Its all about the wordsTypically, we think of verbal communication as the words that we use to convey messages. The reading for this week helps us see that other things may be communicated through our verbal messages beyond the actual words used. Our choice of words and how they are conveyed can have a tremendous impact on our interactions with others, including clients and colleagues in human services settings. In this first discussion forum for the week, you will review a fictional case study in which you will be asked to provide examples of effective verbal communication techniques in a human services setting.Read Chapter 4 (see attachment) of The Interpersonal Communication Book and review the summary information found on page 107. Last week we discussed how a cultural framework might shape the meaning or understanding of communication. What other factors may determine the message conveyed through verbal messages? Consider some principles of verbal messages that would be important for working with clients in human services settings. Would these principles also apply to working with colleagues or community members? Think about some guidelines that could help us communicate more effectively with others.Case Study: You have a new job as a case manager in an assisted living facility for individuals over the age of 65. Part of your job is to help new residents get settled in to the facility, including explaining activities that are available to them. You also try to help new residents become part of the community at the residence. John is a 70-year-old man who has recently moved into your facility. You discover that John has a slight hearing impairment which affects his ability to both communicate as well as participate in group activities, and you must consider this when interacting with him. Up until now, he has only lived in his own home. Using this case as your example, please address the following:Discuss two factors that are a part of verbal communication, beyond the actual words themselves that might be important in your first meeting with John.Using information found in Table 4.1 (page 94) of your text, provide two or three examples of effective verbal communication techniques that you could use to engage with John within this particular setting. Describe one communication theory that can be applied to your interaction (e.g., how you verbally communicate, how you perceive John’s verbal communication, etc.).Describe one communication theory from Week One’s required website reading (i.e., constructivist, attachment, communication accommodation, attribution) that can be applied to your interaction (e.g., how you verbally communicate, how you perceive John’s verbal communication, etc.).What do you think may make it more personally difficult for you to communicate effectively with John? Why do you believe this to be the case?Initial Post: Prepare a 300-word minimum reply that sufficiently addresses each of the items above. Don’t forget that it is critical to cite your sources of information, including the textbook, in APA format.
Unformatted Attachment Preview
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Chapter 4
Verbal Messages
Obstacles to communication are rarely insurmountable.
Chapter Objectives
4.1 Paraphrase the principles of verbal messages that define how verbal messages work in interpersonal
4.2 Explain, and apply in your own communication, the guidelines for avoiding the major misuses of verbal
language: intensional orientation, allness, fact-inference confusion, indiscrimination, polarization, and static
Principles of Verbal Messages
Guidelines for Using Verbal Messages Effectively
As you communicate, you use two major signal systems—the verbal and the nonverbal. Verbal messages
( are those sent with words. The
word verbal refers to words, not to orality; verbal messages consist of both oral and written words. Verbal
messages do not include laughter; vocalized pauses you make when you speak, such as “er,” “um,” and “ah”;
or responses you make to others that are oral but don’t involve words, such as “ha-ha,” “aha,” and “ugh!”
These sounds are considered nonverbal—as are, of course, facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and
so on. This chapter focuses on verbal messages; the next focuses on nonverbal messages.,c…tent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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Principles of Verbal Messages
4.1 Paraphrase the principles of verbal messages that define how verbal messages work in
interpersonal communication.
To clarify the nature of verbal messages and the meanings they create in the minds of listeners, let’s examine
some specific principles: (1) messages are packaged, (2) meanings are in people, (3) meanings are denotative
and connotative, (4) messages vary in abstraction, (5) messages vary in politeness, (6) message can be
onymous or anonymous, (7) messages can deceive, (8) messages vary in assertiveness, (9) messages can
confirm and disconfirm, and (10) messages vary in cultural sensitivity. Throughout this discussion you’ll find
lots of useful suggestions for more effective interpersonal communication.
