This Just In: Words Matter

My friend Bob Burg and I share something in common: we really dislike it when people say things that just ain’t so. Especially in print, or from positions of influence where their words are liable to be passed on widely. Like the old statistic that says, “7 percent of our communication is conveyed by our actual words, while 38 percent comes through our tone of voice and the other 55 percent from our body language.” If you’ve ever heard that bit of “scientific research” cited, perhaps you found yourself wondering, “Wait a minute. Can that really be true?” No, it can’t — and it isn’t. Did you know that of the supposedly true statistics published authors quote, more than 87 percent of them are in fact just made up, and not based on solid research? Shocking, isn’t it? But guess what? I just made that up. But back to the 7 percent. If this were true (as I wrote in The Zen of MLM), then it wouldn’t really matter that much what we said, because our words would represent only about one-fourteenth of our message, so who cares? But it isn’t true, and it does matter. In fact, these widely quoted numbers are a horribly skewed distortion of genuine research conducted forty years ago by the distinguished UCLA psychologist Albert Mehrabian, who was studying what happened when he gave subjects specific individual words to say, with the instructions to say them while at the same time doing their best to convey a totally different meaning. For example, saying “Brute!” or “Scram!” nicely. Single words, with intentionally mixed messages, and...

Diary of a Writer…

Working on a piece about happiness and positive thinking. Today, have to write a section on rumination. Been thinking about it all day… Tomorrow: catastrophic thinking. Ohmigod, just occurred to me: what if I start, and my mind is a complete blank?!