Would you be surprised to learn that only 7 percent of your communication comes from the words you speak?
The other 93 percent is picked up by the tone of your voice, your eye contact and whether your arms are crossed or your hands are on your hips. Not to mention your handshake, the tilt of your head or that chin in your hands.
According to author and management consultant Peter Drucker, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
If you want to mask your feelings or your immediate reaction to information, pay close attention to your nonverbal behavior. You may have your voice and words under control, but your body language can give your true thoughts and feelings away. (Maybe the "poker face" reference needs to be expanded!)
A landmark study at UCLA first came up with this theory, and a follow-up study broke the statistics down in this way:
7 percent: words spoken
38 percent: voice quality
55 percent: nonverbal communication
These are also referred to as "The Three V's: Verbal, Vocal and Visual."
If a person's words say one thing and their nonverbal communication says another, we are apt to listen more to the nonverbal communication - and that is usually the correct decision.
There's actually a whole field of study that has sprung up around this, and it's being used for evaluations by potential employers as well as lawyers seeking to influence juries, to name a couple of applications.
You can have some fun by watching these subtle movements in others. The eyes have been called "the windows of the soul," and this is certainly true when it comes to nonverbal communication. You can learn how people prefer to think by watching their eyes.
Are they visual thinkers? Auditory thinkers? Kinesthetic/feeling thinkers? Try the following experiment developed by Paul Scheele, author of "How To Read a Person Like a Book."
Ask someone to think about when they woke up this morning. If their eyes immediately dart to the left, you know they're hearing in their mind the alarm clock or the radio turning on. If they dart up and to the left, you know they are seeing a picture in their mind about when they first woke up. If their eyes go down and to the right, they are feeling what they felt.
Aside from being a fun experiment, what good is this information? It can help you to communicate with that person in their preferred "language":
You're more likely to get results when you speak to a person in terms that match how he or she thinks. It wouldn't be practical to do this with everyone in your life, but it would likely be worth an investment of your time to try it out with important relationships - significant others, bosses and parents, for example.
Here's a brief recap: