Words, music and dance – getting your message understood

Have you ever been in a situation where you are just not picking up someone’s ideas or opinions? You totally misconstrue what they’ve said, or after 10 minutes you’ve forgotten their every utterance! It’s more common than you think.

Everything we want someone to understand is picked up by:

  • WORDS – what we actually say or write
  • MUSIC – how we say it. The tone, intonation, expression, emotion, pitch and volume
  • DANCE – your body language and physical posture/bearing

And amazingly, the words themselves only account for about 7% of what people pick up on – music is about 38% – and dance is about 55%.

So you can see why the best communicators work very hard on how they say everything, so it’s memorable and fully expresses the message they want to get across – and is re-enforced by their body language.

Some of the best remembered speeches and speakers don’t always have the greatest of content – it’s the way that the words are expressed with emotion and animation, and the right body language, that make us remember them.

Words and music

A lot of business is done over the phone these days – so, in the absence of any body language, getting the right message across means paying particular attention to the words and more importantly, the music.

We all know of people who seem to have a great telephone manner – and these are usually the ones clients remember. Some of their skill is innate (they are just naturally that way) but mostly it’s a practiced art and needs to be flexible to the situation. For example, it’s no good being bright eyed and bushy tailed with a complaining client or a boss who is ‘on the war path’!

It’s important that the words and music are congruent and work together. To put what I am saying into context, try thinking of the man who reads out the football results on a Saturday afternoon – you always know whether it’s a draw, or which team has won, before he’s read out the last number, don’t you! It’s all down to the intonation in his voice, not what he’s actually saying.

And another one to think about is the sentence – “What is this thing called love?” Firstly, think of the romantic voice of a Shakespearean actor, hand on heart, talking to his betrothed – and you’ve got one impression of the words. Then think of the broad Yorkshire man staring down at the burnt offering on his dinner plate, and saying them to his harassed wife – same words, different message!

If your business is dependent on a lot of phone contact with clients, it’s well worth making sure that everyone knows how important this is. If someone is having an off day, is cheesed off, bored, stressed, whatever, this is magnified down the phone. They say you can hear a smile – and believe me, you can!


If people pick up on 55% of what you say through your body language, it’s worth paying attention to that as well, even if it’s just the basics of eye contact, a smile, a nod, the right posture, an assertive handshake etc.

But beware. If you are not careful, you can take body language skills to a bit of an extreme – as one salesman found out after doing a training course on ‘mirroring’ – where your body language mirrors the clients, as a scientific way to build empathy. A group of students unknowingly tested him out, and put themselves into all sorts of weird positions – which the salesman duly mirrored. Great CCTV footage!

If you’ve got a presentation to make – think hard about your body language and how this could help you put your points across – as 55% of your message could be missed if you don’t!

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