Messages Are Packaged
Both verbal and nonverbal signals occur simultaneously. Usually, verbal and nonverbal behaviors reinforce or
support each other. For example, you don’t usually express fear with words while the rest of your body
relaxes. You don’t normally express anger with your body posture while your face smiles. Your entire being
works as a whole—verbally and nonverbally—to express your thoughts and feelings. This blending of verbal
and nonverbal signals seems also to help you think and remember (Iverson & Goldin-Meadow, 1999
( ). Social networking sites enable
you to package your messages with simple clicks of the mouse—combining photos and videos with your
verbal posts. Even in the text-only Twitter, you can post the URLs to photos, videos, and sites (for example a
blog post or a website) where you elaborate on your 140-character tweet.
You often fail to notice this “packaging” in others’ messages because it seems so natural. But when the
nonverbal messages of someone’s posture or face contradict what is said verbally, you take special notice. For
example, the person who says, “I’m so glad to see you,” but avoids direct eye contact and looks around to see
who else is present is sending contradictory messages. You also see contradictory or mixed messages when
couples say they love each other but seem to go out of their way to hurt each other nonverbally—for
example, being late for important dates, flirting with others, or avoiding touching each other.
An awareness of the packaged nature of communication thus suggests a warning against the too-easy
interpretation of another’s meaning, especially as revealed in nonverbal behaviors. Before you identify or
guess the meaning of any bit of behavior, look at the entire package or cluster of which it is a part, the way in
which the cluster is a response to its context, and the role of the specific nonverbal behavior within that
cluster. That attractive person winking in your direction may be giving you the come-on—but don’t rule out
the possibility of ill-fitting contact lenses.
When asked what they would like
to change about the communication patterns of the opposite sex, men said they wanted women to be more
direct, and women said they wanted men to stop interrupting and offering advice (Noble, 1994
( ). What one change would you
like to see in the communication system of the opposite sex? Of your own sex?,c…ent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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Message Meanings Are in People
Meaning depends not only on the packaging of messages (the combined verbal and nonverbal elements) but
also on the interaction of these messages and the receiver’s own thoughts and feelings. You don’t “receive”
meaning; you create meaning. You construct meaning out of the messages you receive combined with your
own social and cultural perspectives (beliefs, attitudes, and values, for example) (Berger & Luckmann, 1980
( ; Delia, 1977
( ; Delia, O’Keefe, & O’Keefe,
1982 ( ). Words don’t mean; people
For example, if you wanted to know the meaning of the word love, you’d probably turn to a dictionary. There
you’d find, according to Webster’s: “the attraction, desire, or affection felt for a person who arouses delight or
admiration.” But where would you turn if you wanted to know what Pedro means when he says, “I’m in
love”? Of course, you’d turn to Pedro to discover his meaning. It’s in this sense that meanings are not in
words but in people. Consequently, to uncover meaning, you need to look into people and not merely into
Also recognize that as you change, you also change the meanings you create. That is, although the message
sent may not have changed, the meanings you created from it yesterday and the meanings you create today
may be quite different. Yesterday, when a special someone said, “I love you,” you created certain meanings.
But today, when you learn that the same “I love you” was said to three other people, or when you fall in love
with someone else, you drastically change the meanings you draw from those three words.
Because meanings are in people—and each person is unique and different from every other person—no word
or message will mean the same thing to two different people. And this is why, for example, the same message
may be perceived as controlling by one person and as a simple request by another. As you can appreciate, this
type of misunderstanding can easily lead to interpersonal conflict if we fail to recognize that the meaning is
not in the words; it’s in the person. As a result, check your perceptions of another’s meanings by asking
questions, echoing what you perceive to be the other person’s feelings or thoughts, and seeking elaboration
and clarification.
