We all know by now that communication is at the core of how we function on a daily basis. We communicate (in person, via video or by writing) to get what we want. We communicate to survive and to thrive day-to-day.

Most of the articles and blogs you read miss one vital first-step. To communicate successfully, you must first identify the type of person you are communicating with.

Call it what you will, behavioral typing, profiling, people-reading, etc. The very first step in communication is to identify and understand how the recipient interprets information and responds to their environment.

I am sure everyone has run into the following scenario: you leave a meeting thinking you were clearly understood by the participants, only to find out a few key people left the meeting clueless and their misunderstanding actually created a huge loss of productivity or maybe even resulted in an irate client.

A popular suggestion made in many articles and blogs on improving business communication to avoid the above-mentioned mistake, is to follow-up after a meeting with a list of key points or takeaways. This is a fantastic technique but it does not work for everyone.

Let me elaborate. Imagine there is a meeting between two people, Sam the CEO and Bob a contract employee. The goal of Sam’s meeting is to get Bob to enter four, pre-configured emails into their automation system by end of the day. Sam and Bob have been working together for a several months. Both of them just, “let it go” when they mis-communicate. They simply fix the error and move on. So far this hasn’t resulted in any major setbacks. However, at this meeting, both parties are stressed as they approach the launch date of Sam's company.

At the meeting, Sam speaks quickly and loudly and she is very direct. Loud and direct people, stress Bob out. Bob, shuts down his listening when he stressed. He perceives Sam as being too aggressive and forceful when she is pushing the idea that four emails have to be copied and pasted into software. Bob doesn’t understand the aggressive behavior when he has 5 hours to do a task he believes will take less than 30 minutes. Bob says nothing during the meeting. Sam, mistakes Bob’s silence as understanding and agreeing.

After the meeting, Sam implements the great idea she read about and follows-up with an email of takeaways. When Bob, who is already frustrated, gets to his email and reads the directive to enter four emails into the automation system, he completely resents the idea of those four emails and is unable to enter them in the system. He feels as though he is being talked down to and micro-managed. Bob decides to do some research to calm down. He knows if he tries to enter the emails while he is frustrated, it won't be done properly. Bob never gets back to the email since he gets caught up in research. The job is not done and the launch is pushed backed.

This is an example of how implementing great communication advice can backfire if you do not first understand your audience.

If Sam had taken a second before the meeting to be mindful and identified Bob communication style, she could have intentionally lessened her directness and consciously slowed down her speech while also keeping her tone and volume down. This would ensure Bob did not become defensive and “shut down.” Additionally, if Sam understood how Bob receives and interprets information, she could have taken measure to engaged Bob. She could have asked him to respond during the meeting (to ensure he was listening) and had him take notes, placing him in charge of the post-meeting “takeaway” email (so he is reiterating the idea for himself). By engaging Bob and speaking in a way that Bob feels most comfortable, Sam could have avoided the lost productivity.

While it might sound like it takes a lot of energy to read and identify people then adapt your message and communication style. I ask, "What is more work? Taking the time to hold the correct meeting or missing your launch pushing back an entire company?"

While 90% or 11 of the 12 integrated behavioral types would have simply taken the clear directive and gotten the job done; Sam was speaking to Bob. So the only thing that mattered in this scenario was, "how does Bob effectively receive information?" That is why identifying your audience's behavioral type is key to successful communication no matter what suggestions you are applying.

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