Wednesday 2 December 2015

Reply from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust

In my recent post about the misrepresentation of Merhrabian's research (that stuff about words being only 7% of the way we understand communication), I mentioned that I had been told it was sourced from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. I looked at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust Website, and found it did not, in fact, quote these percentages, but did make the claim in words. I gather the text on the WWW is taken from their leaflet Keeping Safe: Dealing with Aggression. I concluded my last post by saying that I would write to them about this.

Therefore, I emailed as follows:

On your website, (here) you say that 'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.’ (your emphasis). I assume this refers to the work of Albert Mehrabian, but he himself distances himself from such claims, and puts important caveats on how his research is interpreted and applied. 
I think you should re-consider how you present this. If you are interested in my particular thoughts, I have just blogged about it here. 
I am writing to you, as I think the work you do very important - and therefore want to help you to do it as well as possible.
I heard nothing, so wrote a follow up,  
Did you receive the email below? 
I see that your website remains unchanged. 
As I said on my blog on the subject (here): I find this misrepresentation of Mehrabian's work bad enough in corporate life; but in the context of safeguarding, it is worse. For instance, if it becomes widely accepted as fact, what is to prevent a rapist claiming that, although his victim said No, 93% of her communication was saying Yes?... That cannot be a justification that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust would accept.  

I got an apology: my email had apparently been misrouted, and the promise of a fuller reply in due course. Eventually I received this:
Thank you for your email. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is a personal safety charity and we work to reduce the risk of violence and aggression for everyone. The information provided in the leaflet you have referred to aims to help individuals who are in stressful or difficult situations to understand the options available to them. The specific quote to which you refer seeks to highlight the need for workers who undertake difficult and/or stressful tasks to be aware of how their behaviour may be interpreted by the people they are interacting with. This will enable them to complete a dynamic risk assessment and take measures to defuse, de-escalate or exit a situation if necessary. This information is given to educate and empower individuals.  
Whenever a crime is committed, Suzy Lamplugh Trust is clear that the responsibility for that crime lies solely with the perpetrator. Everyone has the right to live their lives safely.
I hope that this alleviates your concern however if you have further questions please get back in touch.
I did not think that really addressed the issue I had raised, so I wrote again:
Thanks for your reply. 
I think you misunderstand my concern. I am well aware of the excellent work and reputation of the Trust. 
My concern is very simple. Your wwwsite says: 'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.’
I believe that to be untrue, and think I have understood and indicated the source of the error.  
I also think that publishing untrue information may have unintended negative consequences. 
I am sure your intentions are honourable, etc. However what I am not clear about is whether you think that the information is in fact true (in which case I would be fascinated to know your sources); or whether you think it untrue (or simply don’t know), but are happy to publish on that basis in pursuit of a good aim?
Today, I received this further reply:
Thank you for flagging your concern. We regularly review the information on our website and will take your comments in to (sic) consideration when we next revisit our website material. 
So I will re-visit their site occasionally, and see if they make any changes. But if this is a polite brush-off, then I will take it further up the chain, as I believe it to be a serious issue. 

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