Meanings Are Denotative and Connotative
Consider a word such as death. To a doctor, this word may mean the moment at which the heart stops
beating. This is denotative meaning—a rather objective description of an event. To a mother whose son has
just died, however, the word means much more. It recalls the son’s youth, his ambitions, his family, his
illness, and so on. To her, the word is emotional, subjective, and highly personal. These emotional, subjective,
and personal associations are the word’s connotative meaning. The denotation
( of a word is its objective
definition; the connotation ( is its
subjective or emotional meaning. Take another example: compare the term migrant (to designate Mexicans
coming into the United States to better their economic condition) with the term settlers (to designate
Europeans who came to the United States for the same reason) (Koppelman, 2005
( ). Although both terms describe
essentially the same activity (and are essentially the same denotatively), one is often negatively evaluated and
the other is more often positively valued, and so these terms differ widely in their connotations.,c…ent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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Now consider a simple nod of the head in answer to the question, “Do you agree?” This gesture is largely
denotative and simply says yes. But what about a wink, a smile, or an overly rapid speech rate? These
nonverbal expressions are more connotative; they express your feelings rather than objective information.
The denotative meaning of a message is universal; most people would agree with the denotative meanings
and would give similar definitions. Connotative meanings, however, are extremely personal, and few people
would agree on the precise connotative meaning of a word or nonverbal behavior.
Snarl words and purr words may further clarify the distinction between denotative and connotative meaning
(Hayakawa & Hayakawa, 1989 ( ;
Hoffmann, 2005 ( ). Snarl words are
highly negative (“She’s an idiot,” “He’s a pig,” “They’re a bunch of losers”). Sexist, racist, and heterosexist
language and hate speech provide lots of other examples. Purr words are highly positive (“She’s a real
sweetheart,” “He’s a dream,” “They’re the greatest”). Although they may sometimes seem to have denotative
meaning and refer to the “real world,” snarl and purr words are actually connotative in meaning. They don’t
describe people or events; rather, they reveal the speaker’s feelings about these people or events.
Similarly, the meaning of a given signal depends on the other behavior it accompanies or is close to in time.
Pounding a fist on the table during a speech in support of a politician means something quite different from
that same gesture in response to news of a friend’s death. Divorced from the context, both the denotative and
the connotative meanings of messages can be hard to determine. Of course, even if you know the context in
detail, you still may not be able to decipher the meaning of the message as the speaker intended. But
understanding the context helps and also raises the chances of our understanding the speaker’s message
Understanding the distinction between denotation and connotation should encourage you to clarify
connotative meanings (or ask for clarification) when you anticipate potential misunderstandings;
misunderstandings are almost always centered on connotative differences.
Messages Vary in Abstraction
Consider the following list of terms:
American film
classic American film
All about Eve
Understanding Interpersonal Skills
Verbal messages may refer to the objects and events in the world (in what is called object language) but also
to itself—you can talk about your talk, write about your writing, in what is called metacommunication,c…ent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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( . (The prefix meta- can mean a
variety of things, but as used in communication, philosophy, and psychology, its meaning is best translated as
about. Thus, metacommunication is communication about communication, metalanguage is language about
language, and a metamessage is a message about a message.)
Actually, you use this distinction every day, perhaps without realizing it. For example, when you send
someone an e-mail with a seemingly sarcastic comment and then put a smiley face at the end, the smiley face
communicates about your communication; it says something like this: “This message is not to be taken
literally; I’m trying to be humorous.” The smiley face is a metamessage; it’s a message about a message.
When you say, in preface to some comment, “I’m not sure about this, but…,” you’re communicating a
message about a message; you’re commenting on the message you’re about to send and asking that it be
understood with the qualification that you may be wrong. When you conclude a comment with “I’m only
kidding,” you’re metacommunicating; you’re communicating about your communication. In relationship
communication, you often talk in metalanguage and say things like, “You’re too critical” or “I love when you
tell me how much I mean to you.”
Metalanguage is especially important when you want to clarify the communication patterns between yourself
and another person: “I’d like to talk about the way you talk about me to our friends” or “I think we should
talk about the way we talk about sex.”
