Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Face Is Worth 1000 Words

I enjoy reading Tim Sanders blog, and if you haven't checked it out, his principles can apply to almost all walks of life. Tim definitely addresses issues from a business perspective, but I think the church and communicators in particular can benefit from his insights.

One of his latest entries talks about a book by Dr. Albert Mehrabian entitled, "Silent Messages." Dr. Mehrabian makes an important point:
...when people aren't sure of what they hear, they resolve their understanding based on what they see. Are you frowning? Do you have your arms folded? In fact, he concluded that 55% of our intentions are decoded by others visually (face, body language), 38% through auditory means (tone of voice) and only 7% verbally. That's why email is such a poor medium to convey emotions.
If accurate, this is an extremely important concept. If 93% of the time people "judge" you by your physical traits (visual) and your approachable status (tone of voice=welcoming environment) then first impressions are incredibly important. Once a person really gets to know you, recognition by posture, facial reactions, tonality, etc. is greatly enhanced.

I would argue that verbal communication is key to a long-term communication partnership. I admit that I am quick to judge someone based upon the first minute or two of conversation. I can usually tell a great deal by their word choice and language structure and, right or wrong, my overall impression of that person is often determined in short order. I think others would agree with me.

I do agree with Dr. Merhabian on the email point. I have often stated that while email communication (my preferred method) is great for short bursts of conversation, it is very poor for important words and especially dangerous when trying to convey an emotional response to a given situation. While you might be very clear on your verbage, many times your "email train" departs the station without clarity from the other party. Emotions are very difficult to communicate through email in an effective way and can often be detrimental and lead to unfortunate circumstances, even when unintended.

Sanders goes on to make an application to your next meeting and some other valuable tips. My challenge for all of us is to pay more attention to your next personal interaction with someone. What do you notice first? Does this leave an impression on you? Is this a fair representation of that person? How about their facial expression? I think we'll all be watching (pun intended!) for the results!

1 comment:

Jo said...

Oh great... now i wont be able to talk to anyone.. I will be worrying too much about how I am standing and what my arms are saying... All kidding aside.. nice post.