If you ask most people what makes good communication they will tell you it is being articulate and concise in the message. Albert Mehrabian a professor at UCLA demonstrated that the emotional content of a message (whether or not your audience likes you, trusts you, respects you, etc) is communicated with three primary factors. They are:
- The words – Content
- Your tone – Feelings
- You Visual or non-verbal cues – Expression, dress, posture, etc.
Again most people will say that words are most important. I mean they deliver the concepts we are trying to communicate, right? Wrong. Our words convey only about 7% of the emotional content (likeability) in the message, according to Mehrabian. Our tone carries almost five and a half times more meaning at 38%. What this means is that people are paying very close attention (probably subconsciously) to the tone of our voice. Are we sincere? Is the tone warm or harsh?
The rest of the message impact is conveyed through visuals. That is our posture, our facial expressions, our dress as well as the environment we are in. There have been a number of studies demonstrating the human capacity to identify micro-expressions even unconsciously; where I can see that flash of anger, frustration or tenderness flash across your face. And it registers.
What does all of this mean? It means that when we are communicating, particularly emotional messages, we want to be aware of how we are structuring and conveying the message. If I am frustrated with an employee who really is valuable but has just done a boneheaded thing; I want to be sure that I deal with my own emotions before communicating with the employee. If my frustration bleeds through as anger or as hostility I can damage that relationship and perhaps lose an otherwise good employee.
It means that when I am meeting new people and I want to convey professionalism, capability and confidence, I may not want to show up for the meeting in cargo shorts.
The biggest take away for me is being aware of the factors that influence the messaging and taking the time to manage them.
Take Good Care,