Who is Albert Mehrabian?
If you need to know one thing about human communication it’s this: Albert Mehrabian.
So, who is Albert Mehrabian and why do you need to know about him? Briefly, he is an American Psychologist best known for his work on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal communication. In 1967, he published 2 studies dealing with positive and negative emotions experienced via three channels of human communication: Verbal (the words we speak), Vocal (our tone of voice) and Visual (our body language).
Findings about Human Communication
What he discovered when he combined the two studies was startling and still causes controversy. When we humans communicate, this is what we are paying attention to on an emotional level:
Verbal = 7%
Vocal = 38%
Visual = 55%
That’s right, the words coming out of our mouths represent a meagre 7% of our audience’s attention, whereas our body language represents a whopping 55%! You may have heard of this one: “In general, people need to hear a message 5 to 7 times before it sinks in”. That’s probably because people probably aren’t really listening, but you can safely bet that they are hearing and looking.
How much time are you spending on body language?
So, let me ask you this: When you are preparing a presentation or getting geared up for an important meeting, how much time are you dedicating to preparing your body language? Or your tone of voice? Most people will answer this one honestly with a big donut (IE: zero time spent preparing). So this is what it equates to:
Verbal = 7% (100% time dedicated to preparation)
Vocal = 38% (0% time dedicated to preparation)
Visual = 55% (0% time dedicated to preparation)
There you have it. You’ve probably been dedicating 100% of your preparation time to something that will represent about 7% of your intended message.
NB: There has been much misinterpretation and refutation about Mehrabian’s studies. Mehrabian himself felt the need to clarify that the intention of his study was to examine non-verbal communication in relation to feelings about a message, not necessarily understanding of a message. That said, it still demonstrates the importance of non-verbal communication, as an audience’s feelings toward the messenger is a valid and hugely important part to getting that message across.
How do you prepare your body language?
The next logical step is the perplexing question of how to prepare your body language and tone of voice. I mean, who does that?!
The answer is: We do.
Peers and Players Corporate Actors are experts in teaching body language and vocal skills to non-actors, to enhance every aspect of their communication arsenal. Whether that’s preparing for an important presentation, a critical meeting or telling your partner that you forgot to buy milk on the way home (again), we can help.
So stop spending 100% of your time on 7% of your message and get in touch with us!
About the Authors
Lisa Peers is the Founder and CEO of Peers and Players. Matt Stewart is a professional actor and project manager at Peers and Players. If you’d like to know more about how corporate actors can enhance your workplace training check out our Presentation Skills training.