Tower of Babel’s Confused Languages

National Association of Christian Ministers How to Series: Ministry #

By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder

Verbal Communication Defined

It does not seem possible to consciously exist in an environment where communication on some level does not transpire through the interpretation of external stimuli. However, to attach the word “verbal” to the concept of communication is to qualify the transference of messages by the use of words. Penrose and Rasberry (2008) classify verbal communication into four categories: “jargon and slang, acronyms, humor, and vocabulary and grammar” (p. 21). Within these sections, words are the central theme. It is true that humor can result without words, but it usually accompanies a series of articulated ideas. All the other before listed are completely dependent upon the presence of words. It seems that meaning can exist without words, but words do not seem to be able to exist without meaning. Words without meaning would merely be sounds or grunts like that which may be expected of Neanderthals. Without distracting this discussion into an epistemological discussion of meaning, it seems safe to conclude that verbal communication requires the company of words. At any rate, verbal communication offers the communicator the most objective control over the meaning of a message through the selection of words.

Nonverbal Communication Defined

Robins and Judge (2009) define nonverbal communication as “body movements, the intonations or emphasis we give to words, facial expressions, and the psychical distance between the sender and the receiver” (p. 357). Nonverbal communication results in the cognitive interpretation of external stimuli in conjunction with a comparative analysis of the recipient’s previous experiences. This form of communication can take place with or without any intent of the transmitter or the recipient. The sender has less control over the meaning of a communicated message because it is subject to the recipient’s subjective interpretation.

In Context

Locker and Kaczmarek (2007) identify verbal communication as taking place in “face to face phone calls…meetings…E-mail and voice-mail messages…letters and memos…[and] reports” (p. 3). In addition Locker and Kaczmarek (2007) identify nonverbal communication as manifesting in “pictures…company logos…gestures and body language…who sits where at a meeting…[and] how long someone keeps a visitor waiting” (p.3). Clearly there are necessary uses for both forms of communication, in fact as demonstrated above, neither can be escaped in the world of business.



Societies are made up of cultures, even sub-cultures within organizations. Globally speaking, there are two major communicatory types of cultures: high-context and low-context. Robbins and Judge (2009) define high-context cultures as relying “heavily on nonverbal and subtle situational cues in communicating with others” and low-context cultures as relying “essentially on words to convey meaning” (p. 374). High-context cultures are indigenous of communities with long-term relations that have developed customs with regard to everyday activities. In contrast, low-context cultures tend to be legalistic, with more short term relations that rely heavily upon verbal exchange (Satterlee & Robinson, 2008, p. 44-45). Generally speaking, America is a low-context culture that prefers verbal communication. Businesses are operated under written contracts, and attorneys are employed to uphold them. By and large, corporate America is a bureaucracy with strict protocols and managers positioned to follow them. It seems difficult to think that this social structure could be changed. Clearly, verbal communication is paramount to the American audience.


Reflective Questions:

What is the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication?

How can a leader advantage be monitoring their use of these forms of communication?

Can you think of a time when Jesus used nonverbal communication?



Locker, K., & Kaczmarek, S. (2007). Communication: Building Critical Skills. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Penrose, J. M., Rasberry, R. W., & Myers, R. J. (2008). Business communication for managers: An advanced approach. In J. M. Penrose, R. W. Rasberry, R. J. Myers, & R. W. Rasberry, Liberty MBA effective executive communication (2nd ed.). United States: Thompson.

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (Liberty University ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Satterlee B., & Robinson, J. (2008). Global business: From theory to practice. Roanoke, Virginia: Synergistics Publishing.