On Formal and Informal Language in Communication

By Gabriel Raam.






There are two kinds of language in communications; formal and informal. The formal might be on any subject, usually not relating to what is going on at real time. While the informal language is only relating to 4 elements: what is happening – now, here, between you and me.
Here we live in a big paradox, for one would think that the formal is the main road, the important arena, and the informal is marginal. Well in this upside down social world we live in – it is actually the informal that carries the weight and being of the interaction, while the formal is functioning only as the scenery and décor to the message. The informal is sending signals mainly through nonverbal means*


and body language: subliminal signals, micro-expressions, Chronemics – (it is the study of the role of time in communication), proxemics (distances between people), ways of seating,

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(It is even possible to look at a picture of people and learn by observing the informal signals – about their relationship at the time**).

 I will start actually, by an example from the verbal arena: if one person is talking about something important and acute for him, and the response would be very short, like: “ok”, or: “I see” – the meaning would be – a negative message, not wanting to open the subject any further.

Another example (from the nonverbal arena) is about Chronemics: if one a person says something, and his partner takes three seconds until he responds, and his partner knows, subconsciously, from past mutual experience that he answers usually after one second, then a message was sent and a message was received, the message is: “i have a problem with what you said”, none of them know about it but the flow of the conversation is not fluent as before, and the atmosphere doesn’t feel so good. The fact that it is informal in fact makes it more effective, for it enters in without the rational-social conditioned mind – blocking it.

Another example is that a person that was seating all along with crossed arms, suddenly opens them (by distancing the 2 hands from each other) – this was the signal, the message is that he wants to be more involved and open to the interaction.


Another example is distances (proxemics): if during conversation one person distances his chair a bit backwards, or he leans backwards in his chair – well, there was a signal and a message; the moving of the chair, or leaning back, was the signal, the message was of wishing to be less involved in the interaction, and this is done while they are talking about nothing and no message is being passed; in other words: empty talk. In fact the verbal talk is taking the central place, but it is a cover-up job for the real signals that go on completely unnoticed.


So the interaction is completely subconscious, and totally effective. If there is a negative turn in the interaction -one of them, usually the highly sensitive one, might be  feeling not so good, maybe a bit inferior, a bit moody, he doesn’t have an idea at all that he received – negative informal signals which were blocking him. And it is the sensitive among the two which will be affected by the informal signals – the most.
Or that he might not even notice that there is now a limping communication between them, and if he does feel it, he would either put it on technical reasons, or dismiss it. And if he shares this feelings about the atmosphere in the interaction – the other might respond by saying that he is  too sensitive (as though being sensitive is something not good…), or he would say:  “you are imeginening things, everything is ok”.
Usually woman are more sensitive to the informal language, and more effected by it.

Without relating to the unnoticed informal signals, the whole atmosphere between them could go through up and downs, without them (sometimes even excluding the highly sensitive) knowing about it at all.



*Some facts in nonverbal communication

  • About 90% of all people create 90% of all their impressions during the first 90 seconds.

  • The verbal section makes only 7% of the whole impact in communication.
    The verbal part is what you say. While the nonverbal part is how
    you say what you say.


**Nonverbal photo analysis: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oCPKel2kQNreL62eQvEdiWdeLpvuw9AW/edit

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