The Elements of Verbal Communication Skills

Communication is a broad topic. It involves both non-verbal and verbal communication skills. The non-verbal communication skills are crucial and we talk about them often. But, today, let’s focus in on the verbal side of things from the perspective of a person actually speaking.

How can we organize our thoughts about these verbal communication skills? It can help to break them down to their basic elements as we’ve done below.

Voice Tone

Voice tone is so basic that it can come into play even when you’re not uttering words, per se. Even when you simply make a sigh or laugh, your voice tone modifies how it is likely to be interpreted. When you do use words, the tone in which you say them can make all the difference.

Voice Speed

Speaking fast can convey an excited or agitated feel. Speaking slower can convey a steady, reliable feel. Speaking very slow can let someone know that you’re either bored or tired. If you’ve ever experienced someone speaking at a speed that is incongruent with the content of what they’re saying, you know how this can stand out.

Voice Volume

Volume can range from a whisper to a scream and everything in between. A very quiet voice can represent that you are sharing something you don’t want overheard, that you are being mischievous or that you are depressed. A very loud voice can express great joy or terror.

A humorous demonstration of the importance of using appropriate voice volume can be found in the skit below, in which Will Ferrell plays Jacob Silj, a man who was born with “voice immodulation,” a disorder that leaves him unable to modulate the volume of his voice.


According to Wikipedia’s page on Language, there are an estimated 6000-7000 languages spoken in the world. How many of these do you know fluently or at least in part? The more languages in which you have some level of competency, the more ways you can phrase things and the more diverse the audience to which you can connect. Depending on your position in the world and what you use communication for, you might want to put in the effort to learn a new language or two. But it can also be helpful just to know some of the key phrases in some of the most commonly spoken languages around the world.


Notice that it is only after focusing on some of the modifying verbal communication skills and contexts that we even arrive at a discussion of the actual words themselves. But make no mistake. The particular words you use do matter a great deal. As a verbal communicator, your words are your toolbox, your palette, your set of ingredients. The more broad and diverse your vocabulary, the more effective you can be in expressing yourself to others.

Word of the Day

Courtesy of lel4nd on Flickr

Some people go as far as reading the dictionary to really flood themselves over time with new insight into vocabulary. But you also could consider things like using a word-a-day calendar or signing up for a word-a-day email to learn at a more slow and steady rate. At the very least, as you go about your day, if you hear a word that you don’t quite know, take a few seconds to look it up. Over time your vocabulary will gradually improve.


Grammar is the set of rules for how words connect into phrases and phrases into sentences and so on. You could employ the most impressive vocabulary on earth, but if you put the words into an order incompatible with the rules of grammar, you will not sound very credible or convincing. And grammar varies from one language to another.

So whichever language you plan to use, make sure to learn the grammar rules that it requires.

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