Body Language Myth: The 7% – 38% – 55% Rule.

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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 any message 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.

Body Language Myth: The 55% 38% 7% Rule

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 ).

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About the author

Pic: Dr Gary Wood on TVDr 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. The book covers the basics of body language and other practical tips for forming positive first impressions His previous book Don’t Wait For Your Ship to Come In. . . Swim Out to Meet It has been translated into several languages including French (Changez Votre Vie). Registered with the Life Coach Directory

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