And, of course, you can also use nonverbal messages to metacommunicate. You can wink at someone to
indicate that you’re only kidding or roll your eyes after saying “Yeah, that was great,” with your eye
movement contradicting the literal meaning of the verbal message.
Increasing Metacommunication Effectiveness Here are a few suggestions for increasing your
metacommunication effectiveness:
Explain the feelings that go with your thoughts. For example, if your comments are, say, harsher
than usual, you might note that you are angry or frightened.
Give clear feedforward to help the other person get a general picture of the messages that will
Paraphrase your own complex messages to clarify your meaning even further. Similarly, check on
your understanding of another’s message by paraphrasing what you think the other person means.
Ask for clarification if you have doubts about another’s meaning.
In what ways do you normally metacommunicate? Are these generally productive? What kinds of
metacommunication messages do you wish other people would use more often?
At the top of the list is the general or abstract term entertainment. Note that entertainment includes all the
items on the list plus various others—television, novels, drama, comics, and so on. Film is more specific and
concrete. It includes all of the items below it as well as various other items, such as Indian film or Russian
film. It excludes, however, all entertainment that is not film. American film is again more specific and
excludes all films that aren’t American. Classic American film further limits American film to a relatively,c…ent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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small group of highly acclaimed films. And All about Eve specifies concretely the one item to which
reference is made.
The more general term—in this case, entertainment—conjures up many different images. One person may
focus on television, another on music, another on comic books, and still another on radio. To some, the word
film may bring to mind the early silent films. To others, it brings to mind high-tech special effects. To still
others, it recalls Disney’s animated cartoons. All about Eve guides the listener still further—in this case to
one film. But note that even though All about Eve identifies one film, different listeners are likely to focus on
different aspects of the film: perhaps its character development, perhaps its love story, perhaps its financial
Effective verbal messages include words at many levels of abstraction. At times, an abstract, general term
may suit your needs best; at other times, a more concrete, specific term may serve better. Generally, however,
the specific term will prove the better choice. As you get more specific—less abstract—you guide the images
that will come into your listeners’ minds more effectively. In much the same way that you use specific terms
to direct your face-to-face listeners’ attention to exactly what you want them to focus on, you also use
specific terms to direct an Internet search engine to narrow its focus to just those items you want to access
Messages Vary in Politeness
One of the best ways to look at politeness
( (consideration, respect, etc.) in
interpersonal communication is in terms of both positive and negative politeness. Both of these forms of
politeness are responsive to two needs that each person has: (1) the need to be viewed positively by others, to
be thought of favorably (that is, to maintain positive face
( ) and (2) the need to be
autonomous, to have the right to do as we wish (that is, to maintain negative face
( ). Politeness in interpersonal
communication, then, involves behavior that allows others to maintain both positive and negative face.
Politeness is considered a desirable trait across most cultures (Brown & Levinson, 1987
( ). Cultures differ, however, in how
they define politeness. For example, among English speakers, politeness involves showing consideration for
others and presenting yourself with confidence and polish. For Japanese speakers, it involves showing
respect, especially for those in higher-status positions, and presenting yourself with modesty (Haugh, 2004
( ). Cultures also vary in how
important they consider politeness as compared with, say, openness or honesty. And, of course, cultures differ
in the rules for expressing politeness or impoliteness and in the punishments for violating the accepted rules
(Mao, 1994 ( ; Strecker, 1993
( ). For example, members of Asian
cultures, especially those of China and Japan, are often singled out because they emphasize politeness and
mete out harsher social punishments for violations than would people in the United States or Western Europe
(Fraser, 1990 ( ).
In the business world, politeness is recognized as an important part of interpersonal interactions. In one study,
some 80 percent of employees surveyed believed that they did not get respect at work, and 20 percent felt,c…ent&clientToken=be370b55-199e-f65e-3e27-3f381d2ac07d&np=copyright
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they were victims of weekly incivility (Tsiantar, 2005
( ). In another study, workers were
33 percent less …
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