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We need to sort things out before talking about though topics such as nonverbal communication (NVC): I must start by busting some myths and cracking some prejudices.
NCV modern history begins with prof. Albert Mehrabian, an American psychologist who, during the 60s, found out that there are three types of communication, each of which influences the way we communicate in a more or less easy and relevant way. Nonverbal communication (especially the one linked to the mimetic muscles and to the body in general) amounts to 55% of the total; the paraverbal communication (tone of voice, volume, rhythm, etc.) to 38%; whereas words and verbal content account for only 7%.
Since then, many people have popped up like mushrooms, claiming to be called “specialists”. Actually, they just think that it’s important not what you say, but how you say it. Unfortunately, this is not Mehrabian’s conclusion.
The well-known psychologist just experimentally demonstrated what anyone already through empirical evidence: when we talk about feelings in communication, the way we tell things weighs more than what we actually say. Moreover, when the topic treated is extremely technical, the percentages seen above can considerably vary.
A simple example can help. Let’s imagine you have your daughter in front of you, just got back home after a date with her boyfriend. She is crying. You ask her what’s going on, but she says: “I’m great!”. Our experience and what we are seeing will make us believe to the tears and her face disfigured by tears more than to the verbal output.
We – or at least I – praise prof. Mehrabian for having demonstrated all of that with comprehensible elements . I’m just sorry that his studies had also generated false coaches and “emotion decoders”.
Moreover, NVC let us form hypothesis on our partner’s emotions, but it doesn’t give certainty. You must study for several years, but most of all listen carefully in order to understand others’ feelings.