The 7-38-55 Model

By April 23, 2014 July 19th, 2018 Blog, Gestures, Physiology

Over 40 years ago, a man named Dr Albert Mehrabian sought to unpack the effects of verbal versus non-verbal communication, including the effects of conflicting messages. Why is it that someone who is stamping their feet while yelling “I’m not angry”, does not come across as congruent?

In his study, he reflected that interpersonal communication consisted of three basic elements:

  • Content – what is literally being said
  • Tone of Voice – how something is said
  • Physiology – which posture, facial expressions and gesture someone chooses to employ

Dr Mehrabian went on to develop a model in which he demonstrated that only 7% of communication is based on content, while 38% is based on tone of voice and 55% accounts for physiology.

The 7-38-55 Model has stood the test of time; these days most people believe body language is just as important as your choice of words and tone of voice. However there has been very little focus on developing the skills to support this theory.

Why is it that the majority of people spend far more time working out WHAT they are going to say rather than HOW they are going to say it? Why don’t they also consider HOW their movements will support their message?

Many people look at this study and come to the conclusion that “It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s how you look, right?”. That isn’t the point. The point is, if you align these two communication styles, verbal and non verbal, then you will become a far more effective communicator.

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