The 55-38-7 “Rule”

Debunking the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule: If you have ever taken a public speaking course, you probably have heard of the so-called 55%, 38%, 7% Rule. This rule states that 55% of the meaning of communication is body language, 38% is in tonality, and 7% represents the words, content or messages.

In this video, I show that this does not seem to be true. Of course, you be the judge and weigh in.

Dr. C.E. “Buzz” Johnson, a Certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, wrote in a 1994 issue of Anchor Point magazine:

“…If these percentages were really valid it would mean that the learning of foreign languages could be greatly abbreviated. After all, if the words only account for 7% of the meaning of communication, we should all be able to go to any country in the world and simply by listening to the tone and carefully observing body language, be able to accurately interpret 93% of their communications!”

Professor Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA), is credited as the originator of the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule. He and his colleagues conducted two studies on communication patterns and published the studies in professional journals in 1967.

Mehrabian published the results of his work in two books, Silent Messages (Wadsworth Publishing, 1971) and Nonverbal Communications (Aldine Atherton, Inc., 1972).

Mehrabian has stated (Anchor Point, 1994) that he never intended his results to be applied to normal conversation (and probably not to public speaking either). He only wanted to help his readers resolve incongruent messages regarding liking and disliking. Thus, his research has useful, albeit limited applications, which have been blown out of proportion.

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