variation in pitch in making the presentation more engaging.

Another instance of assessing a speaker through a paraverbal communication lens is when the speech sounds abrupt and the speaker’s tone is in higher octaves, this may depict that the speaker is feeling defensive. The way a person uses the words (tone, speed, and pitch) plays a crucial role in how the message is perceived by the listener. However, the truth and the real meaning are something subjective and can be highly influenced by the listeners’ perspectives.

Importance of Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal skills play a crucial role in successful intrapersonal communication because words alone are not enough to efficiently deliver a message. One subconsciously employs paraverbal communication as support and assistance to convey verbal messages meaningfully and effectively. By using the right tone, speed, and pitch, the message delivery can be enhanced thus serves as the aid that highlights the speakers’ actual feeling and perception. Employing the right pauses and placing emphasis on specific words or phrases is also helpful in delivering the intended messages successfully. Paraverbal communication is one of the core constituents that influence the process of meaning delivery of the speaker.

Besides that, by employing the right paraverbal skills in communication, one can demonstrate a model character and make themselves more appealing to others. This is highly important in daily life as this may influence the way others view us which builds their perceptions towards the speaker’s personality. Paraverbal communication is also important in assessing one’s confidence. One’s voice sounds coherent and well enunciated when one is sure of themselves and the content at which he or she deliver, as well as when they feel calm and optimistic. In the context of the career field, this may improve the opportunities to showcase one’s plus point and talent because the way a person speaks influenced the engagement, interest, and perception of the listener.

Paraverbal communication is also deemed as vital to enhance one’s ability in understanding the perspectives of others, executing, and solving a problem in a team for a project, department, or organization as a whole. For instance, when the employer gives orders to the employee, the tone of voice in which he express his orders is also as important as the particular words used. This can assist the employee to guess the mood of the employer and take suitable action based on the orders and the mood of the employer. In an organization, effective communication is vital to avoid conflict from happening which may disrupt the quality of the project.

How to Improve Paraverbal Communication

There are several ways that can be implemented to improve one’s paraverbal communication skills. For instance, when preparing for a speech, one should not only prepare the text of the speech, but also practice in front of others in ensuring that the paraverbal skills are on-point by listening to the comments and feedback from others. By practicing using this method, it may help in building confidence, be more prepared, and improve not only verbal skills, but also paraverbal and non-verbal skills.

In addition, the easiest way to improve paraverbal communication skills is by recording the presentation or conversation and listen to it back. By inculcating this method, one can look back and listen to the pitch, tone, and pace of his or her voice in the presentation and make reflection to further improve and enhance the paraverbal communication skills.

Observation is also deemed as one of the ways to improve paraverbal skills. For instance, when sitting in public spaces like restaurants or café, one may observe a few people there by critically interpreting their posture, gestures, and the way they move and speak. Guessing their mood, feelings, and the way they speak can help in improving paraverbal skills by being critical and observant.