Para language is the no~verbal “sound” of what we hear how something is said. We begin by describing the four vocal characteristics that comprise para language. Then we discuss how vocal interference can disrupt message flow.
By controlling the pitch, volume, rate, and quality of our voice the four major vocal characteristics-we can c implement, supplement, or contradict the meaning conveyed by the language of our message.
Pitch is the highness or lowness of tone. People tend to raise and lower vocal pitch to accompany changes in volume. They may also raise the pitch when they are nervous or lower the pitch when they are trying to be forceful.
Volume is loudness or softness of tone. Some people have booming voices that carry long distances, and others are normally soft spoken. Regardless of their normal volume level, people vary their volume depending on the situation and the topic of discussion.
Rate is the speed at which a person speaks. People tend to talk more rapidly when they are happy, frightened, nervous, or excited and more slowly when they are problem solving out loud or are trying to emphasize a point.
Quality is the sound of the voice. Each human voice has a distinct tone. Some voices are raspy, some smoky, some have bell-like qualities, and others are throaty. Moreover, each of us uses a slightly different quality of voice to .communicate a particular state of mind. We may associate complaints with a whiny, nasal quality; seductive invitation with a soft, breathy quality; and anger with a strident, harsh quality.
Some of us have developed local habits that lead others to consistently misinterpret what we say. For instance, some people have cultivated a tone of voice that causes others to believe they are being sarcastic when they are not. If you have concerns about your vocal-characteristics, talk them over with your professor. Your professor can observe you and make recommendations for additional help should you need it.
Although most of us are occasionally guilty of using some vocal interference (extraneous sounds or words that interrupt fluent speech), these interference become a problem when they are perceived by others as excessive and when they begin to call attention to themselves and so prevent listeners from concentrating on meaning. The most common interference that creep into our speech include the uh’s,er’s, well’s, and OK’s and those nearly universal interrupters of Americans conversation, you know and like.
Vocal interference may initially be used as place markers, filling momentary gaps in speech that would otherwise be silence. In this way, we indicate that we have not finished speaking and that it is still our turn. We may use an urn when we need to momentarily pause to search for the right word or die. Although the chance f being interrupted real (some people will seek to siren up at any pause), the intrusion of an excessive number of fillers can lead to the impression` that you are unsure of yourself or confused in what you arc attempting to say.
Equally prevalent and perhaps even more disruptive, is the overuse of you know and like. The you know habit may begin as a genuine way to find out whacker what is being said is already known by other. Similarly, the use of like may arras from making comparisons such as Tom is hot, he looks like Denizen Washington. Soon the comparisons become shortcuts as in He’s like really hot Finally, the use of like becomes pure filler. Like, he’s really cool, like I can’t really explain it, but I’ll tell you he’s like wow.
Curiously, no matter how irritating the use of you know or like may be to listeners, they are unlikely to verbalize their irritation. Yet their habitual use can prove to be a handicap in many settings. For example, excessive use of vocal interference during job interviews, at work, or in class can adversely affect the impression you make.