Paralanguage is how you say what you're saying; that is, paralanguage is everything in your voice besides the words. While some definitions of paralanguage include other nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures, others include only vocal characteristics in defining paralanguage. When a person speaks, tone of voice, pitch, rhythm, tempo, intensity (loudness), emotional content and vocal segregates such as an "uh-huh" from the speaker or listener are all aspects of paralanguage. It's not what you say, it's how you say it that catches people's attention, and listeners are more likely to believe what your voice is telling them than your words.
When speaking, a person's voice has many qualities: articulation, nasality, accent, pitch, range of voice and resonance. Listeners will perceive a variety of subconscious clues in vocal qualities: A person speaking overly loud will seem aggressive and overbearing; a person speaking slightly faster than normal will seem confident and knowledgeable; and a person burbling with laughter while speaking will seem joyful and happy. Knowing how emotional content is conveyed and perceived via paralanguage can help anyone improve their communication skills, as nonverbal communication is even more important to getting a message across than the words used.
Vocal characteristics include tone variations, inflections, the speed at which you speak, whether your voice projects and whatever emotion you may be conveying through tone and infection and so on. Words and phrases can mean entirely different things depending on which words are emphasised by the inflection of your voice. A speaker's ability to balance these nonverbal indicators to enhance the meaning of words and message cannot be overstated. Those who use their voice in their work (teachers, lawyers, actors) often receive some voice training to aid them professionally.
Types of voice qualifiers are expressed by listeners using a broad spectrum of descriptions: bright, soft, round, light, cold or hot, strength or weakness, breathy, texture, thick, old or childlike and attitude (angry, chilling, seductive, convincing). Intensity of voice matters to listeners, if your voice is too loud or soft. Whether a voice is pitched high or low will convey meaningful clues to listeners as well. A voice qualifier is the style of speech used, yelling out a phrase or whispering under the breath.
Voice segregates are all the noises listeners make to signify that they are listening: "uh-huh" or "um" or silences. While no one pays much conscious attention to voice segregates, speakers will note them unconsciously if not otherwise. Silences can often make North Americans uncomfortable to the point where they will say something just to avoid the silence, occasionally saying more than they would like.
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