Whether following Mehrabian’s study of “7%-38%-55%”, or the saying we learned, growing up, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” or even a general nonchalance concerning the language used in daily communication, we have grown accustomed to throwing around words, big and small, meaningful and otherwise. We have forgotten about the importance of language, word choice, and rhetoric.
As a copywriter, and as a highly sensitive and emotional person, I find word choice to be of utmost importance. Whether putting together copy for a website, or writing a blog post, or even having a regular, day-to-day conversation, I always weigh my words before I set them out into the universe. In his study on communication, Albert Mehrabian concluded that impact of words, tone of voice, and body language make up 7%, 38%, and 55%, respectively. That 7% that Mehrabian discussed in his study is not for naught. One misplaced word could make or break a business deal, a sale, a reader’s opinion, or a relationship.
Words carry a magical power that can sway views and charm even the most aloof person. In marketing and advertising, we use our words to bring to life the idea of a brand, a promise to the customer, and an enticing call to the consumer. In that, lies a responsibility towards the client as well as the target audience. As far as meaning goes, “distinguished” is not the same as “unique”. With every word uttered comes a promise and a silent understanding between the messenger and the receiver. Not realizing the impact of this is what leads to miscommunication and frayed ends.
Every time I think of the weight of words, lyrics from a song by one of my favorite bands, London Grammar, come to mind, “If letters spell out words, son, you chose to put them in order, didn’t you?” This is an unarguable truth. The issue is that not everyone is conscious of this choice and this responsibility. It is the accountability each and every person has for the way they choose to put the letters in order, and the words in place, and the sentences in turn. Moving on from marketing and focusing on simple, everyday communication between friends, family, and loved ones, it’s easy to infer that most of us are really unaware of the importance of the way we communicate.
Particularly today, with social media, email, text messaging, and other forms of text communication, where no tone or body language can be used alongside words, communicating has become a panic-worthy ordeal. With the 38% and the 55% gone, we are left with the 7%, the words that can hurt. This 7% becomes the 100%, and if we don’t know how to weigh our words and step into the other person’s shoes for a while, we are always at risk of major miscommunication.
Ashley El-Jor Creative Writer