Adulting For Dummies
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Verbal communication is speaking to communicate your thoughts. To some, verbal communication comes naturally, but others may not feel comfortable speaking in certain circumstances.
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You might get nervous speaking in front of large groups of people, or maybe you would just rather listen and observe when you’re with your friends. This is perfectly normal, but for those situations when you have to talk, you need to be able to communicate what’s on your mind.

Phot of a woman smiling and talking to a man ©John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Effective verbal communication

The following are qualities of effective verbal communication.
  • Holding your tongue until you have thought about what you want to say. Consider what points you have to share before opening your mouth. Steer clear of embarrassing yourself or hurting someone with your sharp tongue when you speak without thinking.
  • Speaking clearly. When you have something to say, make sure you say it understandably. If you are in a habit of mumbling, try to pronounce each syllable carefully so others get what you are trying to say. Otherwise, people will tire of trying to decipher your words and will move on.Also, be respectful of the environment you are in. Do not talk too loudly when it is not warranted. Be mindful of the speed at which you are talking, as well. People will not be able to follow along if you are a speed talker and leave them in the dust!
  • Exuding a positive vibe. Express yourself in a welcoming manner — warm and enthusiastic. You do not want to be the negative person who is always complaining or criticizing others. Other people can find that exhausting to be around. People want to hang out with you if you are positive when you talk.
  • Knowing your audience. I am willing to bet the way you talk to your close friends is different from the way you talk to your boss. Keep this in mind when communicating with different people and remember to remain appropriate with each audience.
  • Asking for feedback during conversations. The only way you are going to know if someone is following along with what you say is by asking occasionally if they understand your point. You might say, “Does that make sense?”
  • Being aware of the give and take of a conversation. There is a delicate balance between talking and listening. If you begin to hog the conversation and talk too much, your listener might get bored and stop paying attention.

Brushing up on conversation starters

It can be a little scary to begin a face-to-face conversation, especially with someone you just met. Beginning a new conversation by asking a question is a great way to show someone you are interested in them and to get the conversation flowing.

Making “small talk” could lead to a more in-depth conversation. Questions to initiate a conversation include:

  • How is your day?
  • What brings you here?
  • Can you believe this weather?
  • What type of music do you like?
  • Seen any good shows lately?
  • What is your favorite food?
If you show genuine concern for and interest in another person and how they answer the questions, a great conversation could begin flowing because they will feel like they are heard and in turn listen to you!

Believe it or not, everyone likes to talk about themselves. If you aren’t sure what to say in a conversation with someone you just met, get them talking about themselves by asking questions. Before you know it, you’ll have gotten to know that person on a deeper level, and they’ll feel edified in the conversation with you.

Speaking without words

You don’t need to talk to communicate; a smirk or a smile can say volumes! Communicating without words is called nonverbal communication. Body language is what your body is involuntarily or voluntarily doing to communicate. Facial expressions, body posture, arm gestures, and eye movement can show your true feelings about a topic.

Here are some examples of things body language can communicate:

  • Smiling with arms by your side means you are happy and ready to contribute.
  • Crossing your arms gives off a vibe that you are not interested in a topic, disagree, and are closed off to what is being said. I cross my arms a lot when I’m cold. If you’re like me, it’s important to be aware of what your posture might be conveying to other people.
  • Biting your nails or playing with your hair shows others that you are nervous or anxious.
  • Resting your hand on your cheek shows you are eager for knowledge or you are evaluating your thoughts.
  • Rubbing both hands together can mean that you have lost your patience or are nervous about what is to come.
  • Avoiding eye contact shows you could be guilty, shy, or bored.
  • Resting your head on your palms shows stress, sadness, or exasperation.
  • Tilting your head to one side shows interest in the topic being presented or curiosity.
  • Placing your hands on your hips shows confidence and authority.
  • The direction your feet are facing communicates your feelings about the conversation you're having. If your feet are facing the person, it means you are interested; if they are facing away from the conversation, it means you are trying to get out of there!
  • Leaning away or back could mean disinterest or even fear.

When your words do not match your nonverbal cues, you could be giving off mixed messages. What you truly think and feel will always find a way to show. After all, actions speak louder than words. However, if a physical or mental impairment keeps you from mastering these body language expectations, just do the best that you can.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Gencie Houy teaches the Adulting 101 class at Texas Tech University and helps students learn how to live independently while teaching them the real skills they need for real life. She has many years of experience teaching Family and Consumer Sciences at the secondary and post-secondary levels and earned her PhD from Texas Tech University.

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