Verbal vs Non Verbal Communication : Which is more Important?

In the science of communication, there is a notion that non verbal communication is more effective than its verbal counterpart. Several researchers have studied the various types of verbal and non verbal communications and have come out with theories supporting the latter.

One such theory is the 7%-38%-55% rule suggested by Albert Mehrabian. According to the rule, when there are emotional exchanges, communication elements take priority something like this – verbal communication accounting for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body gesture, movement and language takes up the remaining 55%.

The general understanding of the rule is that the actual words that come out of your mouth accounts for 7% of the actual communication where as the tone of your voice and the body movements and facial expressions that you use to deliver the message is the meat itself.

Further, many theorists started spinning off on this theory by making non-verbal communication as the go-to factor for effective communication.

Mehrabian later come out stating that the study was conducted when messages around emotion and feelings were exchanged and the percentages attributed to the liking of communication that a recipient experiences.

I believe it can be true that if I deliver a message with the wrong intonations and body gestures to not support what I am saying, people listening into me may not believe me. Even if I am to tell my girl friend I love you, with a disinterested tone and rubbing my eyes, chances are fairly good that she wouldn’t reciprocate very well.

Let’s say if I was to deliver it without the actual words. Still it may not make much sense to her. So what is the point in this?

We need verbal as well as non verbal communications to work in tandem for a message to be communicated effectively. We need to sync the aspects of both types of communication and orient it towards the crux of the message.

Interestingly, recently, which is around 20 year back, some tests proved otherwise. Videos were showed to test subjects, and their behavior was put under the microscope to determine that non verbal cues had 4.3 times the effect of verbal cues. Another test was conducted where messages sounded with a flat voice had 4 times more effect than facial expressions seen in a film with no sound. The contradiction on what trumps what is still up in the air, and perhaps it will remain there for some more time.

But, I am certain that the harmony between verbal and non verbal types of communication is the only way to go about sending and receiving effective exchanges of information. Your bridge falls off if you fail to rein in any one of them. When I say non verbal communication, I am not referring to just the body gestures and voice tones, but there are a number of other forms such as haptics, proxemics, chronemics, and paralinguistics. In the near future, I will discuss each one of this in crisp detail.

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