I’ll bet you’ve heard that phrase before, but is it true? Can you really hear a smile? As a guy who preaches to be “in the moment” when communicating with others, I sure hope so. However, I have an idea; let’s prove it. All you need to participate in this experiment is voicemail.

The Voicemail Test

1. Leave a one minute message for yourself the way you normally talk.
2. Next, leave the same message, but this time smile, and while you are at it, speak as if someone was in front of you.
3. Listen to each message and ask yourself, “Which voicemail portrays me the best?”

You see, you can hear a smile, but that’s just part of the message here. All your facial expressions contribute to how you come across. Feel free to try The Voicemail Test for almost any facial expression you can come up with. You can hear them, and it goes without saying that if you are face-to-face, you can see them.

But wait, there’s more. The facial expressions you show contribute to how believable you are as well. The Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, performed many communication studies, and my favorite was the one he conducted that proved this very point. He was exploring the way people communicate, and what people truly believe deep in their heart about another individual. He broke down the way we communicate into three separate columns:

_______ Words: verbal communication cues focusing on what we say.
_______ Actions: non-verbal communication cues focusing on our hands, and movement.
_______ Facial Expressions: non-verbal communication cues focusing solely on our face.

Using a scale from 1 to 100, guess how you think these numbers shook out? (The correct answer is at the bottom of this BlArticle™.) When you look at those numbers, it makes you feel that the words aren’t all that important. That isn’t true. They are. What the study is really showing you is that when it comes to the true emotional impact of your message, it’s not just what you say; it’s the facial expressions you use when you say it.

As an author, I’ve written a handful of books, and 44 weekly BlArticles™ and I know this lesson all too well. I try not to let my wife see me when I’m writing because it’s a little embarrassing. She almost always laughs at me when I’m writing, because I am so in the moment that my face contorts to the emotion I am writing about.

The moral is a simple one. Before you speak, think about what you are about to say, be in the moment when you say it, and if you want people to believe you, be aware of your facial expressions. Oh, and don’t forget to smile.

Marshall McLuhan Survey Response – 7% Words – 38% Non-Verbal Cues – 55% Facial Expressions

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