So Many Trainers Get This So Wrong
Many people misunderstand Albert Mehrabian’s research if they think he concluded that people’s first impressions are based 55% on how you look, 38% on how you sound (i.e. the 93% total) and only 7% on what you say.
If someone was to give you the spoken instruction “Evacuate the building because there is a fire”, 100% of the meaning is in the words – i.e. there is a fire so get out. The speaker’s tone of voice and body language might add something to urgency but you fully get the message through the words without having to be a body language expert.
If I want to explain where you can find a pencil upstairs in a drawer, tone of voice and facial expression are not going to help you find it – only the words will do that.
The ‘Mehrabian formula’ (55%-38%-7%) was established in situations where there was a contrast between words and expression – i.e. where the words did not match the tone and facial expression.
If someone shouts at you “I love you” while their arms are folded, with a snarl in their voice and a sneer on their face, you’re probably not going to believe them!
The Mehrabian formula was designed to explain the importance of understanding meaning in communication as distinct from the words alone.