Verbal communication is often taken for granted because we can all speak, even if we are not good writers. However, effective verbal communication does not come naturally to everyone. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be learned with a bit of time and effort.

The Importance of Verbal Communication

Spoken words matter beyond just the clear exchange of information. Style and tone of delivery can also affect what is being said and how it is being received by the audience.

Speaking in person and over the phone clearly and concisely is an important skill for any leader to develop. In addition, a good leader must understand the difference between the two and other things that contribute to communication other than the words and phrases being used.

Face-to-Face Communication

Communicating in person can be one of the most efficient ways to convey ideas and open up the floor for discussion. It may not, however, be the most efficient way to give detailed information. Knowing the difference between the two can often mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to planning new projects and initiatives.

For example, it’s great to be able to chat face-to-face, but a rushed conversation as you are passing someone’s desk is not an efficient way to expect things to get done correctly. A formal meeting or an email would be a better choice.

Body Language

Your body language will say a lot about who you are as a person and what your communication style is. Careless body language can also undermine the message that you were trying to convey. If your body language does not match your spoken words, there can be a serious disconnect which can be confusing or suggest to people that you are not telling the truth or are in some sort of mood.

For example, if you speak and listen with your arms crossed in front of your chest, this could relay a number of negative messages. Your audience might think you are defensive, angry or disinterested, especially if you don’t look at them or turn sideways.

Folded arms also send out the signal that people are supposed to stay away from you. They might even indicate stubbornness or refusal, so that people may never ask for what they need because your body language already seems to be telling them no.

Act Natural

A more relaxed and natural body stance with your arms hanging loosely at your sides is a much more welcoming posture when you are dealing with people face to face.

When speaking, try not to fiddle. Practice stillness. Maintain eye contact. If you are in a large group, look around the room. Don’t pace, but do move around as needed. When listening, nod your head. Listen carefully. Don’t try to jump in to speak. Wait until the person has finished. Then repeat what you understand to be the essence of the question, in case anyone hasn’t heard, and to be sure you have heard correctly.

Tone of Voice

Tone of voice has a large part to play in spoken communication – both in person and particularly on the phone. For example, the sentence, “Thanks for joining us” could be sincere and pleasant-sounding if it is uttered at beginning of the meeting. However, if it is said to a person coming in 20 minutes late, with an emphasis on the word “Thanks” it can come off as sounding very sarcastic and perhaps even rude.

Similarly, “Thanks a lot” carries different meanings when spoken versus when you read it on a page. It can be an expression of gratitude, or it can be sarcastic. Tone of voice is key.

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