5.3.0: Functions of Verbal Communication

Since our existence is intimately tied to the communication we use, in this section we will address how verbal communication serves many functions in our daily lives. Specifically, we use verbal communication to define reality, organize, and think.


5.3.1: Verbal Communication Helps Us Define Reality and Shape Our Attitudes About Our World

We use verbal communication to define everything from ideas, emotions, experiences, thoughts, objects, and people (Blumer). Think about how you define yourself. You may define yourself as a student, employee, son/daughter, parent, advocate, etc. You might also define yourself as moral, ethical, a night-owl, or a procrastinator. Verbal communication is how we label and define what we experience in our lives. These definitions are not only descriptive, but evaluative. Imagine you are at the beach with a few of your friends. The day starts out sunny and beautiful, but the tides quickly turn when rain clouds appeared overhead. Because of the unexpected rain, you define the day as disappointing and ugly. Suddenly, your friend comments, “What are you talking about, man? Today is beautiful!” Instead of focusing on the weather, he might be referring to the fact that he was having a good day by spending quality time with his buddies on the beach, rain or shine. This statement reflects that we have choices for how we use verbal communication to define our realities and the way you use language shapes your attitude about the world around you. 


5.3.2: Verbal Communication Helps Us Organize

Consider the number of things you experience with your primary senses every day. It is impossible to comprehend everything we encounter. We use verbal communication to organize seemingly random events into understandable categories to make sense of our experiences. For example, we all organize the people in our lives into categories. We label these people with terms like friends, acquaintances, romantic partners, family, peers, colleagues, and strangers. We highlight certain qualities, traits, or scripts to organize outwardly haphazard events into meaningful categories to establish meaning for the world we live in.


5.3.3: Verbal Communication Helps Us Think

Without verbal communication, we would not function as thinking beings. The ability to reason and communicate is what distinguishes humans from other animals. In the 2011 Scientific American article “How Language Shapes Thought,” author Lera Boroditsky claims that people “rely on language even when doing simple things like distinguishing patches of color, counting dots on a screen or orienting in a small room…” In addition, with language, we are able to reflect on the past, consider the present, and ponder the future. We develop our memories using language. Try recalling your first conscious memories. Chances are, your first conscious memories formed around the time you started using verbal communication.


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