Mehrabian established this classic statistic for the effectiveness of spoken communications (involving attitudes and feelings):

  • 7% of meaning is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

(Professor Albert Mehrabian’s communications model. Article.)

There are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice, and body language. These three elements account differently for the meaning of the message: Words account for 7%; Tone of voice accounts for 38%; Body language accounts for 55% of the message. (The original research was undertaken in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian related to communication involving attitudes and feelings). It is often quoted, sometimes out of context, and forms a basis for understanding that body language and tone of voice are evidently important aspects of communication. Article.)

Original research related to face-to-face communication and like versus dislike: found that when there was a lack of congruence between verbal and nonverbal components of a message, people tended to believe the nonverbal portions (in communications involving attitudes and feelings). Often abbreviated as “3 Vs” for Verbal, Vocal and Visual or as the “7%-38%-55% Rule.” Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking. (Misinterpretation of Mehrabian’s Rule. Article.)

Dr. Mehrabian study at UCLA 1967 with communication involving attitudes and feelings: The words you use in your face-to-face message account for only 7% of your communication. The sound of your voice accounts for 38% of your communication, and the rest can be attributed to nonverbals/body language. When communicating over the telephone, 84% of communication is vocal and 16% is verbal. (Peterson, Russ, and Kevin Karschnik. Communication Factors. Article.)

Studies by Mehrabian in dealing with like-dislike: his work established a classic statistic for the effectiveness of spoken face-to-face communications (involving attitudes and feelings) even if percentages may change slightly based on the context:

  • 7% of meaning is in the words that are spoken
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic, the way that the words are said
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression

(Professor Albert Mehrabian’s communications modelArticle.)

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