Why is it so hard to get people's full meaning when we converse by telephone or through email? It's because much of what we communicate with one another is not what we SAY or write. Albert Mehrabian, who was a research pioneer in body language, found that the total impact of a message is about 7% verbal (words only), 38% vocal (tone, inflection) and 55% nonverbal. Many times our bodies tell completely different stories than do our words.
Ray Birdwhistell studied non-verbal communication and noted that the average person actually speaks words for a total of about 10 or 11 minutes a day. The average sentence takes only about 2.5 seconds. He also estimated that we can make and recognize around 250,000 facial expressions.
Research by Allan Pease shows that, in business encounters, body language accounts for between 60 and 80% of the impact we make around a negotiating table. Also, people form their initial opinion about a new person in less than 4 minutes. Making a good first impression can mean the difference between getting an appointment or not.
Learning to read other people's body language can be crucial to our success as salespeople and managers. And, learning to control our own can be just as critical. This also makes a great case for establishing relationships in person, not just through email or phone calls. Person-to-person contact is just as critical today as ever. It's not just WHAT we say, it's HOW we say it and HOW WE LOOK when we're saying it.