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The Key to Improving Communication? Hint: It's Not What You Say.

Learn how to improve your ability to influence others by focusing on your tone and body language instead of your words.

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Have you ever heard that it's not what you say, but how you say it, that is more impactful? As it turns out, this is actually the case. When trying to influence others, too often people focus solely on their words rather than the more important factors, which are physiology and tonality. How we say things and our body language play a much stronger role in influencing people than our words alone. As an entrepreneur, every edge in business matters and learning to improve your tone and body language can mean the difference between closing the deal or closing your business.

A professor of psychology at UCLA, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, conducted a study on “the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages,” and his research later became widely known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule. The research suggests that word choice accounts for only 7% of conveying a message; 38% of communication is vocal, focused on tonality (think shouting versus whispering); 55% of communication is physical, focused on physiology (aka body language); and 55% physiology and 38% tonality combined are the 93% factor.

Related: 14 Proven Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

Physiological adjustments can trigger changes in biochemistry

Everyone gets into a slump and can feel depressed at times. When someone is depressed, he or she typically exhibits a particular physiology (body language): head down, shoulders hunched forward, shallow breathing, voice low. By simply making an adjustment to your physiology, you can trigger a change in your biochemistry.

Studies have shown that just changing your body language and striking a power pose  for example, putting your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman for two minutes — can increase testosterone in both men and women by 20%. There is a great Ted Talk with Amy Cuddy that goes into greater detail on this subject.

By focusing on your physiology, especially before and during important meetings, you can actively change your biochemistry to put yourself in a better mood and become more likely to close the deal or get a better outcome.

Related: Effective Communication Means Business Success

Mismatched tonality can break rapport

Tonality is another important component of your ability to influence someone. For example, if someone is from the southern United States and speaks slowly and loudly and is interacting with someone from New York City who speaks quickly and more quietly, there can be a break in rapport. If one of the individuals adjusts his or her tone, both in speed and volume, to match the other, the pair will have much better rapport.

Some may look at adjusting their tone to match another person as phony, as that is not their normal state. However, I consider it to be an act of chivalry and respect. It would be the same thing as going to a foreign country and making social adjustments to be respectful of the local culture.

During a business interaction, you want to take advantage of every social etiquette that you can to make the other person feel more comfortable with you. By focusing on the 93% factor, you can change the game in any communication. Mastering your tone of voice and body language will help you make a lasting impact on people. When I’m giving a presentation, I use hand gestures to emphasize what I say, and if I’m on a stage, I’ll walk around the stage as I’m presenting so I can connect with people on a deeper level. 

Improving your ability to execute on the 93% factor can change the game for your business. 

Related: How Effective Employee Communication Boosts Productivity

Ross Franklin

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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Ross Franklin is a best-selling author and is ranked as one of the top five wellness entrepreneurs in the US. He is the CEO and founder of Pure Green, one of the fastest-growing juice bar franchises in the United States. He is also a highly sought-after keynote speaker.