:Behaviour and Language:

- Use Words If Necessary -

Have you ever heard the phrase: Language is only 10% verbal and 90% non-verbal?

It's a lie.

Well, kind of...

This now infamous (and oft misunderstood) adage is based on two 1960s studies by Albert Mehrabian; (1) where it was found that the tone of voice had more impact than the actual word(s) spoken; (2) where participants were asked to guess the emotions heard in an audio recording and then listen to it again with an accompanying image of a person displaying an emotion. The study found that the literal spoken word accounted for 7% of how the message was received, the tone of voice accounted for 38%, and body-language for 55%. This was referred to as the 7%-38%-55% Rule, and it is still worth remembering!

For the sake of this article, we will focus on verbal language, including tone, as they account for 45% of communication.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Do you want to know how you sound when you address student behaviour or communicate in general? Here's a simple solution: record yourself! Self-awareness and reflection are good things, and by recording yourself and asking for constructive feedback you will develop responses that work better for both you and your students.

By seeking objective feedback you will find the answers to these questions. If you cannot record yourself, ask two or three trusted sources for an honest opinion.

Why verbal prompts are problematic

Although verbal language is often important for communicating a message, it is still difficult to remove as a prompt – it is our most natural form of addressing behaviour, and without self-awareness of our communication style, many of our words might be wasted efforts. We are only human; creatures of habit; and habits are hard to change. But some things are worth changing for!