Mythbusting: Albert Mahrabian and his dodgy percentages

A friend of mine was on a Communications Skills course the other day.

Part of the course covered the importance of non-verbal communication, using Mahrabian’s famous 7%/38%/55% equation showing the relative importance of verbal / paralinguistic / facial expression in communication

This was simplified into a content v style dichotomy, emphasising the importance of style (the 38% + 55%: how it was said) over content (the 7% verbal: what was actually said).

My pal was unconvinced that content was only worth a measly 7% of the message and style a whopping 93%.

This is mixing two concepts together, and not really understanding either: the style v content debate is one thing, the (over-)simplified (usually incorrect) use of Mehrabian’s equation is another.


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