Just 7% of how we communicate is words

In recent months, I’ve noticed an increase in email and text communications involving clients, team members, contacts, friends, offers of help and many more.

What I’ve also noticed is the length of some of these communications. It then reminded me of the 7% rule – where just 7% of how we communicate is down to the words we use.

How do we truly know in a lengthy email or text message that our communication has been understood correctly by the recipient?

Are we aware of how they were feeling when they received this communication? What time of day was the message sent? Was the high importance flag to the email necessary?

The pitfalls of miscommunication

I am not sure about you, but I have misinterpreted emails and text messages, reading what I wanted to read, understanding what I thought I understood. However, I am only human and not a robot, so why have I become so reliant on these forms of messaging? Ease, efficiency and sometimes being lazy perhaps.

In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published a book entitled ‘Silent Messages’ focussing on how a person says something and the way that person can say so much over and above the words they use.

55% is attributed to body language.

38% is attributed to tone of voice.

7% of our communications are attributed to words.

So what have I changed?

If I receive a lengthy email, I read it and the request a call with the person to check my understanding. Similarly, if I send a lengthy email,  I suggest a follow up call. It has helped to check what has been said, what has been understood and ‘it’s good to talk’.

Often on the telephone calls with clients or contacts, I choose to do walk and talk chats. It just helps to get the creative juices flowing and can be quite challenging when I am walking up hills! Trying to mix up the scenery as much as possible helps.

It also reminded me of what my former coach, Larry Jopp, taught me: “Kunle, always understand who you are talking to”. It’s important to understand….and to just be a decent human being (you can read more about this here).

This article first appeared in SKQ magazine. You can read the full magazine here.