Communicating Without Words

By Sue Voyles / June 29, 2016 /

You’ve probably heard the ‘statistic’ that only 7% of our communication effectiveness is based on what we actually say. This all comes from research published in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian, in his book Silent Messages, in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication. To be sure, we should take such numbers into context, as pointed out in this Psychology Today blog.

There’s no doubt that body language provides a lot of communication. At a recent training session I attended, I learned that there are six distinct, universal facial expressions that convey emotions: Joy, Surprise, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. (Some experts also add a 7th emotion – Contempt).

I had a chance to put my learning into practice while sitting in an airport, watching travelers meeting up with loved ones/friends who were waiting for them to arrive.

I watched young women leaping into the arms of their partner/boyfriend/husband with an expression of joy on their face. I observed other travelers, seemingly arriving in a completely foreign place, look fearful as they gazed around trying to get their bearings.

There’s nothing like face-to-face communication when it comes to gaining understanding. Sure, email, voicemail, online chats and text messages are all great and save us time. But if you need to communicate something really important, I’d pick in-person communication every time.

So the next time you need to break bad – or good – news in the workplace, try doing it in person. You’ll know how well you did by the expression on their faces.