Addressing Behaviour: Use Words

Use Words If Necessary

We've been lied to

Have you ever heard the phrase: Language is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal?

It's a lie. Kind of.

This now infamous (and now altogether misused) adage is based on two 1960s studies by Albert Mehrabian; (1) where the tone of voice had more impact than the word 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.

Here's the truth

The study found that the literal word spoken accounted for 7% of how the message was received, tone of voice for 38% and body-language for 55%. This is referred to as the 7%-38%-55% Rule.

In essence, verbal language is still very important and we can deduce that overall it still accounted for 45% of communication in that study.

Try this

Do you want to know how you sound when you address your student's behaviour? Here's a solution: record yourself!

Self-awareness is a good thing, and by recording yourself and asking for feedback you will develop responses that help both you and your students.

By recording yourself and seeking feedback you will find out. If you cannot record yourself, ask two or three others for an honest opinion.


Although verbal language is often important for communicating a message, it is still difficult to remove as a prompt. In my opinion this is because it comes most natural to us and we are creatures of habit... and habits are hard to change.

But some things are worth changing for!