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NSE - Interpersonal Communication: Self-Awareness

The following lesson explores select topics in communication. Such topics include the communication process, self-awareness, verbal and nonverbal communication, self-monitoring, and building communication skills.


Kory Floyd states that "good communicators are aware of their own behaviors and its effects on others" (26). Awareness of your behaviors encompasses an awareness of your verbal and nonverbal communication. Let's tackle each of these elements.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the use of sounds and words to express yourself.  Spoken and written language can both be considered verbal communication as they both involve the usage of words to share an idea. Believe it or not, there are "rules" to language.  These rules guide how words are pronounced, the order the words should be placed in, what words mean, and how they can be interpreted.  The rules tend to be generally known and widely accepted within a specific culture (i.e. geographic location). Communicating in diverse environments can prove challenging because different cultures have different rules.  Additionally, the language used to convey meaning is often shaped by things like cultural norms, ethnic background, age group, and gender.  

Let's take a look at what happens when people use the same words that have different meanings. Click the play button below to watch “Language Differences” for more information about verbal communication.

As you can see, these individuals were using the same language.  However, the words have very different meanings based on each individual's background.  Keep this in mind when considering your verbal communication.  

Your language can also vary based on situational factors such as your setting, the nature of the conversation, and the person you are speaking with. Imagine you got into a big argument with your significant other. What language would you use to describe the situation to your best friend? What about a child or a grandparent? How would your language vary if you told the story on a cramped elevator, at a backyard barbeque, or in your professor's office? 

Simply put, the language you use is shaped by who you are and can adjust based on a variety of factors. 

New Student Tip: The language you use when communicating with faculty and staff should be appropriate to the higher education environment.  This includes face-to-face and electronic communication.  If you'd like additional information, watch this video on How to Speak to Professors. Once you finish watching the video, press the back button in the web browser to return to this page. 

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is defined as "behaviors and characteristics that convey meaning without the use of words" (Floyd 178). It includes things like facial expressions, posture, eye contact, and gestures. Click the play button below to watch “Types of Nonverbal Communication” for more information about nonverbal communication.


Sometimes, nonverbal and verbal communication occur simultaneously.  For example if someone asks you a question and you shrug your shoulders while saying "I'm not sure", you are relaying verbal and nonverbal messages at the same time.  In this example, your nonverbal messages are reinforcing your verbal messages. In other instances, nonverbal and verbal messages conflict with each other.

Let's say you are working on a group project with one of your classmates, Courtney.  Courtney is always smiling and greets everyone with a warm, handshake or hug.  Today, Courtney walks into your group meeting and does not smile or give handshakes or hugs. Instead, Courtney throws her backpack on the desk.  She is frowning, her eyebrows are furrowed, and her lips are pursed.  You think something is wrong, so you ask Courtney if she is okay.  Courtney responds by saying "Yes, I'm fine."  While Courtney's verbal message says nothing is wrong, her nonverbal messages suggest otherwise. 

This example sheds light on a few characteristics of nonverbal communication.  According to Floyd, nonverbal communication:

  • is present in most conversations
  • usually conveys more information than verbal communication
  • is believed over verbal communication
  • is the primary means of communicating your emotions

New Student Tip: Your nonverbal communication in the classroom can create a negative or positive impression of you. Click here to watch the nonverbal communication of a few students in a classroom setting.  Consider the impression that the professor has on each student based on their nonverbal communication. Once you finish watching the video, press the back button in the web browser to return to this page. 

Pause and Reflect

Now that you know a little more about verbal and non-verbal communication, consider your natural communication habits.  Think about the words you use and how you use them.  Also, consider how your natural habits vary based on your emotions, environment, the topic, and who you are having a conversation with.  

Use the following document to assist in your reflection.  To open the document, click on the blue link below.  Download the document to your computer and the chart as directed.  Be sure to save your answers and keep a copy for your records.  

Improving your Self-awareness

Increasing your self-awareness is an ongoing, ever-changing process. Gamble and Gamble offer the following tips to assist you in improving your self-awareness (Communication Works 62).  They suggest that you should:

  • Watch yourself in action: This involves continuing to examine yourself and your interactions with others. When you are placed in a new situation or environment, see how you engage in conversations.  Continue reflecting on your verbal and nonverbal messages and try to identify patterns of behavior. 
  • Ask how others perceive you: You ask your friends everything else; you might as well ask them how they view you. Others may observe strengths and weakness in your communication and shed light on things that you did not know. While you are listening to their feedback, know that you do not have to accept it as fact! 
  • Commit to self-growth: Once you've identified an opportunity for growth, capitalize on it.  Employ the tools and techniques (which will be the final topic) you have learned and continue evolving into a competent communicator.  


To proceed to the next topic, click the "Self-Monitoring" tab above. 

Gamble, Teri K. and Michael W. Gamble. Interpersonal Communication: Building Connections Together. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc., 2014. Print.

Gamble, Teri K. and Michael W. Gamble. Communication Works. 10th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.

Floyd, Kory. Interpersonal Communication. 3rd edition. New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2017. Print.