Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Max Atkinson de-bunking misrepresentation of Mehrabian's stuff

Max Atkinson, whom I bumped into in a bar at Middle Aston House many years ago (and who took the opportunity of my interest to flog me a copy of his excellent book Our Masters' Voices) has just posted a good post de-bunking the myth about verbal communication being only 7% of the meaning we receive (the rest being voice (38%) and body language (55%).

It's one of those 'facts' that buzz around the training world, repeated from trainer to trainer in a fascinating example of the authority of the Verbal Tradition.  Few who cite it can even name Mehrabian, let alone give any account of his research or his findings.

Of course it's rubbish, the way it's normally put across.  But it has some surface credibility, because it is demonstrable that non-verbal aspects of communication can, in some instances, affect (or even reverse) the meaning we try to put across with our words.

For me, the key is congruence: matching your non-verbal behaviour, use of voice etc, to your message: that is certainly powerful and effective.  But scarcely 93% of your meaning or impact or whatever the twits who peddle this stuff say.

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