Can you see what I’m saying? Evaluate communication

March 19, 2012

By Donna Suter, practice management consultant and business coach

If there is one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own. – Henry Ford

Henry Ford saw that flexibility in understanding others is perhaps the most important stepping stone to success. While you may be an expert at analyzing the data collected during an eye health exam and identifying disease, how adept are you at recognizing the four basic personality styles?

And yet, experience has taught you that people, both patients and employees, are more receptive to messages that are synchronous with their own orientation to speed, detail, risk, task, or relationships with people. Synchronizing communication involves a lot more than these concepts. Another area of interesting work is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

The idea behind NLP is that we process information in a combination of visual, auditory, and physical modes.

The current theory is that you can determine which mode is primary for someone by the words they choose.

By using terminology that is similar to what is preferred by the other person, you can synchronize or connect more easily with them.

People tend to understand and learn more easily with information that is related in visual, auditory, or physical terminology, depending on their natural preference.

“I see what you mean” is a visual reference. An example of a visual-auditory crossover reference is “I see what you’re saying.”

“In other words” is an auditory reference. You may hear this kind of phrase when an auditory-dominate person is trying to get a visual or physical person to “hear” what they are saying. Other auditory references include “it sounds like” and “you can tell that.”

“I get the sense that…” is a physical reference. Other physical (also referred to as kinesthetic) references are “get a feel for this,” “go through the motions” and “gut feeling.”

When you are communicating with another person, a way you can synchronize or “connect” (a physical reference) with the other person is to listen carefully to their word choices. Identify with people’s feelings by using reflective statements that allow you to adapt to their state of mind without agreeing with or joining them.

Adapting and being flexible can be tough. If this isn’t so, what are the reasons we keep repeating?

Research shows us that approximately 40 percent of the country places a high priority on consistency (which will make using NLP to communicate difficult). The research also shows that 54 percent of the population will resist change.

Making the choice to be more flexible when listening and speaking to others means that you are opening yourself up to learning more about others and yourself. Some people see things only one way, their way. They make a quick judgment based on their first impression and refuse to consider alternatives.

While you may be thinking this is a closed-minded approach, it is what most of us naturally do! As trained eyecare practitioners, you discipline yourself to never make a diagnosis until all the data from the eye health exam and patient history form has been reviewed. Yet, you might label (a visual reference) an employee or a patient as difficult based on something that happened years ago.

It is human nature to defend our first impressions. The research clearly shows that first impressions are formed quickly and based on a small amount of information, and are long-lasting and resistant to change. The research also shows us that the most communicatively competent people are more open to new information than average people are.

Assumptions, judgments, and opinions are all based on limited information. If you stick to your first impressions and defend them vigorously, you’re continuing to operate on a limited information base. Flexibility in listening includes being open to the possibility that someone else may have something to teach you.

Recognize the things that get in the way of your ability to listen with an open mind. When you feel yourself getting defensive or hear yourself automatically objecting to someone else, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What can I learn by listening to this person with an open mind?
  • Everyone knows something I don’t. What does this person know?
  • What are the real issues behind what this person is saying?
  • How does this compare to what I already know?
  • What is the main point here?

To get more comfortable with change, make an effort to try something new – just to get out of your long established habits! Listen to a different radio station on the way to work, move your trash can; if you’re talkative, listen more; or if you’re quiet, speak up in meetings. Read an article about a subject you know nothing about. These are all ways to practice flexibility.

Of course there are times to remain firm in your beliefs, but being stubborn in business and life can hurt you and others in the long run.

When adapting to others, instead of abruptly changing the way you communicate, start small and work your way up.

You might be surprised at what you can gain.

For more information, contact the author at suter4pr@donnasuterconsulting.com.

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