Psychological insights , life coaching tips & tools from Chartered Psychologist and Solution Focused Life coach & author, Dr Gary Wood (includes PsyCentral Blog). Birmingham, Edinburgh, Telephone, Skype
If any body language ‘expert’ wants to prove the myth that words only count for only 7% of any communication I have a challenge.
Polish up on your open-gestures, upright, relaxed posture and perfect your smile, then next time you are on TV and get to say about 100 words, just work these seven words into the conversation and see exactly how much they count for. According to the myth, your words won’t matter, so let’s see.
Keep smiling and try it in church, at a job interview or to a police officer. Visit hospitals and old people’s homes. Work the words into a family member’s eulogy or at the bingo hall instead of ‘house’.
So your posture, gestures and lovely tone of voice got you through all of these situations without even the ‘batting of eyelid’ or the raise of an eyebrow? Thought not.
Now actually read the research and stop talking out of your ar$€ !
When we communicate we use words, the 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 anymessage we communicate and receive:
7% relates to the importance of the words we use
38% refers to the tone of voice and inflexion
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.
The often quoted figure that words only account for 7% of the message is a distortion! – Gary Wood
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!
For more on confidence-building, presentation skills and impression management, see Unlock Your Confidence (to read a sample see Amazon UK or Amazon USA ).