Communication is more than just the words we say

Communication. We all do it all day long. We are constantly talking, listening, and engaging with others. I’m sure you are well aware that communication is more than just the words that are coming out of your mouth.

So what are the different ways we communicate? I like to refer to them as the 3 Vs. Verbal, Vocal, and Visual. Let’s briefly dive into each of these V’s.


This is the most basic. The actual words coming out of your mouth. The specific words that reach your ears. Each word has a defined meaning and you can typically understand what is being said simply by hearing the words. But would you believe me if I told you that this form of communication makes up just 7% of what we actually communicate.


This refers to the intonation of our voice when we speak, the fluctuations and tone of what we are saying. Try it out. Pick a phrase like ‘Close the door.’ You could say it nicely as in “would you please close the door” or you could yell “CLOSE THE DOOR” in which it would sound rude, demanding, or maybe even frightening. This could all be communicated simply by the tone in which you say the words. This form of communication makes up 38% of what we actually communicate. I dive into this more on this episode of the Blue Shirt Leadership Podcast.


Here we are referring to your body language and how you are able to communicate through the way you position yourself. Do you have your arms crossed? Frequently checking your watch? Leaning forward and focused on the speaker? All of these actions communicate something to those around you. And research shows that body language makes up 55% of the meaning of our communication.

I’m sure you’re not surprised by any of this. We’ve all sat in a meeting and watched those around us. It’s not hard to tell who is bored and who is engaged. But do you consider these forms of communication when you are the one talking? If you observe your audience, perhaps you can adjust what you are saying based on how your audience is responding.

Perhaps you sense that your audience is not on the same page as you are, or you have a gut feeling about a question to ask. Maybe you sense that you need to go in a different direction with your conversation than you’d originally planned.

I like to think that this is our intuition coming through. We’ve been observing our audience, we’ve watched the body language, we’ve heard the tone of voice, and we understand the words that are being spoken, and together these things lead us to ask the right questions, to move forward on the right projects, to hire the right people.

Good communication- the combination of verbal, vocal, visual, and intuition- will help you improve your leadership. Effective communication is important in the workplace and as the leader, you need to be aware of how your way of communicating is being received.

If you’d like to read more about how a balloon helped me learn more about communication, check out this post.

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