Communication: Non-Verbal, Intonation, Words

Here’s another approximate one. The biggest and last are a bit lower than 70% and 10% with the middle bulging a bit, but the same steep decay is the same. Thanks to Hugh McLeod daily post (see graphic above) who highlighted Blake Eastman’s post “How Much of Communication is Really Non-Verbal?” He cites Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, who conducted several studies on nonverbal communication with the following observed breakdowns in how communication in conveyed:

  • 55% Non-Verbal (70) – Facial expressions, gesture, posture
  • 38% Intonation (20) – Vocal elements like inflection and emphasis
  • 7% Words (10) – The content itself

Microsoft ex-CEO Steve Ballmer was famous for his rousing presentations. I remember him describing that the reaction he got from people was much more associated with ‘how’ he presented, than ‘what’ he presented. He said that sometimes he would really struggle with a topic and pour lots of effort into the slides and material to get everything just right, but when he presented it, he was a bit flat or even toned as he tried to delicately manage the subject with finesse and accuracy. Other times he would just wing it not knowing too much about the subject but nonetheless pouring energy and enthusiasm into the presentation. Nearly always, people would take serious issue with the former presentation and confront him saying that they thought he was wrong and criticize his content even though he had worked so hard to get it very correct. But with the other types of presentations, even though he knew that he was off-base and likely incorrect in many places, people came up to him saying how insightful and right he was.

Media over message.

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