Chris Voss has negotiated with international terrorists and domestic criminals. His work has taken him to Cambodia, Haiti, and Brooklyn. And in his book Never Split the Difference ( HarperCollins, 2016) he systematically explores the art of successful negotiation. It’s a great read, with simple (and broadly applicable) principles.
I found myself intrigued by the 7-38-55 Principle. It validates what we know intuitively, and adds specific seasoned research to make the point.
UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule in 1981. That is, “only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.”
Struggling to communicate effectively as a leader? Many of us believe that the struggle is finding the right words. Not so. The far greater challenge is the right tone and body language.
Of course, this relates as much to marriage and parenting, as it does to marketplace and workplace. How we say something, constitutes 93% of the communication!
Voss urges his readers to have warm facial expressions. Smile. Make engaging (not intense and creepy) eye-contact. Unfold the arms. Turn the body towards those we are talking with. Guard against the tones of sarcasm or exasperation. Cut the angry tones and become conversational.
When our tone of voice and body language gets perceived as hostile or contemptuous, negotiations break down. Communication fails. And it’s not enough to assert that “I said such and such. What did you think I meant?” The words only carry weight and only derive real meaning because our voice-tones and bodies give full support.
So, this week, listen to your tones, watch your body, and see if perhaps some changes might enhance your leadership of others (your spouse, your children, and your colleagues).
7-38-55. Numbers worth learning, and practicing.
David Timms is Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.