Words Do Matter – Busting the Mehrabian Myth

On Twitter I got a link to a great video by CreativityWorks, Busting the Mehrabian Myth (video is below). So, what is the Mehrabian Myth then? Olivia Mitchell writes about in Why the stickiest idea in presenting is just plain wrong:

The stickiest idea in presenting and public speaking is that the meaning of your message is communicated by:
* Your words 7%
* Your tone of voice 38%
* Your body language 55%.
These figures are based on a formula first proposed by Albert Mehrabian in 1967.

I think we have all heard these numbers in connections with presentations, that How (tone, body) is more important than What (words, content). But Albert Mehrabian makes a reservation:

Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable

Max Atkinson’s Blog: Body language and non-verbal communication has a great cartoon strip and raises these questions:
1. How come it’s much easier to have a conversation with a blind person than with someone who’s completely deaf?
2. How come we can have perfectly good conversations in the dark?
3. How come telephones and radio have been such spectacular successes?
4. How come we have to work so hard to learn foreign languages?

I had taken the formula more or less for granted (heard it often) and I am pleased to see that I was wrong. Words do matter!

Busting the Mehrabian Myth – video

Read more:
Albert Mehrabian’s studies in nonverbal communication : Speaking about Presenting
Create Your Communications Experience: The Visual Dominates – Mehrabian Revisited
Six Minutes – Best Public Speaking Tips and Techniques: Weekend Review [2009-06-06]
Albert Mehrabian – Wikipedia
YouTube – Mehrabian Myth! WORDS DO MATTER!

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

Comments

  1. says

    Apparently I was asleep at that lecture because I was never persuaded that words don’t matter. The older I get the less I value what goes on at universities.

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