On Thursday January 19th at 12.30PM I’m running a free one-hour webinar (follow the link to register) on how to communicate effectively using Herrmann International’s WholeBrainThinking™ for the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
The webinar will help you understand how the human communication equipment really works so that your chances of effective communication and avoidance of mis-understanding increase significantly.
This webinar would benefit those who have attended my previous communication webinar, and those who haven’t explored this topic before.
Communication is probably the most critical skill a human being possesses, once we set aside core functions such as breathing! After all it is communication that enables most things in life to happen. So surely we must be good at it – some people certainly seem to practice a lot!
The problem is that for communication to have any value it has to be understood by the recipient – otherwise it is just noise or words. So how do we ensure that our communication is as effective as we can make it? Well for a start we need to take some responsibility here, that if the listener is not “getting it” then it is not because they are ‘in the slow lane’, it’s because we the communicator are not delivering the message in a way that helps them to listen.
Let’s just imagine that we are observing a team of designers building a display for a new product. Everyone is running around, deadlines are tight and the business investor is due in just 15 minutes. Someone decides the product will look better if it is 1.5 metres higher, so a couple of seconds are spent looking for a ladder but only a wobbly chair can be found. The team does understand the risk but hey the pressure is on! Someone, let’s call him Tom, even verbalises the risk – itemising in great detail what could go wrong…. but the others don’t hear. And sure enough the chair wobbles a bit too much and the busy team have an accident on their hands. Even at this point the team is split – the investors are coming and the product is still not properly on display and yet Jack is now lying on the floor, clearly hurt…….
The above scenario is just so common – these were not inexperienced people and yet still they ignored the risk. So how can we communicate such critical information effectively? Well for a start we would all do well to follow the model below if we want our communication to be heard ie. for intent and effect to be aligned.
All too often because we are in a hurry or busy we just focus on the ‘what’ content of the communication. The lack of supporting facts causes the recipient to question the validity of the communication; any potentially negative feelings become activated and blur the edges of what was really being said and then finally we make up the ‘why’ which by now is of course very directly linked in our heads to those negative feelings we just created. Taking the above example, did Jack hear Tom’s very ‘what’ focused warning or did he just hear Tom whining on about risk as normal?
The above model will help increase effective communication immensely but that is not the whole story….we really have to take a look at our brains…or our thinking to be more precise! We all have unique brains and we all think unique thoughts, which means that we all see the world completely differently! However, this is not quite as challenging as it sounds, because although we are all unique, we all have preferences in how we think and if communication is aligned to our particular preferences then the chances of us ‘hearing’ increases even further. Herrmann International’s Whole Brain® Thinking model (below) helps us identify the potential thinking preferences available to us.
Now, most of us are lucky enough to have access to a whole brain, but just as we have a preferred or dominant hand, we also have dominant thinking preferences. These brain based preferences also drive how we communicate and how we listen.
Someone with a strong blue logical, fact driven analytical preference is likely to want to communicate in as focused and efficient way as possible which may mean dispensing with some of the niceties…such as “hope all is good!”; whereas someone with a more green structured, detailed, risk-averse preference will want to communicate all the details so nothing is left to chance; often this is delivered verbally and then confirmed in writing so it can be filed…just in case! A strong red preference is far more focused on supporting people, so will want to communicate face to face where possible so they can sense how the recipient is receiving the message; and finally, someone with a yellow preference has a love of ambiguity and change – especially if there is an element of risk involved so when they communicate it tends to jump about in line with their ideas as they stand back and talk about the big picture.
So too when it comes to listening. Our blue preferenced thinkers just want the facts (as efficiently as possible) our green preferenced thinkers are looking for the process so that they can ensure a reliable outcome; our red preferenced thinkers are wanting to be reassured that everyone is on board and ready to move forward and our yellow preferenced thinkers are listening for the opportunity to flex and create.
I suspect that in the scenario above, Tom’s focus was far too much on his own green preferences and needs and he forgot that Jack’s were very different from his – being driven far more from the yellow quadrant. When risk averse meets risk attraction perhaps we should not be surprised at the outcome – or that they both thought the rest of the world was like them!
Only when we understand ourselves, how we think and what is important to us, can we begin to understand how to really be in true service of others. We really need to understand how our brains work if we are serious about mastering effective communication – and bridge the gap between “knowing” at an intellectual level and “doing” –to enable us to we can walk in other people’s shoes!