You Cannot NOT Communicate!

NLP Presupposition:

“You Cannot NOT Communicate!”  People are communicating at all times.  Most of us see and hear what is being communicated through our own filters.  We interpret or ‘make meaning’ about everything.

Corollary to the Presupposition:  It is better to be aware of what you are communicating; then you have the chance to take responsibility forRespontibiliety  that communication and you can change or modify it.

2nd Corollary: When you are aware of what you are communicating you can make the changes necessary and give yourself choice to communicate what you really mean.

Even a block away as you are walking on the sidewalk, you immediately know what mood the person walking toward you is experiencing.  You can see by the lift or drag of his feet and by whether shoulders are held high or slumped forward whether the person is in a happy outwardly focused mood or an inwardly focused sad mood.  If someone tells you, “I’m happy to see you,” but they have have their teeth clenched, with a clipped and flat tonality, and although the corners of the mouth are turned up and appears to be smiling, there’s no smiling activity involved in the eyes, and if the head is shaking back and forth, chances are you will not blindly believe the words you have just been told.  Somethings wrong with the communication!  It is incongruent with the tonality, and the body and facial expression.

In 1967, Albert Mehrabian famously authored a study of ‘liking’ in communication.  His research indicated that words alone only gives us about 7% of the meaning of the communication.  When ‘tonality’ is added, the communication quotient goes up another 38% and yet, that is still only a fraction of the meaning.  Physiology or ‘body language’ makes up the remaining 55% of the full communication.

In addition, Mehrabian and Wiener, (1967), did a study to determine the impact of facial expression and spoken words.  Subjects listened to nine recorded words, three conveying liking (honey, dear and thanks), three conveying neutrality (maybe, really and oh), and three conveying disliking (don’t, brute and terrible). The words were spoken in differing tonalities and subjects guessed at the emotion behind the words.  They found that tone carried more weight than the words themselves.

In another study by Mehrabian and Ferris (1967), subjects listen to a female voice saying “maybe” in 3 different tonalities; liking, neutrality, and disliking.  When photos of different women were paired with the recordings, the photos alone and the photos with voices together elicited more accurate responses from the subjects than voice alone at a 3:2 ratio, and supporting the 7/38/55 findings on what we tend to pay attention to in communication with others.  A later treatment of study by Birdwhistell, pointed out that most of us are consciously focused on the meaning of the words we hear and we’re generally not taught to pay attention to the other 93% of the communication.

There are several implications of the results of these seminal study. One implication is that we are communicating all the time whether we are aware of what we communicating or not, people receiving the communication are reading way more than just the words in the communication whether they are aware of it or not.  Another implication is that we have some choice about how we organize our communication to more effective.  If you want people to pay attention more your body language, use vague or non-descript language.  Choose words that generalized and are big picture oriented.  If you want more attention on the meaning of the words, stop moving your body and use a flat and more mono-toned voice.  Avoid inflection.  When you are aware of your own impact, you can adjust your words, tonality, and body language to communicate what you actually intend.