(2 minute read)

There’s a popular exercise we use during sales coaching workshops to highlight the importance of emphasis during a sales presentation.

It begins with writing the following sentence on a whiteboard with a marker.

“I never said I saw him steal the money.”

When we ask the audience to read it together, aloud, it sounds quite plain and uninteresting.

Then, we underline one word (let’s choose him) and ask them to read it together again, placing emphasis on the featured word.

With the emphasis upon the one word (in this case the gender) the whole sentence changes and comes to life. If it wasn’t him, it must have been her!

Such is the power of paralanguage; a component of communication by speech, which incorporates tonality and speed of speaking, hesitation noises, (hmmm’s and ah-hah’s) emotion and emphasis.

As a listener, we are searching for an alignment between the message being shared, and how it is being communicated (congruence).

We expect someone to increase the speed of delivery when they become excited while sharing a message.

A hushed or softer tone seems appropriate when something of a delicate nature is being shared.

These are all relevant examples of paralanguage and help illustrate the influence it can have upon our communication and how we are received and interpreted by our audience.

Regardless of your profession, your mastery of language and paralanguage can be the determining difference between being understood or misunderstood.

A different language is a different vision of life.

Federico Fellini

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