Can You Debunk the "93/7" Rule?

Q: I was reading some content on your website and noticed that you mentioned that words make up only about 7% of a conversation. I hope you aren’t devaluing the value of language or words. Are you aware of the “Mehrabian Myth,” an attempt to show how badly Mehrabian’s research was misinterpreted? A: Mehrabian’s research established two distinct points. First, people form their perceptions of others in a conversation in three distinct ways: visually--55% (non-verbal behavior); vocally--38% (voice tone); and verbally--7% (word usage) which resulted in...

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Do Leaders Sabotage Accountability?

Q: I have recently attended a number of webinars and a workshop on accountability. Some of the training touched on the importance of holding clear and concise “accountability conversations” to ensure commitment and follow-through to achieve results. I understand how important it would be in holding these types of conversations, but I wondered if there are behaviors that leaders might engage in which undermine the accountability they are trying to instill in others. Can leaders sabotage their efforts to increase the accountability of those who work for them?   A: Authentic leadership requires both talk and walk. A leader who is unaware...

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Have You Learned Your Lessons? 11 Communication Tips for Improving Your Change Initiative

I once worked with a company during a change initiative when a company’s business was not going particularly well. The CEO called a meeting of his upper management to discuss how things weren’t going particularly well. A huge process change was three months behind schedule and already $20 million over budget. He began by opening the meeting with, “I want to know who is responsible for the mess we are in, so we can fix this.”

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Do You Bail Your People Out? Rescue Management Diminishes Employee Accountability

I recently had a VP tell me that she had assigned one of her directors the task of doing a comparability study of their company’s compensation and benefits vis-à-vis other companies in their industry.  After the director had completed the study, the VP grilled the director on his findings.  The director had a difficult time answering the questions that she asked and came across as lacking in confidence. The VP was then faced with a dilemma: should she make the presentation to the Board of Trustees herself or should she run the risk of allowing the director to make the...

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"Outside" vs. "Inside" the Conversation

Q: Sometimes difficult situations arise unexpectedly and there doesn’t seem to be time to think through how to use the DialogueWORKS framework. In other words, when I am “outside” the conversation I have time to prepare what I want to say and how I want to say it, but when I am “inside” the conversation, things seem to happen too quickly. How can I become more effective at holding a difficult or emotional conversation when I am “inside” the conversation?   A: What a great question! Taking the time to prepare for a difficult conversation vastly increases the likelihood that the outcome...

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7 Tips for Forgiving Others

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to spend time with a number of family members. One of them was very frustrated by a situation that occurred where they were unduly wronged by another person. In short, they had every right to be angry and extremely disappointed with the way in which the situation unfolded. However, as the weekend wore on, this individual continued to tell the same story over and over and to complain about the same issue.

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How to Assess the Quality of your Relationships

Sometimes I just can’t pass up a good story. Here is one that my financial planner told me this week. It seems that he was out to lunch with one of his clients. While eating, his client was approached by a police officer who asked him to identify himself. The client gave his name, and then the officer passed him a set of papers. The client chuckled and said, “This is obviously a joke given that it is my 50th birthday tomorrow?” The officer replied, “No sir, I am an officer of the law,

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What Kind of a Listener Are You? (Part 1)

Having traveled and spoken a lot this year, it is always interesting to see what learning lessons will emerge from the people that I address. I recently conducted a session with a large group with one person who seemed to be more interested in challenging me than in listening and learning about something that she hadn’t heard before. She seemed bent on contesting a lot of what I was saying with a constant barrage of, “Yeah, buts.”

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9 Strategies to Becoming a Fantastic Listener

Not long ago I was reflecting on a conversation that I had with my spouse. I thought that I had not been a very good listener in a conversation that we had about an hour earlier. Knowing that she was in the next room, I called out to her, “Stephanie, I was thinking about that conversation we just had, and I was thinking I need to apologize for not listening or giving you my full attention when you were talking. Will you forgive me?” She responded, “For which time?”

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