What is an example of a Paraverbal message?

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What is an example of a Paraverbal message?

Paraverbal communication is a fascinating and often overlooked aspect of our daily interactions. It refers to the way we convey meaning through the tone, pitch, volume, and speed of our voices, rather than the actual words we speak. Understanding and mastering paraverbal communication can significantly enhance your ability to communicate effectively. In this article, we’ll dive into the intricacies of paraverbal communication, provide examples, and offer insights into why it’s an essential skill to develop.

Understanding Paraverbal Communication

Before we can appreciate the examples of paraverbal messages, it’s crucial to fully grasp what paraverbal communication entails.

Verbal vs. Paraverbal: The Distinction

Verbal communication is all about the words we choose. It’s the content of the message. Paraverbal communication, on the other hand, refers to how we say those words – the vocal cues that accompany speech. It’s not about the text, but the subtext.

Components of Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal communication is composed of three primary elements:

  • Tone: The emotional quality of your voice that reveals your feelings or attitude.
  • Pitch: The highness or lowness of your voice, which can signal different meanings or emotional states.
  • Volume: How loud or soft you speak, which can convey intensity, confidence, or subtlety.
  • Rate: The speed at which you talk, which can affect how your message is received and understood.

Understanding and controlling these elements can significantly affect the clarity and effectiveness of your communication.

Examples of Paraverbal Messages

To illustrate the concept of paraverbal communication, let’s consider some practical examples.

The Power of Tone

Imagine saying the phrase “I’m fine” in two different ways. In the first instance, your voice is flat and monotonous, barely above a whisper. In the second, it’s bright and buoyant, with a higher pitch. The words are the same, but the message is vastly different due to the tone of voice. The first suggests you’re anything but fine, perhaps even upset or disinterested, while the second convincingly communicates genuine contentment.

Pitch Variations

Now, consider a manager giving feedback. If the manager says “Great job on the presentation” in a high, enthusiastic pitch, it’s received as sincere praise. Conversely, if the same words are spoken in a low, steady pitch, it might come off as sarcasm or disinterest, regardless of the manager’s intention.

Volume Speaks Volumes

Volume can also convey a paraverbal message. A softly spoken “thank you” at the end of a conversation can express genuine gratitude and humility. But the same “thank you” said loudly and forcefully may be perceived as sarcastic or even aggressive.

Rate and Rhythm

The rate at which you speak can impact your message, too. A rapid-fire delivery might be perfect for expressing excitement or urgency but could be overwhelming or convey anxiety. Speaking too slowly, on the other hand, might bore your listener or suggest a lack of confidence.

The Significance of Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal communication plays a pivotal role in how our messages are interpreted. Let’s explore its significance.

Conveying Emotions and Attitudes

Our paraverbal cues often reveal our true feelings, sometimes even betraying our words. When someone’s voice cracks while saying “I’m not hurt,” the paraverbal message is clear: there is hurt despite the verbal denial.

Enhancing or Undermining Verbal Messages

Paraverbal communication can either reinforce what we’re saying or completely undermine it. A confident tone can bolster a statement, while a hesitant tone can make even a factual statement seem doubtful.

Cultural Variations

It’s important to note that paraverbal communication can vary greatly across cultures. For instance, the appropriate volume for a friendly conversation in one culture might be considered shouting in another.

Paraverbal Communication in Different Contexts

Paraverbal communication is not only crucial in personal interactions but also plays a significant role in various professional settings.

In Customer Service

Customer service representatives rely heavily on paraverbal cues to provide a positive experience. A warm, friendly tone can calm an irate customer, while a monotonous voice might exacerbate their frustration.

During Presentations

A speaker’s paraverbal cues can captivate an audience or leave them disengaged. A dynamic range of pitch and volume can emphasize key points and keep listeners interested.

In Virtual Communication

With the rise of remote work and virtual meetings, paraverbal communication has become even more critical. Without the benefit of visual cues, paraverbal messages carry extra weight in conveying sincerity, professionalism, and engagement.

Improving Paraverbal Communication Skills

Improving your paraverbal communication can have a profound impact on your interpersonal effectiveness. Here are some tips:

Awareness and Practice

Start by becoming more aware of your own paraverbal habits. Record yourself speaking and listen critically to the tone, pitch, volume, and rate. Practice adjusting these elements to convey different emotions or attitudes.

Feedback and Adaptation

Seek feedback from others about your paraverbal communication. Be open to making adjustments based on their perceptions and the context of your interactions.

Continuous Learning

Take advantage of resources like public speaking courses, voice coaching, or communication workshops to refine your skills.

The Challenges of Paraverbal Communication

While paraverbal communication is a powerful tool, it also presents challenges.


Without visual cues or the ability to clarify, paraverbal messages can be easily misinterpreted. It’s essential to ensure your vocal cues match your intended message.

Overreliance on Words

In a world increasingly reliant on text-based communication, we may neglect the development of our paraverbal skills. It’s important to balance both verbal and paraverbal elements in our communication repertoire.

Technological Barriers

Poor audio quality during phone calls or virtual meetings can distort paraverbal cues, making clear communication more challenging.


Paraverbal communication is a subtle yet powerful aspect of human interaction. By mastering the nuances of tone, pitch, volume, and rate, we can enhance our ability to communicate effectively and authentically. Whether in personal relationships, customer service, or leadership roles, understanding and leveraging paraverbal messages can lead to more meaningful and successful interactions.

Remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that counts. So the next time you’re preparing to deliver a message, consider not only the words you’ll use but also the paraverbal cues that will accompany them. It’s the harmony of verbal and paraverbal communication that truly makes your message resonate.