In the movie Hitch, the main character (Alex Hitchens) starts the film by stating that when a woman says no to a date she’s either saying “get away from me now” or “try harder, stupid” and it’s up to men to figure out which one she means. Hitch follows up with the statistic that 60% of communication is non-verbal and that tone dictates an additional 30%.
There are various schools of thought on how much communication is actually verbal. The most common statistic media quotes is that 7% of communication is considered verbal. Some experts feel that this is an oversimplification or misrepresentation of a rather complicated topic, however.
Regardless of what the actual statistics are, though, it’s clear that analogue communications, such as body language and paralinguistics, heavily influence the way we communicate with those around us in our everyday lives.
In this context, “analogue” means a type of communication that is similar in function to but different in form from other types of communication. Like verbal communication, analogue communications convey information, but they relay that information in a less direct way. Analogue communications sometimes go by the name “correlative communications” as well because they correlate with verbal communications.
Understanding how analogue communications influence your overall message can help you communicate more clearly and avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.
What Is Verbal Communication?
Verbal communication is the use of words or sounds to express yourself; however, this can get a bit tricky.
For example, writing and sign language, while not verbalised, are considered verbal communication, whereas a lot of the aspects of paralinguistics (aspects of spoken communication other than words) are verbalised but aren’t considered verbal communication.
Think of verbal communication as what you’re saying and analogue/correlative communication as how you’re saying it.
Types of Analogue Communications
Two categories make up in-person and verbalised analogue communication, both of which have already been touched on briefly: body language and paralinguistics.
Body language includes things like posture, proximity, touch, and gesticulation.
Imagine that you’re the hiring manager for a company. You walk out to the room where two applicants with the same credentials are waiting to be interviewed.
One is sitting up straight, looking alert, and smiling. The other is hunched over and has a straight face.
You haven’t spoken to either of them yet, but they’ve both conveyed some information to you. Even if it’s on a subconscious level, the body language the applicants are displaying provides commentary on how they feel about the job you’re interviewing them for, regardless of the accuracy behind the indicators.
Paralinguistics encompasses things like rapidity of speech, volume, accent, tone, and pronunciation, just to name a few, and they’re another correlative communication. They can provide indicators as to where your from, your mood, etc.
If you’ve ever seen the film My Fair Lady, the premise is basically that Henry Higgins, a phonetics professor, takes a young woman with a low-class accent and passes her off as cultured by altering her accent and diction.
Similarly, I’m sure we’ve all had a parent tell us not to take a specific tone of voice with them, where the issue wasn’t necessarily with what we were saying but with how we were saying it. Paralinguistics can affect the reception of information in a lot of ways, for better and for worse.
Other In-Person Analogue Communications
There are still some in-person correlative communications that fall outside of these two main categories. For example, your physical appearance is a correlative communication, as is how prompt you are. Similarly, the way you take care of and interact with your environment is an analogue communication.
Consider your desk. Is it clean? Is it messy? Keeping your work area clean and filling it with things you like indicates that you feel good about the area and that you care about its appearance. Conversely, letting an area fall into disrepair indicates a lower level of importance.
When people joke about “why we can’t have nice things,” it’s generally because of these sorts of analogue communications.
Your decisions on what words you use, how you decide to punctuate a statement, and what you italicize, capitalise, underline, bold, etc., reflect what’s important and contribute to the tone of your message beyond just the words, and that’s not even including elements like emoticons, which can add another level of communication.
While writing itself is a verbal communication, things like grammar and formatting are correlative communications. They can alter the meaning of what you say. Imagine you received these responses from a friend:
In a text or a chat, taking the time to add a period to those one-word answers gives the responses a negative tone—almost as if the responder were sending a sad-face emoji. Now imagine that the writer replaced the periods with exclamation points. Even though writing isn’t verbal, these examples show that decisions in punctuation create tone and context.
Why Do Correlative & Analogue Communications Matter?
Analogue communications and verbal communications are important because together they help you make more informed decisions. And they inform others on how you’re feeling.
Generally speaking, your brain processes verbal and nonverbal communications at the same time. Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that someone is lying to you or felt that someone was nervous? Usually those suspicions come from conflicting verbal and analogue communications.
Recognizing the nonverbal cues you put out, you can alter them to be more effective in your communication when you need to. Although a lot of analogue communications are difficult to alter, you can adjust things tone, appearance, environment, etc., with concerted effort. And knowing how you perceive certain analogue communications can help you better communicate with others as a whole.