Class Activity: It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

Document created by Melanie McFadyen on Sep 21, 2018Last modified by Melanie McFadyen on Sep 21, 2018
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Objective: To examine the role of vocalics in shaping meanings.



  1. Working in pairs or small groups, have students take turns saying the messages below out loud as they attempt to convey one of the five attitudes of their choosing.
  2. Group members should try to interpret the attitude being conveyed.
  3. Debrief the students along the following lines:
  • Were some emotions easier to convey than others? Why?
  • Were some emotions easier to interpret than others? Why?
  • Did some emotions seem similar? Which ones? What does this tell you about the ambiguity of nonverbal messages?
  • What can you infer is the impact of vocalics on meanings?


Emotion                                            Messages

Matter-of-factly          1. “Can you go to the store for me?”

Suspiciously                2. “I finished class early.”

Amorously                  3. “I read your e-mail.”

Angrily                        4. “Are you going to have your tires rotated?”

Happily                       5. “Can you come by my office after lunch?”


Source: For more activities and resources, check out the Instructor's Manual for Reflect and Relate, 5th Edition, by Steven McCornack and Kelly Morrison.