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One thing that differentiates humans to animals is our ability to communicate using words. People has developed language with its phonological or sound system; its semantic system, or system of word meanings; and its syntactic system, which enables us to put words into meaningful sentence patterns. Fact is that verbal communication is essential in virtually all of our endeavors for all humans because we use these messages both in our private and public life. Both writing and speaking rely on the use of language through verbal messages.
Verbal communication comprises just one of the two major codes of communication, where the other is nonverbal communication. For our interest in studying verbal communication, there are five principles that can help us understand the dynamics of verbal messages: 1. Messages are Denotative and Connotative – The agreed-upon meaning or dictionary meaning is called the denotative meaning. Including a word in the dictionary, however, neither keeps the meaning from changing nor tells you the connotative meaning—an individualized or personalized meaning that may be emotionally-laden.
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Connotative meanings are meanings others have come to hold because of a personal or individual experience with a word. For example, the word “love” holds vastly different meanings for people because of their unique experiences with that concept. For Alice, love can be a wonderful feeling that she feels towards her family. However, for Nathan, love can be a sorrowful thing because his girlfriend broke his heart. With this, we can say that some verbal messages do not describe objective realities but rather express the speaker’s feelings about people or events.
2. Messages Vary in Abstraction – When we use words to describe things, we can often use words that can be general or specific. We can say that, in general, “love is a wonderful thing” as a general statement, while you can say specifically that “love makes me feel sweaty and jittery inside, like butterflies are in my stomach”. Thus, verbal messages can “vary from general and abstract to specific and concrete”. To convey effective verbal messages, a speaker must use words from a wide range of abstractions.
You can also use verbal messages to suit your needs, like using general terms when you do not want other people to know the gory details of your story. You can use specific terms when you want to bestow messages that can be easily understood by everyone. 3. Messages Vary in Directness – Anyone can give either direct or indirect messages, depending on the situation they are in. For example, teachers want their messages to be direct when talking to their students. When the teacher says “Stand up” in class, students must follow this direct message, which is a very clear and direct statement that commands them to rise from their seats.
On the other hand, indirect verbal messages can be used as not to offend someone. For example, when you see someone you knew has gotten plumper, you don’t say “you look fat”, but you can say indirectly that “you look great” so that the person would not get offended. 4. Message Meanings are in People – Words can be arbitrary because they have no inherent meanings; they have only the meanings people give them. With this, verbal messages can also change as any person can change his perception over time. Take for instance, the word “panty”.
As children, the word can just mean as the undergarment worn by girls. But as you grow older, the word “panty” can have sexual connotation for any man because it can produce kinky thoughts through their experiences. 5. Messages are Influenced by Gender and Culture – Verbal messages and its meaning are personal. Each person talks, listens, and thinks in a unique language (and sometimes several) that contains slight variations of its agreed-upon meanings and that may change each minute. This is why verbal messages are shaped by your gender and culture.
The uniqueness of each individual’s language provides valuable information as people attempt to achieve common meaning with each other. However, cultural and gender differences in verbal messages can often create problems in communication. This is why, when conveying verbal messages, one should be careful not to offend someone’s cultural background or gender. Verbal messages can be fascinating to use because you can manipulate it depending on your purpose or intention. However, verbal messages need not be obstacles to communication.
You can make specific changes in your language usage that will help you become a more effective communicator. For example, you can avoid intentional confusion in your verbal messages by being more descriptive so that people can understand easily what you are saying. You can also be more concrete by differentiating between observations and inferences. Finally, your verbal messages can be effective if you demonstrate communication competence in your interactions with other people.
Last Name, Author Name. Part 1 Foundations of Human Communication. Book Title. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year.
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