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Tony Robbins gives a talk on communication, influence and how to get in rapport with someone. These are the stories, notes, and examples he gives which explains the 7-38-55 rule.

What percentage of our communication skills are words? What percentage? Seven percent. Which means you’re leaving out 93 percent of your skills if you’re just using words.

This is why most people struggle to get into rapport with many people.

What do you do – you walk into a restaurant, and say hi, what’s your name? Where are you from? Why are you here? The person says, my name is Khabib. I’m from Iraq. I’m a terrorist. I’m here to kill people.

And you go amazing me too.

Now, see, words don’t always work, do they?

But there are somethings that you can do that always works to establish rapport.

The 7-38-55 Rule explained:

Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule of personal communication is a rule that goes on to explain that a speaker’s words are only a fraction of his efforts.

Words only make up 7% of building rapport in communication, can you guess what the other 38 and 55 are?

7 percent is words
38 percent is voice or tonality
55 percent is body language

Words are a form of communication that only appeals to the conscious mind. Language and vocabulary is actually a technological advancement created by human. Before that we used nonverbal communication and nonverbal cues.

Tones of voice

Who is Dr. Milton Erickson and why is he important?

You may have unknowingly been matching and mirroring your life. But the person who pointed this first out was Milton Erickson.

Dr. Erickson was a genius. What he did was he was a medical doctor, but he also was a psychologist and a hypnotherapist and probably the best that ever lived.

People would come to see him who had tried to change everything but nothing seemed to work. They saw him for one session, and he’d take care of it. It’s because he understood and mastered the art of nonverbal behaviour. He understood that you have both a conscious mind and a subconscious mind. And he knew the subconscious was more powerful.

He had polio and was in a wheelchair. He spent his time observing how people behaved. He saw when human beings got together, if they got in rapport, a relationship of responsiveness, they became like each other in a variety of ways. This is matching and mirroring.

When people came to visit him, he matched their energy, the vocal tone which created verbal liking. It provided peace of mind and built rapport between him and the person. It sounds so simple but it’s true.

People like people who are most like them.

The person he was communicating with, whatever they put out, he sent the same message back. This biofeedback entrained them to him so that when he then told their unconscious what to do, their brain just did it.

But here’s the problem, most people wait till they have enough words in common. Then they put the voice in common, and the body in common. But words are only seven percent. They don’t work all the time. And by the way, do we judge people in a matter of seconds by their style.

Style is more important than substance initially.

That sounds terrible, but it’s true. Style is more important than substance initially. Now notice I say initially. If you don’t have any substance, it’s not going to last. But you can have lots of substance and no style and people never hear a word you say. No one will ever get to know what you believe.

Body Language

What about the body?

How could you use your body to build rapport if your meeting in person and not over the phone?

Proximity and physical distance.

The physical distance is powerful that can either incite positive or negative emotions. If you come up to a lady and you encroach her bubble you’ll see it on her face. The neck and face muscles all tighten up. You’re at the edge of the comfort zone. How likely are you to build rapport here? Not very likely.

It’s about matching and giving what they need to feel comfortable. Some people like to be up-front but if you’re the one backing away now you broke rapport because it’s what they may need to feel good. So you’ve got to hang in there with those people. People like people who are most like themselves. it’s going to be different for every person that you meet.

So how do you know what’s respectable? Do you just guess, no.

You use your sensory acuity to judge. What’s the impact I am getting here? Is this working? Oh, I can come close but not any closer. Where is it?

And it can change to.

Touch and body posture.

There’s another one that’s critically important, and that’s touch. Now you can get more rapport by touching some people than by anything you could ever say. But again, you need to have some sensory acuity. You can’t go touching because he looks like a toucher. Hey, man, I love your hair and you precede to touch his hair.

Notice how a person shakes hands. Some put one hand on-top of the other. You can reciproacte. We’ve all encountered a person who wants to feel the veins and bones in your hand so they squeeze real tight. You match that. If they go limp hand, you go limp hand.

Body posture is also very powerful. They’re really upright, you’re upright, they’re more relaxed, you’re more relaxed.

Facial expressions, head movements, and hand gestures.

People have idiosyncratic gestures, idiosyncratic meaning, gestures that are their own. So if you’re talking a guy, and he says, I don’t think so. I think we ought to do this. And he makes a funny little gesture when he’s talking about what he really wants to do. If you turn back to him and say, you know, that’s a great idea. Can I ask you a question, though? What if we do this instead, and you make that same little motion with your hand. You’ll notice he’s more receptive.

Facial expression, most of us, if someone’s telling a story and they’re really into their story and they’re making all these faces, do you sit and give them a blank stare? No, you look back and make the same stupid look back.

What about eye contact? A lot of business people and salespeople are taught a total lie.

Their taught if you’re really, truly going to influence someone, you must look directly into their eyes and not break eye contact for forty five straight minutes. This way they know you really mean it. There’s only one problem that, the problem is people like people who are like whom? Themselves. So if you’ve got somebody just stares in your eyes and doesn’t blink for forty five straight minutes, it’s going to freak you out.

What kind of person stares in your eyes and doesn’t break eye contact, aliens.

Most humans look away. If they look away, give em a break and look away. Don’t make them crazy. Now if you meet somebody who like locks eyes with you and doesn’t break eye contact, you lock eyes right back. You keep them on him for 45 minutes. They’ll know you’re an alien, too. It’ll build rapport.


There’s many nonverbal signals we can use to communicate. Words are only 7% of personal communication. Matching and mirroring with voice and body language makes up the other 93%.

If you want to establish rapport practice Mirroring.

They lean back, you lean back.

They cross their legs. you cross your legs.

They pick their nose. you pick your nose.

Obviously not. And you don’t have to copy them every second. As soon as they uncross their legs you can wait until you have something to say. Don’t be glaringly obvious with what you’re doing, you may need to be concious of it at first but training yourself to where it’s just second nature.

You’d be surprised that you can mirror people with almost everything they’re doing and they rarely, if ever, notice it.

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