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Words, Music and Dance


Disciplines > Communication > Words, Music and Dance

Words | Music | Dance | See also


When we communicate, we have three basic channels by which we can communicate with other people. We have, of course, the same channels through which to understand what they really mean when they are communicating back to us.

An easy way of remembering these three channels is as 'words, music and dance'. If you prefer, you can use 'words, non-verbal (auditory) and non-verbal (visual)'.


The language used in conversation is the basis of all communication. Words are 'little packages of meaning' that we string together into sentences that allow us to connect with one another.

Some words are neutral (like 'floor', 'hot' and 'bottle') and some are more emotionally charged (like 'stupid', 'excited' and 'fire'). Spotting the emotional words and interpreting them, especially in regard to the context in which they are used, can help to understand emotions. 

Studies indicate that words account only for 7-10% of communication. This can help explain why email is such as poor form of communication.


The 'music' of speech is the tonal patterns used, including pitch, speed, emphasis and so on. Emotion can be heard strongly in the music of speech and emotional states such as fear and anger can be clearly detected.

Studies have shown that 30-40% of communication is through the music, which is clearly far more than through words alone.


Body language accounts for up to 50% of a communication, yet it can be very subtle and very easy to misunderstand.

One of the tricks of reading body language is to watch for changes that correlate with specific events. If you say 'Are you ready to do this?' and they respond by crossing their legs and looking away, then you can guess that they are not ready, whatever they actually say.

Body language is the most difficult for people to control, as we literally have hundreds of muscles in our body, many of which are outside of our conscious control. Consequently, the dance can be the most reliable indicator of what other people are really thinking and feeling. 

The dance also includes all physical actions, from throwing a ball to ignoring a colleague, and paying attention to all actions can pay dividends in understanding the other person.

See also

Using Body Language, Use of Language


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