We are still social animals
When it comes to figuring out how to measure the business value of blogs, we cannot take a decade (the way that interactive advertising did with banner ads) to understand why and how people use and value blogs. Among that we need to questions to consider:
- How does modern blog writing and communication convey ideas?
- How are blogs interpreted by the reader?
- And ultimately, how do they influence our thinking and behavior?
That leads us to Albert Mehrabian. Remember Dr. Mehrabian, the famed MIT educated UCLA Psychologist known for his pioneering work on body language and how humans interpret meaning and mixed messages in face-to-face communications? Mehrabian’s bio puts it this way:
“His theoretical work and experiments helped identify nonverbal and subtle ways in which one conveys like-dislike, power and leadership, discomfort and insecurity, social attractiveness, persuasiveness, and ways to detect when others are being deceptive in communication. Communication and leadership trainers and political campaign managers have often relied on these findings.”
You may have seen some of his work in Psych 101 or in training seminars for communications, leadership, or presentation skills. Specifically, Merhabian’s research taught us the 7/38/55 rule where we interpret ‘meaning’ by the words we hear (literal meaning), the tone of voice used, and finally the body language used while the message is being delivered.
Mehrabian showed that 7% of meaning is interpreted from what we say vs. the other 93% coming from how we say it. To effectively communicate – you have to make sure that your words, tone of voice and body language all say the same thing. On the flip side, when we intend to communicate different meaning to someone than the words we use, we often rely on our tone of voice or body language (or both) to make it clear that we don’t really mean what we’re saying with our words.
Bill: “Did your hear that Bush won a second term in the White House?”
Mary: “Isn’t that a great thing.”
In paying attention only to the words used in this conversational snippet one would be left to assume that you were listening in on a conversation between two Republicans. If you were face-to-face with Bill and Mary however it would be just as easy for you to figure out that Mary didn’t agree with Bill at all simply by listening to her facetious tone of voice and watching the wry look play across her face.
Add to this melting pot of communications the venerable blog. A mashup of:
- journal writing
- creative writing
- business writing
- fear and loathing
- humorous musings
- two or multi-way dialog
- and community elements
And what do we have? While it is well understood that we don’t have the aforementioned physical communications tools when we interact on a blog, I don’t know if it makes it clearer as to what makes a blog inherently good, valuable or effective in terms of a communication vehicle. We don’t have tone of voice with blogs but the writing of a typical blogger seems to have has a distinct voice – the better the writer the more elegant and engaging the prose.
Blogs don’t have body language but we use both words and pictures to convey meaning. Are these writing skills and web based images surrogates for the lack of information we have to communicate and interpret meaning or are they enhancing the dialog? Perhaps this creativity earns us something valuable that we wouldn’t normally encounter with a regular face-to-face conversation?
Is it because blogs cause us to be more thoughtful in how we consider the author’s position, or how they make us think and consider a commenter’s opinion before we feel the need to interject our own beliefs? Do we listen more completely? Do we write more thoughtfully then we do when we write e-mails and less thoughtfully than if we were to write for a published book or article? Are blogs an excuse to slow down in this go-go interrupt driven society or do they just add to the malaise of information overload? What are your thoughts?
Stay tuned for part IV tomorrow which will discuss why scholars caution us to avoid using Mehrabian’s 7/38/55 rule out of context for ANY mode of communication.