THIS IS THE SECOND OF SEVERAL ARTICLES FOCUSING ON PARALANGUAGE. AS I WROTE IN LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE, PARALANGUAGE IS A SUBSET OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION THAT COMPRISES EVERYTHING ABOUT VOCAL COMMUNICATION EXCEPT FOR THE ACTUAL WORDS BEING SPOKEN.
Okay, I’ve managed to unstick the Caps Lock key, sorry about that. Let’s try again.
As I wrote in last week’s article, paralanguage is the subset of nonverbal communication that comprises voice tone, volume, inflection, rate, emphasis, accent, articulation differences, and everything else about vocal communication — except for the actual words being spoken. It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
I expect you read the first paragraph, the part in all caps, as shouted. It’s very bad Internet etiquette to communicate in all caps, because your audience hears the words being shouted in their heads when they read it, regardless of the content of the message. Whether on or offline, shouting your way through a conversation tends to put people off, even if you’re using respectful and intelligent words.
Shouting isn’t always bad, of course. It’s perfectly acceptable in outdoor play scenarios, for example. In 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills, Lawrence Shapiro writes, “There are three basic voice volumes – soft, normal, and loud – and each is appropriate for different situations. When you use the best voice for a situation, you are also using self-control.”
It’s hard to correct a young person for speaking too loudly when they are doing it out of barely contained enthusiasm. You don’t want to respond to enthusiasm with negative reinforcement. So this week, try Miss Vanessa’s quiet-in-the-music-room trick: if a student came into the music room shouting at me, I would respond by whispering. Try it on your own kids. How do they respond?
RECOMMENDED: 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills by Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D.
Vanessa Farkas is a writer, musician, educator, and lifetime learner who worked at the Phoenix Education Foundation as a music teacher from 2010-2018 and has left to retrain and pursue a new career as a legal assistant. Her eight years at Phoenix have left her enriched with experiences and stories, and this series blends those stories and experiences with practical advice and perspectives on helping children develop social skills. Names have been changed.