Drawing a Picture and Communicating Key PointsHave you ever tried to tell your boss what he/she needs to know and only what they need to know to make informed decisions? Is it hard to identify how to present the information —identifying status, convey the constraints and opportunities, and get the “right” information across? Of course, you have! All of us spend our days communicating the important and the mundane, the good news and the disasters. How we are communicating a message is as important as the content of the message.

Communicating a message effectively and efficiently begins with understanding how the intended audience communicates. This means you have to spend some time analyzing their communication clues. These clues are found in word choices when they are communicating. For instance, does the person typically use words and phrases like “I see what you mean” or “I get the picture”? This tends to indicate the person is a visual learner, so including graphics in your messaging and mirroring back language of the visual learner helps. Words like “see, picture, visualize, discern, spot,” and many others indicate getting a visual mental image of the information.

In contrast a auditory learner is a listener. They “hear what you’re saying.” Auditory learners want a linear presentation of facts and prefer to get them from a conversation, presentation, or other audio format. Graphics aren’t their thing. Clear, concise, verbal descriptions enable them to learn the information and form a response.

The third type of learner is the read-write. This person wants written communication, preferably in the form of lists. Email, reports, and other documents that are well-organized and contain the information in bullet points are usually best, but any well-written message will do the job..

Finally, we have what I call the hands-on learner. Kinesthetic learners use all their senses to get information. These people like to get their hands into the project, data, etc. The challenge here is to have patience as the kinesthetic, hands-on boss is going to be slow to make his/her decision.

My personal style is strongly visual and combines frequently with the read-write mode. I like to get the big picture first and fill in the details that are needed. Give me a list of the details and get to the point. Many of my team are auditory and hands-on learners, which quite frankly can drive me crazy, especially on days when getting to the point and making decisions quickly is critical. I find myself many times saying “Get to the point.” Rude? Perhaps, but when your every minute counts as you are trying to fix an urgent client problem, 10-minute background explanations of non-critical info just is not productive from my perspective.

Working with my teams to understand each of our communication styles, personality traits, and identifying how to balance the teams and skill sets often decides whether a project will be successful. Matching the styles to the roles, the projects, and the expectations enables each member to have the chance to succeed. This also means that each person originating a message, whether it is a request, a report, or a decision, needs to understand how to adapt to other communication styles and step out his/her own preferred formats. It may also mean formatting a report or presentation to be sure that all learning styles are accommodated to some degree. Graphics, lists, live presentations, or pre-recorded audio and props may come into play in a meeting where getting everyone to understand, agree, and act is under a time constraint.

Communicating with your boss in his/her preferred style is a first step to improving relationships and results. Extending that understanding and adaptation to team members, clients, and anyone you have multiple interactions with changes how you are perceived. I can hear your doubts, see that comment bubble above your head with the “yeah, right” skepticism. You can observe the phenomenon in your life. Next time you are in a meeting keep track of the words used by those in the meeting. If you are lucky you will also be able to observe a time when one person will make a comment or suggestion that is completely ignored, only to be restated by someone else within the meeting using the boss’s communication style; the boss will jump on the idea and find it brilliant. (I hope the person ignored wasn’t you.)

Language is a tool to be used wisely. Honing your communication skills to recognize quickly the type of learners you have in the audience can improve how others perceive you. Listen for verbal clues so you can get hints as to how each person prefers to learn. Observe your boss and co-workers (and friends and family) to identify their preferred means of getting information. Then work on developing your own skills in accommodating those preferences. You will find that the better you can tailor your message to the audience’s style, the more impact and results you will get.

Copyright ©2016 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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