When it comes to effective communication, all channels must be in sync. Your words, tone of voice, and how you are using your body, should all send the same message. If they’re not, it can lead to confusion and even irritation on the part of the person you’re talking to.

Congruence in communication is significant when it comes to difficult conversations. If you’re trying to have a difficult conversation with someone and your words, tone of voice, and facial expressions aren’t aligned, the conversation will likely go poorly.

A popular communication rule says that 7% of our communication is based on our words, 38% on our tone of voice, and 55% on our body expressions. This rule is often referred to as the 7%-38%-55% rule.

The 7%-38%-55% rule is a myth.

The idea that 7% of communication is based on words, 38% on the tone of voice, and 55% on how the body was used during communication is a myth that has been around for decades. The problem is that the actual study by Albert Mehrabian, a professor of psychology at UCLA, showed that when people were asked to rate the liking or disliking of someone they had just met, this was the equation used.

Even though the 7%-38%-55% rule is a myth, it’s still something that’s often quoted by well-meaning people trying to advise on effective communication.

If you’re trying to communicate effectively, it’s essential to be aware of the myth and to focus on all three channels of communication: words, tone of voice, and how you use your body. All three are essential, and they all play a role in how our message is received.

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All three modes are essential to send the same message. If you’re trying to have a difficult conversation, ensure that all three channels are aligned. Otherwise, the conversation is likely to go poorly.