Bull On CBS – Is The Nonverbal Information Valid Or Bull?

Are their facts just fluff when it comes to Body Language?

Bull, The Hit Show On CBS – Every now and then a TV show dealing with human behavior is created and you love it. 

Bull TV Show - Dr. Phil - Scott Rouse Body Language Expert - Keynote Speaker

Because when you watch it, you feel as though you’re learning some “inside information” that you’ve never had access to before.

It’s almost like the show is giving you tools to deal with human behavior in a way other people aren’t even aware of.  One great example of a show like that was Lie To Me.  If you haven’t seen it you can binge it on Netflix.

There were a few mistakes with some of the Body Language cues the characters would decode on that show.  However, I’m sure those were chalked up to “Dramatic License”.  After all, it’s TV right?

Now there’s a new show on CBS that focuses on human behavior called Bull.  It’s a hit, but I discovered it has some of the same dramatic license issues that Lie To Me had.

That was a bit of a let down for me.  Because my pet peeve is people using bad Body Language information when making important decisions about what other people are thinking and feeling.

It’s such a big pet peeve for me that I did a TEDx Talk about it.  It’s called “How To Kill Your Body Language Frankenstein & Inspire The Villagers“.

TEDx-Scott-Rouse-TED-Talk--550x276 It’s about what happens when people create their own personal Frankenstein’s Monster.  They do it by accident when making decisions about people based on the incorrect Body Language information they’ve been exposed to their entire lives.

Where does all the bad information come from and who’s responsible for it?  I cover all that in the TEDx Talk as well.

(A book written by former Army Interrogator, Greg Hartley called “I Can Read You Like A Book” sparked the idea.  It’s one of my favorite books on Body Language and Nonverbal Communication.  He’s written 9 books. Start with “How To Spot A Liar”).

Here’s what happened

It was the night of the premiere episode of Bull.  I only knew the show was about a guy named Dr. Jason Bull and Michael Weatherly played the lead role.  Dr. Bull is a consulting courtroom psychologist based on Dr. Phil.  I wanted to watch it because he and I do a couple of the same things and I wanted to see how the TV version of them looked.
One thing we both do is Voir Dire.  It sounds dirty, but that’s what you call the process of Jury Selection. It’s a French phrase and it sounds like “Vwah-Deer”.
Another thing we both do is Trial Consultation.  That means consulting during the trial. In other words, translating what the Body Language of the jurors is transmitting.  Then informing the attorney of what each juror is thinking and feeling in real time.
For example, which jurors are on the fence?  Are they effecting other jurors?  Have some jurors made up their minds already?  Which jurors like or dislike which attorney?  Who likes and/or dislikes each other?  Which jurors identified with the opening statement?  Who found it offensive?
scott rouse - body language expert - nashville - keynote speakerIt’s also important to let the attorney know what he or she may do or say to help change the minds of specific jurors.
That includes suggesting what Nonverbal cues to add or take away as things progress.  The same goes for verbal cues.  A version of all these goes on all the way to the closing statement.  Most of the time nobody even knows we’re there or what we’re doing.  I have a talk I give lawyers about judging juries.  “It’s called How To Judge The Jury“.

Here’s where my pet peeve tried to grab the remote.

The first time Dr. Bull meets his newest client, the client asks “Can you help my son?”.  Dr. Bull answers “Absolutely” while shaking his head “No”.

When this happened I pointed to the TV while I looked at my wife with my mouth gaping wide open.  Ambre said “Relax your crack… It’s just starting.  Give it a chance.”  So I did…  I let that one go.

  Watch Bull shake his head “No” in this video while he’s saying “Absolutely”.  Then watch Lance Armstrong do the same thing 4 times in a row while bold face lying.  The video goes on to show him giving the same answers again, but the second time the sound is down during his answers.

Then, Dr. Bull committed the unforgivable sin of modern Nonverbal research and studies.  What did he do?  He quoted the infamous 7-38-55 Rule Of Communication.  I was so let down.

Dr. Bull was leaning back in a chair.  He looked his client right in the eye and released “93% of all communication is Nonverbal” as though he were channeling the Body Language God “Nonverbacleez”.

As Ambre turned to look at me, I was already staring at her with a blank face while pointing the channel changer at the TV.  Then I whispered “Buh” and we were on the Travel Channel.

Here’s why this one throws a flag on the Bull play:

The 7-38-55 Rule Of Communication is not valid.  It is touted to be the outcome of research done by Albert Mehrabian.  It isn’t.  I called him.  He told me himself.  And that was over 20 years ago.

I refer to those who deliver that information as though it were real and valid as “BLIPs”.  That stands for “Body Language Information Parrots”.  Because like a parrot, anything they hear about Body Language they repeat, believe, and teach as fact.  Without researching it at all.

The Invalid Rule of Communication Chart BLIPs will say “Research tells us communication is 7% the words we use, 38% is the tone of our voice, and 55% is our Body Language.  That means 93% of our communication is Nonverbal!”  Take a minute and think about that.  If that information was true the game Charades wouldn’t exist.  And you’d never need to learn new languages when you went to foreign countries.

You could just grunt and flail your arms around and everyone in China, Mexico, Japan, Iceland, and any other countries you can think of would understand you with no problem at all.

Go here: The 7-38-55-Rule Is A Myth The video is cued to start as I begin explaining why the 7-38-55 Rule is invalid.  (It’s less than 60 seconds long).

In full disclosure…

I’ve seen every episode of Bull up to this point.  And you know what?  I like it.  I like the actors.  I like the stories.  I really like it.

I’m sure these growing pains in the “Nonverbal Facts Department” will fade not long from now.  These things usually work themselves out one way or another.

So, I’ve decided to stuff my Nonverbal snobbery into a bag and put it under the couch when Bull comes on.  Also, there’s gonna many more seasons.  And I’m gonna watch.  Every episode.  And I’m gonna get up in it.  And I’m gonna love it.  (@MarkGoffman, email me or hit me on Twitter.  I’ll come over there and point out the glitches for free.  @ScottRouse3)