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Verbal Communication

  • The goal of verbal communication depends on the context of the situation. People verbally communicate for a wide range of reasons, such as: build friendships/relationships, share thoughts and ideas, ask questions, present information, tell a story, express their feelings, give instructions or provide directions. We live in an interpersonal world; the ability to verbally communicate and connect with people across settings and situations is an immensely valuable skill for people to master.

    Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life.

    — John A. Piece
  • Videos

  • Professor Peaches’ Tips

    The Power of Words

    The words people use when speaking have significant implications for how the person talking is viewed, how their message is received, and how much of the content is absorbed. The following are some common speaking styles that can either increase or decrease the likelihood of connecting with people and having one’s message truly absorbed.

    Long-winded responses / Too much detail

    While some detail enhances a conversation or presentation, when people share every small detail about something their audience often looses interest. Over sharing of detail often leads listeners to lose focus and think about wanting the speaker to “get to the point” or worse to simply “stop talking.” We need to provide just the right amount of detail to get our message across People can then always ask questions. Do not approach a situation thinking that you need to cover absolutely every possible point!

    Short responses / Too little detail

    Lack of detail can make people confused or uninterested in what is actually being said. When an individual provides very short responses it puts more effort on the other person to maintain the conversation; this process can be draining for the person carrying the conversation. It definitely is not fun! In addition, for presentations a lack of detail can leave an audience feeling frustrated. People attend talks to learn and if minimal detail is provided they may feel the presentation was too basic and not meaningful enough.

    Complaining / Negative talk

    Unfortunately, situations that are upsetting and frustrating do occur. However, focusing on the negative aspects and speaking in a complaining or gossiping manner is often draining for other individuals. Learning to express frustrations in a constructive and less pessimistic way helps bring people onside, as to opposed to pushing people away. It is not always easy to see positives in every situation; however, one’s ability to reframe situations in a constructive manner is a highly valued trait – both in people’s personal and professional life.

    Overly positive / Too optimistic

    Embracing a positive outlook often makes an individual both more approachable and more likely to be listened to. However, there is a limit. Being overly optimistic tends to make people feel frustrated and disconnected from the other individual. People often make a number of negative associations about individuals who are overly positive all the time.

    Word Choice

    While there are multiple ways of saying something, the actual words spoken can evoke very different emotional responses. For example, when responding to the question, “Do you want to see that movie tonight?” an individual could say, “No, I’m not interested.” or “I don’t think I’d like that movie, can we see something else?” Both replies answer the question, however, the second answer is softer and more pleasant. Thought should be given to the words used and the overall message that they communicate.

    Sentence openers

    Our reaction to hearing something is in part triggered by the words we first hear; we are conditioned to forming impressions almost instantly. Given that people have a much better response to positivity than negativity, effort should be made to avoid beginning sentences with words that have negative meaning. While it may seem that this is only trivial, it actually plays a big role in determining people’s reaction to what we say. An example is the two following statements, “No, I do not think that is the best decision to make here.” versus “That is a good thought, however, I do not think that is the best decision to make here.” Both statements effectively say the same thing; however the way they say it is very different. The first is very abrupt and harsh; it might make the person feel berated and increase the chance that they will not offer future ideas for fear of being shut down. The second is much more open and considerate; it acknowledges the suggestion and makes the person feel valued. It is the little things in what we say that go a long way.


    Being proud of one’s accomplishments and wanting to share them with others is a healthy and important skill. However, knowing when and how to share one’s successes is essential. If someone is coming across as being boastful opposed to modest, other people tend to ignore or feel frustrated with the individual. The boastful individual often will develop a negative reputation from others due to the person’s bragging tendencies; this perception can then be very difficult to change.