Do you use the right interpretation of the golden communication rule?

Did you ever try to give a seminar or presentation and communicate your message, using only your tone of voice and gestures, no words? And do you think the audience would have understood 93% of what you aimed to communicate? I guess not!

The 7%-38%-55% rule, developed by Dr. Albert Mehrabian is still wrongly interpreted in many occasions. Sadly, in many communication courses worldwide, we still can listen to the erroneous explanation that our words stand for 7%, our tone of voice for 38% and our body language for 55% of the impact of our communication. This is also known as the “Golden Rule” of human communication.

Fortunately, many people already know that this rule comes from a complete misinterpretation of the research conducted by Dr. Mehrabian in the 1960s.

The investigation was not about communicating information, it was about communicating feelings and attitudes. Furthermore, the above mentioned disproportionate influence of tone of voice and body language becomes effective only when the situation is ambiguous and the words spoken are inconsistent with the tone of voice or body language of the speaker.

Mehrabian himself has expressed surprise that anyone could believe such an evidently false assertion. He used to have a section on his website trying to erase this myth and correct this erroneous interpretation.

His conclusion was:

Total Liking =  7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking.

Sadly the Mehrabian myth is extremely hard to eradicate.

Help Dr. Mehrabian to extinguish this myth by spreading this article!

Koos Vos

Koos is a strategic consultant focused on experiential learning at the individual, team and organizational levels. Drawing from his career as an actor and acting coach, Koos takes an unconventional approach to his training to develop the TRIP physical coaching model. Outside of Yellow, Koos is an associate professor at both EADA and IESE Business Schools in Barcelona.

More about the author

This might also interest you