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Creative Career Path

Until they’ve heard you Sing2012.08.20

    Why do people spend so much time and energy trying to persuade others to buy their product or service, when it would be so much easier to just let them sample it? An audition is worth a thousand words. People won’t buy your records until they’ve heard you sing.


    Despite our best efforts to persuade by reason, the majority of people make buying decisions more on gut feeling and experience than on verbal persuasion. The same is true when we decide whether we like someone or not, and whether it is worth listening to what they have to say.


    And that decision can be remarkably accurate, even in just a first impression lasting only a few seconds. Nalini Ambady, a Harvard PhD in Social Psychology who now teaches at Standford University, is a leading expert on nonverbal behavior and interpersonal perception. She is best known for her study of the accuracy of so called “thin slice judgments,” based on a study she did at Harvard University. Her research revealed that students who were shown brief silent video clips of professors whom they had never met were able to evaluate the professor’s effectiveness as a teacher. As well in fact, as students who had taken an entire semester course with the professor.


    Moreover, the students rated the professors on 15 criteria of interpersonal communication, including such qualities as Accepting, Attentive, Competent, Confident, Empathetic, Enthusiastic, Honest, and Optimistic. Their thin slice judgments were highly accurate predictors of how students would feel about them after taking the professor’s course, and all of this within less than 5 silent seconds!


    This adds credence to the often quoted study by Albert Mehrabian on how judgment of a person’s credibility depends just 7% on their words, 38% on their voice, and 55% on body language. This has come to be known as the 3Vs of communication, Verbal, Vocal, and Visual. Mehrabian emphasized that it is not only the ratio between the 3Vs that matters, but also the degree of congruence between them.


    As Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803~1882), American poet, lecturer, and essayist said, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”


    Of course snap judgments can also be terribly wrong. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, snap judgments go wrong when a policemen mistakenly shoots a person who was reaching for his wallet and ID, not a gun. Or when a well established Art Museum mistakenly purchases a very expensive piece of art, which turns out to be a fake. It could be that stress and pressure to make a decision is what distorts people’s judgment, not just how fast the decision was made. Knowing this, it makes double sense to cultivate a greater sense of calmness and presence of mind, so that your thin slice judgments can be more reliable.


    We live in a world of increasing transparency, made possible by social media, lightning speed communications, and an emphasis on personal branding. Yet the more information and words there are out there, the more people are driven to rely on nonverbal cues. This is another reason why they won’t buy your records until they’ve heard you sing.


    So let them hear you sing. Give people a chance to sample who you are and what you have to offer. Let them come to know you as a person, rather than as a resume or a proposal. Actions speak louder than words, but it is the congruence between action and words that gives you credibility.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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