The power of nonverbal communication

Did you know that only 7% of communication is conveyed through words?

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on communication. He found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements such as facial expressions, gestures, and posture.

In our work lives, most of us use language as our main form of communication, often hundreds of times a day through written words in email or text. Next time you’re writing an email or text, remember that only 7% of your desired message is getting through to the recipient. There is a huge margin of error for misunderstanding. Can we use email and text as the tools they are and keep it to factual information exchange? For any emotionally charged messages, pick up the phone or have an in-person meeting.

Have you ever heard of an affirmation, where you say nice things to yourself and then, hopefully, start to believe them as they sink into your unconscious? If we think of our body posture as an affirmation for our psyche, we can go deeper into the unconscious than any words could ever reach.

When we talk about nonverbal communication, we often focus on how our body language affects other people. But what about how it affects our own psyche? When I’m feeling withdrawn and depressed, do you know what I do with my body? I get smaller. I physically cave in on myself in an effort to protect my heart. If I have to go to an important meeting, and I’m not feeling up to it, I can literally trick my brain into thinking differently by shifting my posture.

Let’s do an experiment. Pay close attention to the state of your own inner being. On the spectrum of engagement and boredom, do you feel more engaged or bored in this moment? Do you feel more energized or tired? Now, sit up straight, with your chest open and shoulders relaxed. Take three deep breaths, into your belly. Do you feel more engaged or bored? Energized or tired? If you had an important project to complete, would you feel more able to skillfully tackle the project before or after the posture adjustment?

If we remember how strongly our body posture affects our state of mind, we can use our physical body as we move through our day as a positive affirmation for our psyche.