A Nickel and Two Pennies for Your Thoughts

Only 7% of what people glean when they listen to us is verbal. That’s staggering. It’s life-changing. It’s monumental. It means that someone who never talks could, hypothetically, be 93% as effective a communicator as someone who talks.

Albert Mehrabian, in the 1960s, ran a bunch of experiments and discovered that humans make emotional and value-laden judgments based almost solely on non-verbal cues. We don’t really care what a person is saying so long as they are saying it in a nice tone and confidently and while leaning in a bit and while making eye contact.

I suppose this is something rhetoricians, politicians, and pick-up artists have known for quite some time. But we don’t really like rhetoricians, politicians, and pick-up artists. We lump them in with used-car salesmen. They are slimy and tricky and deceitful. The devil probably is the  smoothest being in the world. I wrote a story once where the devil was a man in a white suit. He looked a little bit like James Stewart. He sounded like your father and patted you on the back like an old friend. That’s the only way I can understand the devil.

I think it’s easy to start thinking that people who are more concerned with the 93% non-verbal cues are just intrinsically crafty. But rhetoricians, politicians, pick-up artists, used-car salesmen, and the devil aren’t slimy and crafty because they care about that 93% but because they are using that 93% to sell lies.

What would it look like, I wonder, if we started to use that 93% to love and in truth. We tell people all the time that we love them. We tell our friends, our family, that guy who just gave up his seat in class so that you and I can sit next to each other. And most of the time people don’t believe us. And why should they? “I love you” only makes up 7% of what they are hearing. But what if, every time we told someone we loved them, we lowered our voice a little, looked them straight in the eye, leaned forward, and touched them on the shoulder? What if every confession of love was made to seem like a secret? What if every compliment, every favor, every piece of encouragement was delivered like the most private and personal and valuable of statements? It would be staggering. It would be life-changing. It would be monumental.

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3 thoughts on “A Nickel and Two Pennies for Your Thoughts

  1. So true. I’m imagining back to dates I’ve been on that led nowhere and left me wondering why I just didn’t feel “it”. He said all the right things. But I guess that the other 93% of what he “said” was wrong. Good post.

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