Paraverbal Communication: Meaning, Examples, and Activities

Paraverbal Communication examples

Have you ever had trouble understanding someone during a conversation? Maybe it was because they mumbled or spoke too fast, or maybe they just couldn’t express themselves clearly, but either way you were left wondering what they actually meant. This sort of experience can be frustrating, not to mention embarrassing if you misunderstood something important that the other person said. 

Paraverbal communication, often shortened to just paraverbal communication, refers to the aspects of nonverbal communication that occur when we speak – things like tone and speed of speech, facial expressions, eye contact, and gestures.


What is Paraverbal Communication?

Paraverbal communication refers to the nonverbal cues that accompany speech. These cues include volume, rate, intonation, and pitch. Paraverbal communication can either reinforce or contradict the verbal message. For example, if someone says I'm not mad, but they say it loudly and quickly, we might not believe them.

Paraverbal communication is the use of nonverbal cues, such as tone of voice and facial expressions, in order to communicate an idea or thought. It’s important to recognize that paraverbal communication isn’t inherently bad or good; it’s used in both negative and positive situations, depending on the situation and the speaker. However, 

When you learn how to improve your use of paraverbal communication, you can more clearly express yourself and understand the intentions of others in conversations.

Why Is It Important?

Paraverbal communication includes the pitch, volume, and rate of your voice. It can reinforce or change the meaning of your words. Paraverbal cues can also help you better understand the speaker. For example, if someone is speaking quickly, they might be nervous or excited. If someone has a low voice, they might be sad or tired. Paying attention to paraverbal cues can help you better understand the speaker and the message they’re trying to communicate.


Example 1. Facial Expressions

The way we use our facial muscles to communicate is an example of paraverbal communication. For instance, if you raise your eyebrows while talking to someone, you might be conveying surprise or disbelief. Or, if you furrow your brows, you might be communicating frustration or anger. Additionally, the way we position our mouths can also communicate nonverbally. For example, if we purse our lips while talking, we might be holding back what we really want to say.


Example 2. Hand Movements

Hand movements are a type of paraverbal communication. When we gesture with our hands while we talk, we add meaning to our words. For example, if I am talking about a big project, I might spread my arms wide to emphasize the size of the project. If I am talking about something that is important to me, I might gesture with my hands close to my heart.


Example 3. Posture/Movement (including body language)

Body language is a form of nonverbal communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space. Body language exists in both animals and humans, but this article focuses on interpretations of human body language. It is also known as kinesics.


Example 4. Auditory Cues/Keywords

Paraverbal communication includes the pitch, volume, rate, and quality of your voice. It's the way you say something, not just the words you use. For example, if you were to ask your boss for a raise using a weak voice, you're unlikely to get what you want. On the other hand, if you speak with confidence and authority, you're more likely to be successful.

Main types of auditory cues:

  • Pitch: Refers to the highness or lowness of your voice. For example, when we speak to someone we perceive as powerful or important, our pitch is usually higher than normal.
  • Volume: Refers to how loud or soft you speak.


Example 5. Tone of Voice

When we use positive words, we are affirming what we want more of in our lives. We are also opening ourselves up to receiving more of what we desire. On the other hand, negative words block our progress. They keep us feeling stuck and trapped in our current circumstances.


Example 6. Positive/Negative Words

We often use positive or negative words to influence the way others perceive us. If we want to be seen as friendly, we might say things like I'm so happy to see you! or What a great day! On the other hand, if we want to be seen as angry or upset, we might say something like I can't believe you did that! or You're really frustrating me right now. 

Paraverbal communication goesbeyond the words we use to include the tone, volume, and rate at which we speak.

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