Planning Improves Vocal Fluency and the Appearance of Concern When Communicating Emotional Support
Emotional support is often conveyed to people with cancer; however, not all support messages are effective, leading some potential supporters to fear appearing incompetent when communicating support. Additionally, nonverbal behaviors, such as vocal fluency, pitch variety, eye contact, and conveying concern, have previously been associated with support recipients’ outcomes and perceptions of speaker competence. This experiment determines whether these nonverbal behaviors can be increased through message planning. Participants were randomly assigned to either a planning condition or a distraction task condition before recording emotional support messages for a friend hypothetically diagnosed with cancer. Results showed that planners spoke with significantly more vocal fluency and conveyed significantly more nonverbal concern than nonplanners. Planners also used more eye contact and pitch variety than nonplanners, but these differences were not statistically significant. Results suggest that planning may improve some nonverbal aspects of communicating support, which may in turn improve perceptions of supporters’ competence.