In his 1971 book Silent Messages, Dr. Albert Mehrabian revealed the importance of the verbal, vocal and visual elements on communications believability. The verbal cues--what was actually being said--were dominant only seven percent of the time, the vocal 38 percent of the time, and the visual cues were the primary carrier of trust and believability, a whopping 55 percent of the time.
Communications experts subsequently grabbed those insights and played up the fact that human beings are primarily visual creatures. And that’s true. But it totally misses the good doctor’s point.
What Mehrabian’s research really tells us is that people are persuaded primarily by behavior. You know, actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, as Mark Twain once pointed out, actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often.
It’s time for everyone to wake up and smell the new millennium. The good old days of influencing by proxy are gone. We no longer dance to the lyrics of rules or rhetoric. We’re not enticed by promises nor threatened by precept. We’re not impressed by sensory hyperbole.
We’ve lost faith in business, government, and other institutions. Communication sans behavioral evidence, no matter how engaging or factual, is no longer enough to move us to belief and action.
Unless you’re an entertainer, the ultimate goal of your communication is belief. Not awareness. Not understanding. Not fear. Not laughs. Belief. Belief leads to experience and experience leads to adoption.
If we believe you can help us, make us look good, improve our relationships, make us feel good about ourselves, etc., then we’ll take your call, stop by your place of business, click on your link, join your organization, or grab your product off of the shelf. If we don’t, we won’t. We’re simply too busy today to act on faith.
So the next time you’re compelled to communicate; to send us a message. The next time you feel the urge to preach from the pulpit, make fantastic promises, tickle our funny bones, or entice our eyeballs . . . stop!
Stop and ask yourself: How can I bring people together--associates with each other, associates with our audience, and our audience members with each other--to create something real and valuable? How can I elicit belief through behavior?
Don’t say, “Just Do It,” do it with us! Don’t tell us that you want to be our friend, be our friend! Because if we do it with you, and with each other, we’ll come to believe.
And belief is the path to action.
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