Yes, your words are important


We're often told that voice and body language are more important than the words you say. This is, of course, utter rubbish, says communication coach Jon Torrens.


Jon writes:

I find this quote infuriating:

'Words account for 7 per cent of how your message is received, with voice accounting for 38 per cent and body language 55 per cent'.

It's from a book I'm reading about giving presentations. Presumably the author wouldn't be impressed if Stephen Hawking spoke to them, or would be quite happy to hear that they'd lost their job, as long as the person informing them was speaking clearly and using 'open' body language. It's rubbish. Rubbish, I tell you!

Myth the Point

This kind of misunderstanding of how voice and body language works is a myth created by misunderstanding the work of Albert Mehrabian. However, it's the kind of myth that people accept because everyone spouts it, and what I call a 'pub fact' e.g. someone tells you emphatically that if you shave your head, the hair grows back thicker (trust me it doesn't work, I've got 20 years of bald noggin experience to back that one up).

Nerd Perfect

Yes, voice and body language are essential components of good communication (which I enjoy using), but unless you're presenting to someone who's not very bright, or who doesn't understand the language you're using (such as the infant Tom Selleck reads a violent story to in '3 Men and a Baby'), the words you use are... how shall I put this? Oh yes, I know: SUPREMELY IMPORTANT. They are the essence of your communication (so please write really good ones). They will not account for only 7% of how your message is received; charm simply isn't that powerful (unless you're a very famous film star, and I'm guessing you're not).

Here's that quote with those percentages again, but this time from my perspective:

'Words account for 80 per cent of how your message is received, with voice accounting for 10 per cent and body language 10 per cent'. 

You may disagree with those numbers. And you'd be completely wrong. In which case please comment below with your own.

Conclusion Confusion

Your written words can move, motivate and inspire people, even without the physicality of your voice and body language. Those elements matter, but never more so than the words.


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By reducing stress and fear, I make giving talks enjoyable.

Using my experience as an introvert, stand-up comic and video games designer, I deliver short, fun but effective training to create successful, confident speakers. I work with both companies and individuals.

I currently deliver training online and in person.

Jon Torrens