Gone are the days when communication was a speech read from sheets of paper. Today, communication encompasses gestures, tone, and body language. In the age of social media, information is now unrestricted to print; it includes television, blogs, and social platforms, with aspiring communicators needing to focus not on what is said but on how it is said. Enhancing the idea that communication is 90% non-verbal was Dr Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer in the field of communication studies, who introduced the 7-38-55 Rule, shedding light on the significance of non-verbal cues in human interaction.

This article seeks to elaborate on the essence of Mehrabian’s Rule, its origins, benefits, practical implementations in various life situations, and strategies for effective communication.

What is the Mehrabian 7-38-55 Rule?

A psychologist and researcher of body language, Dr Albert Mehrabian, found that communication comprises three components. His research in the seventies focused on non-verbal communication, concluding that communication was 7% words 38% tone of voice and 55% body language. This was how the concept that communication is majorly non-verbal originated, evolving into what we now know as Mehrabian’s rule. Since its origin, Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule has been incorporated into various forms of communication.

The Mehrabian formula focuses on facial and vocal components to decipher a person’s attitude while communicating.

But what of the words? Does text and speech not play a significant role in communication? According to Dr Mehrabian, “When there are inconsistencies between attitudes communicated verbally and posturally, the postural component should dominate in determining the total attitude that is inferred.”

Dr Mehrabian emphasized how facial expressions and body language can broadly impact how information is conveyed and interpreted in face-to-face communication. Non-verbal communication can reveal more truth in a message than a verbal one. Studies have found how body language can make a big first impression on a person and influence our thoughts and decisions while interacting with them.

Why The Mehrabian Rule Is Important?

When communicating, words are just a fraction of a speaker’s effort. The tone of voice, pitch, expressions, speed, rhythm, manner of speaking, and pauses that matter more in conveying a message. If such communication elements do not match a speaker’s words, an audience is more likely to be impacted by the body language alone, resulting in miscommunication.

For example, if someone tells you, “I’ll look into the matter”, but avoids eye contact, they may not appear persuasive or sincere. Regardless of what a speaker utters, the predominant non-verbal communication will influence an impression.

Thus, in keeping with the Mehrabian rule, nonverbal communication becomes imperative not just to convey a point but also to influence decision-making, impact an impression, and influence positive outcomes. It is necessary to be effective in presentations, public speaking, and personal communication.

Complementing words with the correct body language and expressions can greatly benefit workplace dialogue, meetings, cross-communication, deal-making and, of course, mentoring and leadership.

Benefits of Understanding Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule

  • Enhanced Clarity: Recognizing the significance of non-verbal cues alongside verbal content leads to more transparent communication. This understanding helps convey messages more comprehensively, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings.
  • Improved Connection: By attending to tone of voice and body language, communicators can establish deeper connections with their audience. Non-verbal signals often convey emotions and intentions more vividly than words, fostering empathy and rapport.
  • Effective Leadership: Leaders who grasp the elements of Mehrabian’s rule can inspire and motivate their teams more effectively. Their ability to convey confidence, sincerity, and empathy through nonverbal communication reinforces their leadership presence and positively influences organizational culture.
  • Increases Attraction: Research has found that people are more attracted to those who make eye contact and smile more often. Smiling with the right amount of eye contact effectively conveys information and creates a long-lasting impression.
  • Conveys enthusiasm and passion: According to body language expert Dr Carol Kinsey Goman, “Gesturing can help people form clearer thoughts, speak in tighter sentences and use more declarative language.” Thus, using hand gestures along with speech will help people make the connection and trust you more

How Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule Can Improve Communication

Mindful Expression: Mindful communication involves attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. Aligning your words with tone and body language can help you convey messages authentically and convincingly.

Active Listening: Mehrabian’s rule is about sending and receiving messages. It involves actively listening to the speaker’s words, tone, and body language to understand the message and respond appropriately.

Adaptability: Different situations call for different communication approaches. Whether it’s a formal presentation, a one-on-one conversation, or a group discussion, Mehrabian’s rule helps communicators adapt their style to suit the context and audience.

Strategies to Utilize Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule

Practice Self-awareness

Knowing your own verbal and non-verbal communication patterns helps you perfect them by noticing how others react to them. Be aware of  how your tone of voice and body language align with your words in various situations.

Video Feedback

Record yourself speaking or presenting and review the footage. Pay attention to your tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and posture. Identify areas for improvement and make conscious efforts to refine your non-verbal communication.

Build Empathy

Always put yourself in the other person’s or your audience’s shoes. Consider how your messages are received and cultivate empathy by listening to their verbal and non-verbal cues. Doing so will help you respond with understanding and respect.

Body Language Mastery

Mastering the power of body language to enhance your communication effectiveness will make you a more influential communicator. Moreover, by learning to interpret body language, such as postures, eye contact, and expressions, you can help separate perception from reality. Body language, after all, is a second language.

Seek Feedback

Encourage honest feedback from colleagues, friends, or mentors regarding your communication style. Constructive criticism can provide valuable insights and help you refine your approach over time.

Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule serves as a valuable framework for understanding the multifaceted nature of communication. By acknowledging the connection between words, tone of voice, and body language, individuals can elevate their communication skills, foster more robust connections, and achieve tremendous success in personal and professional interactions, in life and relationships.

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Last Update: 25 June 2024

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