Chapter 5: Verbal Communication

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most of us have heard these lyrics from the old children’s rhyme, yet assertions such as these are problematic because names and words have tremendous influence on our lives. Words are not just used to communicate content- but feelings, attitudes, judgments, values, and perspectives. In this chapter, we will explore the verbal symbols- words and language- that we use to communicate with others. Specifically, we will cover what verbal communication is, its characteristics and function, and how to improve verbal communication competence.


Image 1: © Drew Fairweather/, printed with permission for use in Interpersonal Communication Abridged Textbook (I.C.A.T.)
(Image: © Drew Fairweather/, printed with permission for use in I.C.A.T.)


Essential Questions

  • How is meaning conveyed through verbal messages?
  • How can we improve communication competence with verbal strategies?

Successful students will be able to:

  • define verbal communication
  • explain how meaning is conveyed through verbal messages
  • describe the characteristics and functions of verbal communication
  • apply strategies to improve message clarity
  • analyze verbal messages and describe how meaning depends on the context (physical, relational, individual, and/or cultural) 
  • recognize the biases words can communicate and the power of words in communicative interactions 

  • Sections 5.0, 5.4.1, & 5.4.2: Interpersonal Communication Abridged Textbook (I.C.A.T.); Central New Mexico Community College; 2019; CC BY NC SA 4.0
  • Sections 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3, & 5.4.3: adapted from Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies; University of Minnesota; 2016; CC BY NC SA 4.0
  • Sections 5.2.1, 5.2.4, & 5.3.1- 5.3.3: adapted from Survey of Communication Studies; 2018; CC BY SA 3.0
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