When we communicate we use words, tone of voice and body language to get our message across and no doubt you have read about the 7:38:55 % Rule. ‘Popular sources’ state that these figures relate to the relative importance of the components of any message we communicate and receive:
- 7% relates to the importance of the words we use
- 38% refers to tone of voice and inflection
- 55% refers to the importance of body language/face.
That’s amazing. Except that it’s not true. This is not what the original research by Albert Mehrabian concluded.
It doesn’t relate to any type of communication. It is context specific. These figures mainly relate to a situation where we are forming an attitude (like or dislike) of someone. So the words could still be the most important part of the message. The body language and tone of voice are what we mainly use to assess whether we like the person delivering the message.
The other situation where non-verbal communication seems to have priority is where there is a conflict between the words and non-verbal stuff. If communication lacks congruence, we are more like to disbelief the words. None of this is the same as saying ‘in any communication’.
Often, in research, the context is everything.
If you found this body language post interesting, you might like:Things to do instead of obsessing over body language
[Gary Wood is the author of Unlock Your Confidence which aims to help people to develop their inherent abilities and relax about communication rather than obsessing over abstract techniques]