7% verbal (word choice)
55% body language
Tone (38%) + Body language (55%) = Nonverbal (93% of communication is non verbal)
*This is a rough breakdown of how we communicate.
These numbers vary based on who you ask, but they all come to the same conclusion. The majority of our communication takes place through body language. After body language, the tone we use communicates more to the person receiving our message than the actual words we use to communicate. Think about it. What are you communicating to your sister if you say, “I like your shoes” in a friendly tone while smiling? What are you saying if you tell your sister, “I like your shoes” while scoffing and sounding condescending? You used the same words but communicated different messages.
One day take a moment and focus on the communication around you. Concentrating on words is easy, at least in my experience. Pay attention to tone and body language. You’ll notice interactions with your friends, family members, and coworkers. You might observe something like this:
You’re sitting in the office next to your coworker Kate when your boss walks in.
Boss: (staring down at her clipboard) Hey Kate, I need you to take the lead on this new project.
Kate: (shoulders drop, and speaks in a hesitant tone) Okay.
Boss: (still staring at her clipboard) Thanks, Kate!
Kate: (eye roll and speaks in an unenthused tone) No problem boss, glad I could help.
Communication is more than the words we use.
*The study that led to the 7/38/55 principle was focused on communicating emotion specifically. The study was conducted by world renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian. While percentages may differ, I’ve personally found the majority of communication is still non-verbal.