Tag Archives: paralanguage

Paralanguage at work: are you sending conflicting messages?

We also communicate non-verbally using what is known as paralanguage. This includes features such as “speech rate and intensity; pitch, modulation and quality of voice; and articulation and rhythm control” (Hargie et al. 2004, p. 55). Paralanguage is an important form of non-verbal communication when you consider situations in the working environment such as speaking to influence during meetings, business presentations and performance management of staff. This is because studies have shown that the effects of voice tone for example (particularly negative voice tone) make a disproportionately stronger impact on decoders i.e. those who decode the non-verbally communication, than the actual verbal content (Graham et al (1991).

Consider this in the context in the working environment in a performance management meeting between an employee and their supervisor. For example, suppose a supervisor needs to deliver a message to an employee they really like and enjoy working with, or alternatively someone who actually infuriates and angers them. The supervisor may feel a range of emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, apprehension, anger, or distress. As such, many managers attempt to hide their true emotions from their subordinates and this in turn sends hugely conflicting non-verbal communication. Its confusing because the message they are verbalising is inconsistent with the messages they are communication through their body language.

The overall message? Be more cognizant about the situation and make real efforts to ensure that the verbal and non-verbal communications are consistent with one another, as discrepancies can lead to miscommunication, distrust and frustration.

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