The 7-38-55 rule: Albert Mehrabian Communication Model
How important is non-verbal communication? Your body language? There is a rather stubborn myth going around: that our words are only 7% of our total communication. This is Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 model. Is this just a myth or does it make sense? The answer is: both. Read along…
What does the 7-38-55 rule entail?
According to Mehrabian …
- 7% of people prefer to judge a message based on the chosen words.
- 38% of people prefer to judge a message based on intonation.
- 55% of people prefer to judge a message based on body language.
What is the criticism of this rule?
The criticism of this rule is simply that in all kinds of seminars worldwide this rule is mentioned as hard truth, while Mehrabian’s research cannot be repeated with different messages. You can read more about this on the Wikipedia page .
However, it certainly makes sense to use the 7-38-55 rule as a myth – as a metaphor – to remind yourself to also use your voice qualities and body language in your communication.
Pay attention to the way you say something
The verbatim message you use is only a very small part of your total communication. I can say ‘no’ to someone verbally while I smile and soften my eyes. The verbal message I give with that ‘no’ … is: no. The non-verbal message is: I am wonderfully connected with you.
So I communicate with such a lovingly brought ‘no’ that we get along well. And so you can communicate anything… non- verbally.
So also use your physiology, use of voice and imagery if you want to evoke a state of mind in someone, in other words: if you are guiding a formal NLP technique with someone.
You cannot lead people in a desired feeling with just words
If you guide someone else in a state of mind, you can just passively press verbal instructions – from an NLP technique, for example – and nothing will happen.
It is therefore not the intention that you hang on the couch and have a lifeless conversation with someone else. When you communicate – or if you apply a communication tool such as NLP, for example – you are active with your entire body.
If you want to arouse moods in others, do so with emotion, gestures, an active, dynamic voice and actively choose words that appeal to the imagination – imagery – and thus help arouse a mood.
If you are going to practice NLP in a practice group, don’t sit back and shout in an uninspiring voice, ‘Okay, feel your enthusiasm and confidence increase. Imagine there is a timeline in space. In the meantime I am sitting here doing nothing, but that doesn’t matter. ‘
For example, you will notice that when you use different tonalities – (such as when you speak slowly and meaningfully – people will more easily go along with what you are doing.
You will find that how you say things – for example in a smooth and strong voice – can influence how people feel about what you are saying! Even if the content is nothing at all!
If I talk very naggingly about * management *, then you already know how I think about management. I can say disapprovingly * POLITICS * or * phew, POLITICS * or I can say with fascination: * POLITICS *. A wonderful invention in which people organize things to make the world a better place. And sometimes we go forward a few steps and sometimes we go back a few steps, but at least we are moving. And we know we are embracing a process that allows us to take that journey … POLITICS!
Do you say in a very doubtful and uncertain way: * solutions? * Versus in a meaningful way: * solutions! *
So: use your whole body and voice in your communication
In summary: what do I want you to use if you want to arouse moods in people? Indeed. Your whole body, your whole voice and creative word use.