Understanding the 7%-38%-55% Rule

Communication is vital in helping us become better versions of ourselves and helping others to become better versions of themselves.  Some people don’t take the time and effort to make sure that all communication sent and received is done most effectively.  Dr Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor at the University of California, developed this rule in 1971 when he released his book entitled “Silent Messages.”  Did you know Former FBI lead hostage negotiator Chriss Voss used these concepts? In this article, I will share the details of this rule and some other essential thought schools regarding certain schools of thought that come with a deduction.

People put extensive time into selecting the words they want to use, but did you know that this only accounts for 7% of the total communication message?  There is another 93% that we should focus our efforts on when we want to communicate effectively.  The first part of the 93% is the 38%, representing how we say it.  Maybe you have said or heard from someone else a phrase like “You did a great job.”  This can be noted in several ways; one in which the person knows you are happy with your work.  Another way of saying it indicates that you have some doubt, or it could be said that they are questioning to suggest they don’t think you know what you are doing.

Thus, Dr. Mehrabian’s rule shows that non-verbal body language and the tonality of what we say communicate a person’s feelings more than words.  Whether in a negotiation or general conversation, choosing to understand the messaging will enable better control of the messaging used.  People from all professions utilize this: law enforcement, customer service representatives, sales reps, doctors, or any other profession where two-way communication is required.  Remember that nonverbal communication will be vital to understanding a different meaning than what appears when the nonverbal conflicts with the message words and tone.

Telephone is a game that was first played in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), which was mostly played with the elite as a pastime for amusement.  A group would sit in a circle and relay messages from one person to another by whispering a phrase into a person’s ear.  The game of telephone in the UK was enjoyed in the late 1870s and the twentieth century in the USA. It was started because telephone calls got disconnected during a conversation in David Lewis’s town of Oberlin, Ohio. 

A facilitator would have a phrase written down and then speak those words into a person’s ear.  That person would then whisper the message to the next person until it got to the last person in the group.  All participants would sit together but far enough away that each could not hear the message being whispered before it got to them.  The message could only be said once; thus, each person had to pay attention and actively listen.  After the last person received the message, they would repeat it aloud, and suddenly, everyone realized how much it had changed.  This game makes everyone aware that they all need to become better communicators.

There are many different schools of thought where we can deduce conclusions based on circumstances or our reviews.  Critical thinking is when one analyzes and observes facts, evidence, or arguments to form a judgment or decision.  In our lives, we need to realize there is a process called second-order thinking or lateral thinking, which refers to considering all possibilities.  Make sure that you or your team takes actions that no one else is doing by being unique and thinking outside the box. 

Have you ever experienced a time when something broke and the way it was fixed? This thought process is called Bounded Rationality.  Thus, it is the idea that rationality is limited when individuals make decisions, and under these limitations, rational individuals will select a decision that is satisfactory rather than optimal.

Here is one of my favorites: let's say that you and your significant other decide after watching TV and seeing a home improvement show that just installed an in-the-ground sprinkler system you will tackle the same type of project at your home after lunch this weekend.  First, remember to call 811 before you dig so they can mark out the appropriate utilities. They will ask you some basic projects about you and your project:  Full Names, Addresses, types of projects, etc.  Next, they will come out and mark your property with either color flags or paint lines, which is in line with the APWA (American Public Works Association), which is as follows:  White:  proposed excavation, Pink:  temporary survey markings, Red:  electric power lines, cables, conduits and lighting cables, Yellow:  gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or gaseous materials.  If you don’t call fines, maybe asses to a total of up to 162,000 from close to fifty-four excavators and operators of underground utilities.

Now you did the right thing and remembered the show that it was law to call 811 for them to come out and mark your utilities.  Next, you get half of your front done, and then while running the last PVC pipe from the front to your back, you hit a previous line to one of your backyard lines.  This is not one of those short lines but one that goes around your entire house, and suddenly, it is clear that the scope of your ability and the complexity of this project was not a fit.  We call this the Duuninging-Kruger Effect, where cognitive decisions do not have the required knowledge, and thus, your skills are greatly overestimated.

Have you ever gone to someone, whether a trade professional, friend, or family member, and asked them to explain something to you to be sorry you ever asked them instantly?  They want to impress you with their vocabulary and wealth of knowledge, sharing more than you need or want to know.  The phenomenon is Occam’s Razor, and William Occam was a 14th-century theologian.  The Occam Razor principle states that one should not increase the facets, objects, or entities required to elaborate anything within reason, as straightforward solutions are often the best.

Maslow’s Hammer is another of my favorites, implying that one uses a tool or process in the wrong context.  For example, a Philps head screw needs to be screwed in and is not the correct size but not present; however, since a hammer is near, it is used instead.  If one uses a hammer to bang in a screw, the threads on it will become damaged, the giant hole will be made, and the screw will not hold; thus, the item it is being secured will come apart.

Google has given us another one that many get caught, which is the Google Effect, and this is when someone is likely to forget the information they search for because there is so much of it.  Many also refer to this thought process as digital amnesia. If there is nothing to latch on to what you need, it becomes noise and does not associate with foundational thoughts.

When you build something, whether it’s a birdhouse, piece of furniture, or bake something, people tend to value it more because of this, which is referred to today as the IKEA Effect.  Lastly, I can’t forget to share with you the Barnum Effect, when general information applied to people is customized or assumed to be for themselves. 

After reading this, I’m sure you will value communication more and take time to know how to apply the 7%, 38%, and 55% in your personal and business life.  The key to being a great communicator is to listen to others when they speak and be succinct while delivering a message containing clear feelings.


Please check out more of my content at http://believemeachieveme.com.


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