Subjective Communication Methods

Reference & Education

  • Author Emily Loy
  • Published July 8, 2022
  • Word count 1,549

The idiom “actions speak louder than words” is most closely derived from the 1692 book Will and Doom where “actions are more significant than words” was initially written (Actions Speak Louder Than Words | Phrase Definition, Origin & Examples, n.d.). Conversely, words being deemed as more significant was held as a belief in an earlier, 1628 record of the proceedings of the UK parliament (Martin, n.d.). “A word fitly spoken in season is like an Apple of Gold set in Pictures of Silver” was documented to emphasize the utter importance of words– which was written under Christian belief. The earliest record claim of the idiom was dated back to the 1200s when the phrase was spoken through a sermon (Actions Speak Louder Than Words, n.d.). The concept has been accepted and adopted as an inherent notion continuing to present-day time.

To contradict the idiom, Promise Opoku-Yeboah wrote in 2022, “there are different ways to realize people’s intentions and that is with their words” (p. 1). This is a stark contrast to the original phrase; it’s an unpopular opposing view to the common idiom. Opoku-Yeboah claimed words to have a higher significance, which was later argued with two main common situations. Within both examples, she emphasizes how “faking” an action may come with ease, while words are a representation of the ‘truth’; “faking” is defined as a negative interaction, despite situational justification for this “faking.” In this case, credibility is the root of the focus. With the idea that words are the foundation of communication, Promise then stated that verbal communication has more impact than actions under most realistic circumstances.

A study conducted in 1987 examined the relationship between the communication styles of physicians and the satisfaction of the patients (Buller & Buller, 1987, p. 375). The study concluded there was a positive relationship between affiliative and noncontrolling communication styles with patient satisfaction, comfort, cooperation, and lower levels of anxiety concerning the physician visit. The variable demonstrated here is one of the patients’ needs being met as opposed to the validity of the physicians’ communication forms–those forms being verbal, nonverbal, and visual; “nonverbal” refers to “actions” as “verbal” refers to “words” (3 Main Types of Communication | A-State Online, 2016). “Verbal” communication defines the use of a spoken or written language. “Nonverbal” communication is the representation of internal goals, desires, or personal feelings displayed by facial expression, movement, use of an environment, and other physical displays of information. “Visual” cues use aids to convey information with graphs, drawings, signs, and similar tangible forms. The data gathered from the study supports the notion that among the three methods–verbal, nonverbal, and visual–none prove to be more effective our “louder.” Loud forms of communication equate to effective methods or ones that produce desired outcomes. This term is used in the same manner as the idiom of interest. Instead, the volume–or significance–attributed to the methods of communication is subjective and based on personal preference, experiences, needs, intimidation levels, goals, desires, past relevant relationships, and emotional responses (Buller M. & Buller D., 1987, p. 376).

Instances of preferred and more effective communication styles appear in cases of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) where visual aids have been seen to be the optimal method of communication (Hobbs, 2021). The visual aids promote structure, independence, confidence, interaction, and comprehension significantly more than visual communication would for the individuals (Visual Supports - Communication Tools, 2020). These positive outcomes fall under the possible causes for preferring a communication method, and the preference highlights the presence of subjectivity, rather than a universal “louder” communication method. Elizabeth Hill and Uta Frith (2003) further explicate possible causes for the inclination toward visual aids in individuals with ASD by describing the signs, consequences, roots, and statistics behind the disorder. “The clinical picture of autism varies in severity and is modified by many factors, including education, ability, and temperament” was stated by Hill and Frith, which acts as a list of applicable variables–or causes–when examining the roots of a preferred communication style.

Promise Opoku-Yeboah's first example in Words Speak Louder Than Actions demonstrated the common lies within a sport-related environment. They emphasize the importance of cooperation in these sports setting to win the said game, which was to be done through collaboration among teammates. Opoku-Yeboah (2022) states:

“No matter how nice everyone is or tries to be, it is just not likely that every teammate

will get along and love each other as coaches intend, but regardless of your feelings, you

have to play with your teammates and fake your actions so you can win matches and be a

successful team” (p. 1).

The introduction of intentions and natural emotions are now considered with conflicting verbal, nonverbal, and visual communication. It is plausible that one could deceive using all three communication styles to support a set intention, making the claim of a more effective or “loud” communication style unreliable and subjective. In the case of cunning actions (nonverbal) with truthful words (verbal), verbal communication can be thus deemed more effective.

Promise Opoku-Yeboah (2022) makes the following claim: “you can’t just start doing new behaviors to make it up to a person without using your words to communicate with them by addressing the problem and telling exactly what you won't be doing again to hurt them” (p. 2). Opoku-Yeboah’s claim is formed on the concept that a verbal apology is the only way to show one is sorry. Albert Mehrabian conducted a study on attitudes and emotions during discourse that produced his 7-38-55% theory (Albert Mehrabian: Nonverbal Communication Thinker, n.d.). Within this theory, Mehrabian found evidence stemming from his experiment that proved individuals take a particular liking to tone and facial expressions as opposed to the verbal content itself. “Mehrabian believes that the person receiving a communication trusts the element which most accurately reflects the communicator’s true feelings towards them.” The data from the study disproves the notion of verbal communication validity over the remaining two forms. In relation to Promise’s claim, it’s statistically more likely for a nonverbal message to have more positive feedback than a verbal message would produce.

To further support her argument, Promise (2022) proposed, “You can not have or take action without the power of words” (p. 2). This would suggest that acting without verbal communication is invalid and ineffective. A favored communication type is strengthened by, for instance, introversion. The physiology of introversion stems from the “nervous system in response to a potentially threatening stimulus” (Tsaousldes, 2017). These stimuli produce a sense of “potential threat to their credibility, image, and chance to reach an audience,” thus resulting in fear and avoidance. To prevent these–often deemed negative–feelings, (some) introverted individuals tend to gravitate toward less forward situations with confrontation (Campbell, 2016). As these forward interactions frequently bring about feelings of anxiety and anger with introversion, the information being delivered is deemed less credible; comprehension of information decreases if the communication styles of others aren’t the preferred ones. The effectiveness of an undesirable communication method is thus decreased by the listener’s preference.

The realistic approach to a “louder” communication method is embedded in the preference of an individual. Promise Opoku-Yeboah provided distinct, situational instances; they further explain a subdivision within the concept of subjective communication preferences. While “words” can “speak louder than actions,” context aids in the broadening of the phrase. Causes for the preferences are the roots of the variation and cannot be defined as alike. While a combination of the methods (verbal, nonverbal, and visual) has a higher occurrence rate than not, differing fondness isn’t unprecedented.

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Emily Loy is a high school student exploring her scholarly capabilities.

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