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body language: the 93%-rule

August 8, 2010

You might have heard that 93% of communication is nonverbal, while the words we say account for only 7% of meaning.

Well, that’s not quite correct. In the 1960s and ’70s, Professor Albert Mehrabian conducted studies on communication that were then often misquoted. His findings are only true when the communicator is talking about his or her feelings or attitudes and in situations with inconsistent communication, i.e., the words and body language contradict each other.

In such situations, listeners trust the body language, not the spoken words.

So while we can’t transfer the 93%-rule to all kind of communication, it’s still true that nonverbal communication is important for our everyday lives. Body language is also an effective tool to deepen characterization, show emotion, create suspense, and write subtextual dialogue in fiction.

In my job, I work with nervous people, angry people, scared people, defensive people all day, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on body language.

Check back for the first post soon, and let me know if there’s an aspect of nonverbal communication that is particularly interesting to you.

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