Retro communication

How come we can have perfectly good communication in the dark?

I’m sure you’ve  all heard of the importance of body language and tone of voice in communication, and the relative unimportance of words.  Well, it turns out the 7% verbal (words), 38% vocal (tone) , 55% facial (body language) rule is often misrepresented as applying to all communication.  If 93% of communication is non-verbal then how come we can have perfectly good conversations in the dark?

You see, Albert Mehrabian findings apply specifically to the  communication of feelings and attitudes (like-dislike).   For effective and meaningful communication about emotions, these three parts of the message need to support each other – they have to be “congruent”.  In case of any incongruence, the receiver is likely to quickly spot the mixed message when the “words & music” are different.

In fact narrowing the application to the specific restrictions of Albert Mehrabian’s experiments, it only applies when,

  • a speaker is using only one word,
  • their tone of voice is inconsistent with the meaning of the word, and
  • the judgement being made is about the feelings of the speaker.

So here’s the payoff…  live with the dilemma.  Common sense tells us that words count for more than 7% AND experience tells us that we can spot incongruence in a flash!  Celebrate it as another triumph of reality over misinterpreted research.

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