Posted 24th January 2008.
My post on debunking the myths of non-verbal communication has been picked up by a lot of google searches for “percentage non-verbal communication”, “what % of communication is non-verbal” and the like.
For those who haven't read the original article, have a look and you'll find that the often quoted figure of 93% is just pure hokum (well, it's an accurate figure for one very specific example taken repeatedly way out of context).
For those keen to understand what the “real” figures are for the percentage of communication that's non-verbal – have a think about it for a second.
Really, the question is meaningless.
What does “percentage of communication” actually mean? Do you mean the percentage of the actual message that was heard and understood? Or do you mean the percentage of intended emotion that got through? The concept of a “percentage of communication” is so oversimplified that it ceases to have meaning.
In addition, there are so many different types of communication that it's impossible to give a single figure or average that has any meaning. Even if you could figure out a “percentage of communication that was non-verbal” it would be so radically different for example, for a lecture on mathematics to an impassioned speech on third-world poverty that to give an overall figure would be misleading.
So here's my answer anyway:
Q: What percentage of communication is non-verbal?
A: More than most people think, but less than trainers in non-verbal communication would have you believe.