Since the 1970s, communication experts have been citing research results released by Dr. Albert Mehrabian on the related value of three vital components of human communication: words, tone & body language.

Mehrabian’s report reinforced reports released in the late 60s by the Journal of Consulting Psychology and the Journal of Personality and Psychology.

That research claimed that in a very limited scope of interpersonal communication that the message conveyed was impacted 57% by the body language of the communicator, 38% by the tone and only about 7% from the words.

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This communication model is now called, “The Mehrabian Myth.”

I believe, in most every context, words have significantly greater impact, as a recent client experience points out.

My client is the CIO of a major division at her company. The division she oversees is named CCIS for Central City Information Services.

She and I have been working together to create a more engaged, motivated workforce in a public governmental setting.

To do so we’ve created formats for employees to interact more, share ideas and make higher-level contributions to the future of their division. It’s been a refreshing approach after years of stagnancy in the division and its leadership.

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After a recent coaching session, my client decided to change the name of her division to be more inline with what she wants it to become.

It’s a subtle change. So subtle it will not even change the division’s acronym of CCIS. The new name will be Central City Innovation Services.

Notice the difference between what “information” and “innovation” conveys.

Providing “information services” in the public sector (or any sector for that matter) is reactive. This is what this division has been facing for years as it tries to react to the requests that come in from other departments and divisions in their city.

My client wants her division to become proactive, bringing ideas for innovative city services to their internal customers and stakeholders.

Just one word shifts the focus and the expectations for 36 employees in this division.

Making this shift does not require any tone or body language to make it 100% understandable, inspiring and motivational.

That’s the power of one word, by itself.

Leaders must start paying more attention to the words they use to make their messages more powerful, inspirational and motivational.

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