When it comes to how we communicate, it’s interesting how much attention is paid to what we say. We craft our words carefully, with nutty authors like me preaching to audiences about just how important these words can be. However, when it comes to the emotional impact of your message, you might want to think twice about those words.
To prove this point, I’d like to remind you of a study done by Marshall McLuhan, a great Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar. McLuhan put together a study that focused on one critical point. He tried to figure out what drives the emotional impact of our message. In other words, what makes people believe us when we communicate. In his study, he asked these questions:
“When it comes to the emotional impact of your message, what’s most important to you?”
- The words we use.
- The nonverbal cues including our hands, body language, and movement.
- Our facial expressions. Although this is clearly a nonverbal cue, McLuhan felt it was potentially significant enough to command its own category. His hunch was right.
The numbers were amazing:
- 7% of the emotional impact of your message comes from your words.
- 38% of the emotional impact of your message comes from your nonverbal cues.
- 55% of the emotional impact of your message comes from your facial expression!
When I look at these numbers it reminds me of two things. Firstly, it reminds me how important it is that we not only focus on our words, but how we deliver these words. We need to think about the empathy we might show in the delivery of these words. We need to pay attention to not just the words, but the tune.
Secondly, it reminds me of a lesson my Dad reinforced on many occasions. He would ask me to do something, and when I wasn’t quite as quick or genuine in my response as I should have been, responding with a “yeah… I’ll do it,” he would provide me with a rather dramatic and loud reminder that he wasn’t fooled by my answer. When I would protest, and say, “I said I would do it,” he would fire back: “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!”
I wasn’t fooling anyone, and neither was my friend at the front desk in the hotel I was checking into this week. Words are important, but those non-verbal cues are even more important than the words. Smart man, that father of mine.