Ensuring people 'hear' what you are really saying
December is nearly upon us. It’s time for end of year number-crunching, business planning for 2012, annual reporting, staff reviews and company celebrations. It’s the same story every year. We know what we need to do, but do we really know how effectively we are communicating with others as we navigate our way through this familiar territory?
How many of us have really fully considered how our natural ways of interacting with others may impact the messages we convey?
Annual reviews, meetings and company wide events are high stake environments in which effective communication is vital.
There are three critical areas that we should consider:
- It’s often as much about how you say it as it is about what you say
- Your communication style can have a huge impact on your effectiveness, whether you are an employee, a manager, a consultant, or in any other role
- Your individual perspective of what is important may not match the needs and values of those among your audience.
Imagine that you are a CEO and need to present end-of-the-year reporting to all employees at the close of what may have been a difficult year. How can you ensure that everyone really ‘hears’ the messages you’re trying to convey? How can you ensure the message finds its way through the filters that we all sub-consciously apply when listening and trying to make sense of what others are saying to us? You know that you need to communicate the information people want and need in a way that encourages them to listen. And at the same time, you have an audience full of different people want to hear and listen to different things! How can you overcome this?
Take a minute to consider your own MBTI preferences, and those of your audience members. It is important to remember that we all take in and evaluate information differently, and we deal with the external world in unique ways. If we recognise and appreciate the differences among us we can learn to improve the effectiveness of our communication. One way of doing this is to present the information in different ways. Here are some examples:
For audience members with a preference for:
- Extraversion - make sure your message allows opportunities for discussion. Otherwise they may find it hard to fully engage with the message.
- Introversion - make sure your message allows a chance for people to reflect before being asked to respond. Otherwise they may feel uncomfortable contributing their thoughts.
- Sensing - make sure your message includes facts and details that are relevant to their current situation. Otherwise they may see things as being unrealistic and impractical.
- Intuition - make sure your message focuses on the broader implications of a situation. Otherwise they may become bored or impatient with details.
- Thinking - make sure your message outlines the rationale behind actions and decisions. Otherwise they may question the logic that has been applied.
- Feeling - make sure your message conveys an understanding of the personal impacts of actions and decisions. Otherwise they may feel that you are only concerned with the bottom line, and not the people involved.
- Judging - make sure your message appears focused and action-oriented. Otherwise they may feel that your message is unclear and unstructured.
- Perceiving - make sure your message leaves some room for flexibility. Otherwise they may feel that you are limiting your options unnecessarily.
An audience-focused approach may come naturally to experienced communicators, who have learnt (or been taught) the keys to effective communication. However, even with the most experienced communicators, the use of MBTI as a framework for thinking about individual differences should not be underestimated. The beauty of it is its simplicity. By simply tailoring your communication style to ensure that both ends of each preference pair are catered for, you have a useful starting point for ensuring your message will be heard.