Communication is 93% Nonverbal

“7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal, and 55 percent facial.” I first encountered that statement on a in-service training day several weeks ago and I was totally amazed at the 7% verbal… I have since read up a wee bit on it. If true, perhaps this is why sign language is a very effective form of communication… Your thoughts folks. Cheers Kev :slight_smile:

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Well in my home it is very verbal. And also the meetings I go to.

What’s the difference between vocal and verbal?

The 7% and 38% sure don’t add up to my 12% speech recognition and not understanding speech.


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I think the theory is; but don’t quote me! 7% is verbal as stated, 38% vocal or how you say it and the other 58% is made up of body language and facial expression! Perhaps this is why we switch off listening to certain folk giving a speech even if we are interested in the topic, great orators and story tellers have excellent body language/facial expression, usually combined with excellent voices. Cheers Kev

My wife jokes that I am psychic. I am just perceptive. I read her body language and facial cues along with what I get of her speech. I fully agree.

I think that’s a quote for Hearing people, since some parts of communication need to “read between the lines” or “watch out for body language or facial expression”. But when you are Hard of Hearing or Deaf, you’ll realize that majority of communication is vocal and you will be left out if you can’t hear well.


Visual too. (center finger salute)


Non speech auditory cues perhaps?

Well in that case I guess I can get rid of my hearing aids.

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Jumping to conclusions a bit. The statement is 45% of communication has an audible component. That is a lot. But you can learn a lot about a person’s emotional state and thought process by watching eyes, mouth, hands, shoulders, where are their feet, what are they doing with their arms, legs, etc. You won’t get the specifics though without additional information from signing, writing, or speaking/hearing/lip-/speech-reading.

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Personally I struggle in conversations, we severely HOH always will… We must seem stupid or ignorant at times, especially when we go off track as we lose the gist of the conversation!!! We miss the finite audio cues during a convo and much to my embarrassment I am for ever butting in when the speaker hasn’t finished… Jumped the gun again! In a perfect hearing world and if you are good at reading body language then perhaps the 7% rule might apply? We HOH do need facial expressions, body language, but above all we need contextual information to follow conversations and without the actual context we become lost and ultimately very frustrated, I would therefore say the 7% rule does not apply to us! Cheers Kev :slight_smile:


I agree with this. In the absence of a lot of distracting noise, I can understand enough one-on-one to just get by. If I lose the context I cannot understand anything and require repeats and rewording by the speaker to get back in sync. I think the single-word testing that audis use is not a good indicator of speech understanding in real-world settings. Facial cues and body language are also important to keeping up.


I think the speech interpretation tests are accurate for what they are. They test your ability to understand words as spoken. Reading lips, body motion and other factors can further enhance interpretation but those factors can be variable from one individual to another. Do they help? Most definitely. But they are not an indication of being able to actual understand the spoken word.

Not sure about the exact ratios, but I would agree 100% with the basic premise. I had to take “Speech and Nonverbal Communication” taught by Gary DeAngelo at the UW 40 years ago for my degree. Learned a lot that served me well in business and personal life. Even silence is a form of communication: Are they thinking or being passive aggressive or? Lots to think about…

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Verbal 7% - Vocal 38% - Visual - 55%

The stats/ratios are from the work of Albert Mehrabian I believe? In my experience these numbers are rolled out in all kinds of training courses and have been for years and often imho by folks who really have no clue OR are misinterpreting them? I know because I AM one of those people! :confused: :laughing: I’ve been asked to (sorry, told I have to) deliver training courses with these ‘stats’ many times, Of course there is an intuitive understanding of the importance of non verbal communication and so the stats sort of feel correct to most of us I think. My personal interpretation (work around?) right or wrong, is that in the emotional context of face to face communication the numbers sort of work. I.e. how we ‘feel’ about any face to face interaction is 93% (38+55) non-verbal e.g. 38% is the tone (vocal) of what we’re saying, 55% is the visual (facial as the original poster wrote but not just restricted to facial so visual means all the aspects of the body language that is occuring, hands posture, eyes etc) and only 7% is in the actual words themselves. The easiest way to convey this is sarcasm. Say out loud the words “Yeah Joe I think you’re a really smart guy” but say it and mean it. Now, put on your best sarcasm voice and roll your eyes excessively and say the exact same words. It’s very easy to tell Joe and anyone listening and/or watching that you actually think Joe is a total dumbass but you haven’t changed a word, just your tone and what they see. Communication of information face to face? the 55-38-7 numbers don’t work at all. Now try telling Joe “I’ll meet you at pub on main st. at 12:00 on Friday” with the look on your face or your tone of voice ONLY i.e. NO words spoken, you can’t do it! So, the words are way more than 7% in communicating information face to face.
Anyway, that’s my simplistic take on it.
This guy makes his points (although I’ve misinterpreted him too I think… :thinking: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:) way better and he called up Albert Mehrabian to prove it!

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I’ve long been of the opinion/observation that a good part of understanding the spoken word is visual cues. I’m big on the need to see someone’s mouth as an aid in understanding, not because I consciously lip-read–although I believe most people lip-read to some extent, along with auditory information–but also because facial expression, eyes, and so forth, all convey data that aids comprehension. I’m driven crazy by the fashion that causes many female interviewers (on TV etc) to their style hair so that one half of the face is covered! I find them much harder to understand, even when my streaming audio works perfectly.

My thoughts are that this is being quite overstated. Yes, there is meaning in things other than the actual words, but the real information is in hearing and understanding the words. If someone is speaking in a language you do not understand, there is really not much value in hearing what the words are. It does not matter how loud they say it, if you don’t understand it, then you don’t understand it.

We have been in Mexico for the past couple of weeks, and on Monday our resort conducted an earthquake drill. It was well communicated with a notice saying there will be a drill and at what time it was. However, it did not say what the alarm would sound like or what you are supposed to do. We happened to be in one of the restaurants a few minutes before the drill. The greeter dutifully warned us again that there would be a drill at 11:00. So, I said OK (bueno), but then what do we do? I got the blankest of looks. So I asked again. Then what do we do? Just as blank again, and she said “I not know what you are talking”. In walking around the resort I had seen these green target like circles painted on the ground and had guessed they were probably evacuation gathering points. There happened to be one nearby so I walked over to it, stood in the middle and held my hands over my head. That got a big smile and a “Si, Si!” Words mean a lot, and if we cannot hear or understand what they mean, we lose a lot more than 7% of the message.

Lonely Planet guides for next time. You’re welcome. :grin:

I use an excellent Mexican Spanish, The Rough Guide Phrasebook. Most of the time it works if you have lots of time. I may have the Lonely Planet one somewhere too. Probably not the best way to communicate during an actual earthquake though. The place we go has lots of earthquakes, and most go unnoticed. One of the staff told me they had an 8.4 two years ago that really shook things badly.

I used to live in Ridgecrest. Remember the July 4/5 earthquakes last year? Yep, we don’t live there anymore.