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Albert, but and they we

Participants on our development programmes know that we’re often challenged about this well-known model of communication:

Personal Communication

Please do spare a thought for Prof. Albert Mehrabian, the man accredited with this formula and whose work is frequently miss-quoted. This isn’t what his 1960’s groundbreaking research discovered at all.

Albert Mehrabian

You see, Prof Mehrabian’s extensive research concluded that this is the percentage impact of face-to-face communication when the communication is INCONGRUENT (when the words, tone and body-language aren’t aligned)

Yet many business communications, leadership, sales, management and customer service development programmes confidently promote this model as explaining how we communicate face-to-face: 7% words, 35% tone and 55% body language. They are WRONG!

When we are aware and confidently, congruently communicating our choice of words is vitally important, not just 7%

For example: take the use of ‘BUT’ (‘everything before the but is bullshit!’). In your day-to-day business, leadership, customer conversations start to notice how often you use “but”.

I rejected choosing a particular landscape gardener recently – why? He visited my home to quote for some garden work and when studying the designer’s plans he commented “but why do you want to put that there?” adding “but the problem with these garden designers is….”. His tone was frequently resigned, with many sighs. He challenged the plans that the designer and I had worked on in a critical way because of is use of “but” and his tone and body language (definitely Prof Mehrabain’s model in action!). I didn’t get a warm, positive feeling about working with him. It was a short meeting and he left with no commitment from me.

He created a negative impact, in less than 5 minutes of conversation.

I’m sure he didn’t realise the impact of his communication choice and that his intent was only to be helpful. The challenge here is the awareness gap between our intent and how others receive our choice of words, tone and body language. Often we don’t get that data and carry on in the misguided belief that we’re doing fine.

If he’d chosen to replace ‘but’ with ‘and’ – and if he’d softened his tone to ensure his helpful intent was connecting and landing. Added some authentic positive body language: more eye contact, nodding in agreement and maybe some appropriate smiling. What a different conversation we could have enjoyed. He could still have been challenging, and in a supportive, collaborative way. Maybe he’d have won the work instead of handing it on a plate to his competitor.

It’s the same when we replace ‘they’ with ‘we’. Suddenly our intent is far more collaborative, working as a team – not dividing and distancing other colleagues (“them” & “us”).

This week’s tip (which we think Prof. Mehrabian would heartedly approve of):

  • Start noticing how many times you use the word ‘but’ (notice how others react)
  • Start noticing when others use ‘but’ (and how it makes you react)
  • Start to consciously use ‘and’ in its place (will be hard at first, keep working on it!)

Corporate Drama helps course participants to make informed decisions about their behavioural choices, impact and personal brand. Our role-players give you the thing you rarely, if ever, get in real life: first-person feedback on your impact. And because we’ve all walked-the-walk, working in the real world of business with all of its pressures, politics and relationship challenges – you can be sure your participant’s learning experience is as close to real-life as can be!

Call us today on 0208 0888 2600 or email [email protected]

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