We speak Paralanguage when we gasp, sigh, clear our throats, change our tone, whisper or shout, emphasize certain words, wave our hands, frown or smile, laugh or cry, string vocal identifiers like uh-uh and ah-hah between our words, or speak faster or slower.
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So let’s look into the infographic below which was prepared by Easy WebContent, Inc and their team of Visme.
The study of what we now refer to as paralanguage soon made its way out of peer-reviewed journals and into the mainstream world of motivational speakers and self-help coaches.
What is paralanguage? And is it true that our bodies give away our secrets even though we have thoroughly researched and prepared our presentations?
Linguistic scholars in the last half century have concluded that communication goes far beyond the words we speak and into the realm of inferred messages and vocal qualifiers.
We are often advised that when it comes to getting our messages across to others, it is not so much “what” we say, as “how” we say it. Paralanguage is the study of the “how,” to put it simply.
It is a kind of meta-communication,
a code that translates the words we are saying into what we really mean.
We speak paralanguage when we gasp, sigh, clear our throats, change our tone, whisper or shout, emphasize certain words, wave our hands, frown or smile, laugh or cry, string vocal identifiers like un-huh and ah-hah between our words, or speak faster or slower.
Each of these actions tells our listeners something. They impact others emotionally.
Consider being at a funeral where someone is delivering the eulogy, for example. If their tone is even and their words calmly delivered, we listen at one level. But if they say the same words, but their voice breaks with emotion, our empathy rises.
If someone apologizes, but they spit out the words in a defiant tone, we do not believe they are sincerely sorry. If they speak lower and slower, and there is a hint of tearfulness in their words, we believe that they are indeed sorry.
One thing I want to mention since I live in Dubai, the Middle East.
Beware the Culture Caveat
The one thing that paralanguage does not do effectively is cross cultural barriers. Gestures that may mean one thing in Western cultures, for example, may mean something completely different in the Far East or Middle Eastern cultures.
American linguist John J. Gumperz tackled the issue of paralanguage and cultural identify in his 1982 BBC film, “Multiracial Brain Talk.” He points out that paralanguage does not cross language and cultural barriers.
As an example, spitting on a person is considered a sign of disrespect and insult in the North American and European culture. But in the culture of Maasai in Kenya, it is considered a blessing.
So I would be interested how high is your level of awareness that you active use Paralanguage? Practice is for sure the only way to improve and use it to a perfection. Join the conversation and leave a comment below the infographic.