The 93% Impact of Nonverbal Communication

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

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How do we send, receive and evaluate messages? Is the message you want to send, the message that is likely to be received?  Studies show that spoken words account for only 7% of the total meaning of our communication; 93% of communication is nonverbal!

Verbal versus Nonverbal Communication

Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D., is known for his studies on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal communication.  He formulated the 7%-38%-55% rule: 7% of the total meaning of our communication is from spoken words, 38% is from vocal variables (such as voice tone) and 55% is visual (such as facial expressions).  According to Mehrabian, wordless messages impact 93% of our communication effectiveness.  Please note that some studies refute this formula, however, it is clear that you should be very conscious of nonverbal communications.

Your actions, attitude and intentions are often more important than what you say.  Naturally, this applies to both your personal and professional relationships.

Communication= Verbal + Vocal (how you say it, the tone implied if the delivery of words) + Visual (body language, facial expressions)

Types of Nonverbal Communication

∞         Touch (a pat on the back, holding hands)
∞         Gestures (a nod, a wink)
∞         Facial expressions (a smile, a frown)
∞         Eye contact (direct versus indirect- up/down/sideways, blink rate)
∞         Body movements (smooth, erratic)
∞         Body language/posture (crossed arms, leaning forward, hands tightly clasped)
∞         Personal effect (clothing, hairstyle)
∞         Voice quality, tone, pace and noises (grunts, sighs)

Cultural and environmental factors (lighting, room temperature) also influence communication results.

Nonverbal Communication- Observe yourself, Observe others, Take action

Take an objective and honest look at yourself and others. Are you fully present with yourself and the person you are with? Are you sending, or receiving, conflicting messages? If you observe yourself in a closed body position, such as having your arms crossed, are you willing to uncross your arms and see what happens?   If you notice that someone’s body posture is closed, are you willing to open up a dialogue? For example, “ I sense that you might be uncomfortable, is that accurate?”

You may want to change a verbal or nonverbal communication habit by using a 33 day process.  Please refer to “2 Essential Guidelines to Create a New Habit” and “When your Relationships are Good, your Life is Good.”

Remember, words are important too.  Words have energy, and listening skills are critical for effective communication.  Very Smart Girls use verbal and nonverbal communication skills wisely.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

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