Friday, September 07, 2007

So 85% of all communication is non-verbal. (Frankly, I’m speechless.)

Or is it 93%? I think I've heard both figures quoted recently. But, either way, I know a bogus statistic when I see one. To appreciate the breathtaking meaninglessness of this alleged scientific fact, let's consider it in relation to real life. Mine, for example.

Right now, I'm writing this, which I hope you will read avidly. So that would be 100% verbal communication, then.

A little earlier, I had a chat with my mum on the phone. I did roll my eyes a bit, and once I mimed shooting myself in the head - but, since she didn't see these gestures, they don't really count as communication. Once again, then, 100% verbal.

Before that, I saw my daughter off to school. I asked her if she'd remembered her swimming things - to which she replied by pointing at her swimming bag. I then suggested that she might like to give her father a kiss, which made her sigh and glance heavenwards before rushing out of the door. So, harder to score, but maybe we could call it a draw: 50% verbal, 50% non-verbal.

My point? Only that, as a writer and one who believes passionately in the power of words, I'm not going to just shrug my shoulders and let the mime artists and body language experts take over the world.

And you can take that look off your face right now.

23 Comments:

At 8:07 pm, Anonymous Heather Yaxley said...

You are right - people who quote those high percentages are misusing Mehrabian's work. It normally suits their particular purpose to downplay the value of words themselves, which the original studies did not.

 
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Thanks very much, Heather. I'm always thrilled when anyone posts a comment. And it's particularly good to hear from someone who obviously knows what she's talking about.

 
At 12:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a simple thing like posture, conveys a message. Why is it that you can tell better if a person is lying to you in person than you would over the phone? Even when it's 100% verbal communication as you quoted, facial expressions make up give and take 50% of the message nbeing coneyed. Writting is also considered non verbal because even a mute individual can communicate through writting, that simply means that writting is a non verbal communication tool.
The human psyche can identify facial expressions regardless of the language barriers...

 
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