The Body Language Myth

GNC

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#1
This is in FT294's Mythconceptions, but I thought it was worth a thread. They call it The Mehrabian Myth, but basically it's the idea that your body language does most of the talking, far more than your words.

The rule is the words are 7% of the meaning, the tone of voice 38% and your body language 55%, but actually Professor Albert Mehrabian said that only applies in strict circumstances, when there's only one word spoken and the expression is at odds with it. To apply it anywhere else is wrong.

Now this bothered me because I was taught that very thing in college! And it turns out to be a load of rubbish! Just interested, but was anyone else taught this at any point?
 

GNC

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#2
Now I'm thinking about this, I seem to remember I was taught the significant non-verbal communication was far more than 55% and was something like 75% or more, how did this figure keep increasing? This was in the 1990s.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#3
I've seen the OP's percentages* recently in an article about the teaching of boys, probably in the TES or Education Groaniad.

Of course, if we get all those right, the message is still unlikely to get through, because of our hair, our clothes, the cars we drive and the fact we are teachers! :?

*Or ones very near.
 

balding13

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#5
JamesWhitehead said:
I've seen the OP's percentages* recently in an article about the teaching of boys, probably in the TES or Education Groaniad.

Of course, if we get all those right, the message is still unlikely to get through, because of our hair, our clothes, the cars we drive and the fact we are teachers! :?

*Or ones very near.
But most importantly, do you say, 'I don't know where you're going, that bell's for me, not for you'? Rather dates me, I know.
 

Xanatic_

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#6
I've done technical support for a number of companies. That stuff about how most communication is done via body language usually crops up during training.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#7
Has anyone else noted the seriously weird body-language that is being taught to those poor sods who canvas on the streets for Shelter and other charidees. They run towards you with strange tripping steps, flapping their hands by their hips as if they are about to launch at you and give you a hug. Most disconcerting! It is clear they have been taught it, though quite why is hard to fathom. :nah:
 

Spudrick68

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#8
My response would most likely to be a paraphrasing of "Go away you strange person".
 

liveinabin

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#10
balding13 said:
JamesWhitehead said:
I've seen the OP's percentages* recently in an article about the teaching of boys, probably in the TES or Education Groaniad.

Of course, if we get all those right, the message is still unlikely to get through, because of our hair, our clothes, the cars we drive and the fact we are teachers! :?

*Or ones very near.
But most importantly, do you say, 'I don't know where you're going, that bell's for me, not for you'? Rather dates me, I know.
We've just had a bell installed at my school. I actually said that the other day. I didn't really need to, and my class are only 4 year olds, but I just wanted to.
 

Quake42

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#11
Has anyone else noted the seriously weird body-language that is being taught to those poor sods who canvas on the streets for Shelter and other charidees. They run towards you with strange tripping steps, flapping their hands by their hips as if they are about to launch at you and give you a hug. Most disconcerting! It is clear they have been taught it, though quite why is hard to fathom.
Ah yes. The chuggers. I think that they are supposed to adhere to guidelines which allow them to walk a certain number of steps along side you, but no more, and possibly to raise their hands only so high so as not to intimidate. The resulting body language is, as you say, rather odd.
 

los_grandes_lutz

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#12
gncxx said:
The rule is the words are 7% of the meaning, the tone of voice 38% and your body language 55%, but actually Professor Albert Mehrabian said that only applies in strict circumstances, when there's only one word spoken and the expression is at odds with it. To apply it anywhere else is wrong.
I don't agree, think of the Ali G comedy films, where he would insult someone but smile, leaving his victim thinking that either they had misheard him or that it was a mistake due to Ali G's character's poor command of English.

I can't remember the whole sketch, but I remember Ali G praising an American audience for their country's War OF Terror, and smiling at the same time.
 

GNC

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#13
I think the Prof was referring to that specific arrangement, but there are of course other possibilities. Though I don't want to speak for him, of course.
 

graylien

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#14
Xanatic_ said:
I've done technical support for a number of companies. That stuff about how most communication is done via body language usually crops up during training.
Yeah, I've been to loads of training courses where that old chestnut came up. Generally training courses run by people who seemed to think that the only truly effective form of communication was to put up loads of Power Point slides then read them out loud really slowly, whilst pointing at them.
 

escargot

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#15
I believe in the importance of body language if only because animals use it.

For example, apparently horses tell each other how they're feeling by the position of their ears. Saw someone on TV a few years ago who'd invented a sort of hat with giant horse-ears built on, which a vet could use to signal good intentions to horses when approaching them in a field.

The hat looked a bit bizarre but we were told that it worked. Probably better than chasing a nervous horse around a field for an hour or getting severely kicked, anyway.

We highly-literate human animals use smileys, which are pictures of our own faces making the expression we'd like to convey. On here, there are people who can insult us quite outrageously without them, but only if they know us very well.
In fact, I have had the odd supportive IM in the past, from people who've wanted to take my side after such rudeness!

So yup, I believe in it. In fact I couldn't have done some of the jobs I've had if I couldn't watch out for signs that I was about to get thumped or need to leg it after someone.

Works for chimps, don't knock it. ;)
 

CarlosTheDJ

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#16
Works for cats too...

Ears back = Not sure about this

Tail straight up = I'm happy

Tail straight up and tip curled forward = I like you

Tail straight up and shakin' = I really like you

Eyes closed = smiling

etc.....
 

Quake42

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#17
So yup, I believe in it. In fact I couldn't have done some of the jobs I've had if I couldn't watch out for signs that I was about to get thumped or need to leg it after someone.
Yeah, I don't think anyone's arguing that body language isn't important. It's the ludicrous percentages which were trotted out at every corporate training course from about 1999-2007* that are at issue.

* I haven't heard them for a while so perhaps even the corporate training peeps have realised how ridiculous this sounds.
 

Cherrybomb

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#18
Only last month I was sent on a body language away day (yes it was as fun as it sounds!) with a woman who does a lot of body language stuff on tv. The thing was that although it was a mix of common sence (i.e, if you work on a reception you need to keep your eyes open - duh!) & crazy figures about how important it all is, I couldn't help think that most of it is B.S!

I also have a very David Icke esk story about the woman who gave us the away day presentation, but I'll save that for another thread! :twisted:
 
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#19
Body language is obviously important but it's this obsession with formulating strict rules about what this that or the other means that is way off the mark. My understanding is that you establish a persons' baseline behaviour and spot changes in that. If someone scratches their nose when they are talking to you doesn't mean they're necessarily lying. They might just have a big bogey that needs poking out.

Their seems to be a tendency of late to take things that are really just guides and turn them into the last word on the subject. Like that bloody body mass index for instance. You could walk into a GP surgery looking like a skeleton and if your BMI was high you'd still be classed a bloater and told to go and diet.
 

Mythopoeika

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#20
drbastard said:
Their seems to be a tendency of late to take things that are really just guides and turn them into the last word on the subject. Like that bloody body mass index for instance. You could walk into a GP surgery looking like a skeleton and if your BMI was high you'd still be classed a bloater and told to go and diet.
Spot on!
 

kevinjwoods

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#21
Working in retail a couple of things about Body Language spring to mind Firstly that a good sales assistant is watching body language of customers to see who is needing help, spotting who has donations and who has shopping is a skill, spotting by body language who will appreciate help and who will not is a skill, another thing that is barely mentioned is using body language to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language, do they need the toilet, do they need a coat or a jumper, using gestures to indicate things and watching for the moment they relax as you get it right is practical body language skills.
 
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