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Published by: aziz_faryaz on Dec 03, 2009
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The sound of the voice (whether or not it is also making words)
is a very important part of non-verbal communication. The
loudness, pitch, rhythm and timbre1

of the voice all carry their
own messages, as do changes in any or all of them. So does the
rate at which the words are delivered, though this might be
considered an aspect of rhythm. Complex combinations of


Timbre is the tonal quality imparted to a sound by its harmonics, i.e. all
the frequencies present in the sound apart from its fundamental pitch. Notes
of the same pitch can have an infinite variation in timbre.


these five qualities can convey the attitude of the speaker, such
as a superior, timid, accepting or authoritarian attitude, as well
as many other fine shades of meaning.

Stress on particular words, or pauses in the flow of speech, also
convey meaning. Timing, too, is not only vital for comedians –
it is an important aspect of all communication, whether verbal
or non-verbal. Different accents, whether regional or foreign,
also influence listener responses – and sometimes
comprehension as well. Different accents include a
contribution from the sonic elements already mentioned,
together with differences in pronunciation of variable degree.

Sounds which are not from the voice at all, such as clearing the
throat, coughing, sniffing, snorting, sighing, giggling, a sudden
inhalation, a sudden exhalation, wheezing, noises from the
gastro-intestinal tract and so on, also contribute to the sum total
of the auditory messages which are being received.

Sounds from the environment are also significant, especially if
they are loud enough to compete with speech. Floor polishers,
leaf blowers, loud music and car alarms are some obvious
examples, but even a creaking chair, or a loudly ticking clock,
might be a distraction in some circumstances.

Finally, the absence of sound can be a powerful form of
communication. Indeed, silence can sometimes say more than
words. However, it must be used with care, as it is easily
misunderstood, and can be quite confronting when prolonged.
Extending a silence for long enough to encourage the other
person to talk, but not long enough to cause distress, requires
some experience and sensitivity, and must be guided, as
always, by the non-verbal clues provided by the other person.


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