By Joseph Feusi
I was writing a letter to a prospective client about teaching people how to communicate better. I thought it would make a good blog to help people better understand communications. So here goes! I hope you get some good stuff out of this!
Understanding One Another
I approach communication from some basic modalities about human traits. The first thing I want everyone to get an understanding of when I teach communication is that we all perceive that people communicate the same way that we do. First, I help people to understand that it's very important to place themselves in the other person's shoes whom they are communicating with and how that person may have a different style or modality of communication. When I teach people how to do that, it is a lot easier for them to express, to be heard, to be seen, and to receive another's expression, in short, to communicate.
Resurrecting Failed Communication
One of the most important aspects about teaching people how to communicate is how to resurrect communication when it has failed. An example is: You are communicating well with someone and you inadvertently cross some kind of personal, social or cultural boundary, and the other person becomes uncomfortable and potentially jaded towards you, and is no longer interested in creating a situation where there is a meeting of the minds. So what I find is, for most of us, the ability to be able to have extended communication—that is, building a Communication Bridge to another person or group—requires us to have a specialized file folder that is in our brain (eventually it become habitual) to be able to spontaneously communicate in any circumstance. What happens for most people is that they go to the communication folder in their head and there is little or no information there either on how to communicate in the first place or to repair communications gone awry. If the communication that they are involved in has something to do with being seen or heard, and they feel like that is not happening, then this can trigger a fear response as a result of the empty folder. Once fear shows up, all involved in the communication catch it, and that has a tendency to make communication fail. If we have information in that folder that can help us identify specific ways to resurrect a communication situation that is failing, or to build and maintain a stronger bridge in communication that is currently working, then we avoid the issue of having fear arise and stay out of fight or flight or freeze, and continue to operate off of our larger Selves. Below, you will see what I teach to put in your Folder as I outline the Four Communication Modalities that we operate out of as communicators, and how understanding these modalities makes us all better communicators.
Calling Forth Ideas
There's another aspect of communication to look at. Sometimes people have really good ideas that they are trying to communicate but they are poor communicators. Their ideas become discounted because of their communication abilities. Then you inevitably have a set of circumstances where necessary resources in the form of ideas have materialized but aren't accepted and therefore aren't implemented because of an interpretation of poor communication being confused with poor ideas. Then down the road it is discovered that somebody actually figured out a resolution to a problem but it was not heeded. It's important that when someone is trying to communicate, that people understand that this circumstance can exist and listen for the content that is being expressed, and not the communication ability of the expresser. It is very important that people in authority (managers, supervisors, CEOs) understand this dilemma because it creates the opportunity to bring forth solutions that are being offered and are available and are being discounted and misunderstood. So an aspect of this would be best described as empowered listening. It is invaluable and crucial for the listener to cross the bridge to the communicator, to really understand what they are trying to communicate, even if they have limited faculty as a communicator so the value of their ideas are seen and they feel that they are valuable contributors.
We all have ideas, and all of us at one time or another will have really good ones. It is really sad when a good idea does not get implemented, and it's bad for the company. If you've had a prolonged period where good idea people are perceived as poor communicators, and their ideas are denigrated, it becomes difficult for these individuals to express their ideas, so they don't. So you may actually have someone sitting at a board meeting and they have a great resolution to a problem and are not expressing their ideas. Hence, the solution is right there at the meeting and it's being overlooked.
I'm always surprised that considering the importance of what communication is to the human race, that even though we are taught to speak, how very few of us actually understand the dynamic of communicating. One of the things to take into consideration about communication is that it's inextricably linked to negotiation, and that good communicators are also good negotiators. We all know the importance of a really good negotiator.
To give you a basic idea, communication styles fall into Four Communication Modalities. These four modalities represent categories that we as humans communicate from. The first one is that we have Visual Communicators who see everything in pictures. Visual Communicators see the big picture really fast—they literally see it. The advantage of this is that they get around the "what's going on" curve pretty quickly to see the heart of the matter and the complete project. We have Digital Communicators who are similar to visual, but communicate in intellectual models—they can manipulate a holographic, three-dimensional model of the world inside their mind at incredible speed. In essence what they can do is they can test out a theory on the validity of something without ever having to have it manifest in physical form. In short, they can run internal tests to see where the problems are so that they are avoided and save a lot of time and effort. We have people who are Kinesthetic, who communicate in feelings. These people have a sense of things that they can't build or defend an "intellectual" case to justify, even though their assessments are highly accurate. This is the intuitional realm. And then we have people who would be described as Tonals, who are very good at the collection and the organization of detail that is mostly auditory. They are like a human tape recorder and the information they glean from listening is really accurate and their evaluations are thorough and helpful if you seek them out. These people are going to ferret out any problems with authenticity or dishonesty really fast. They are like human lie detectors. Some people can contain more than one modality, and some people have all of them. The people who have all of them are usually excellent communicators.
Interestingly enough, as life would have it, all four of these modalities have a very difficult time communicating with each other until they have an understanding of how the other modalities work, and begin to value the gifts of the other modalities. This is especially important for a team to understand that is in negotiation with another team. For example, if you are negotiating with an oppositional team and that team is able to break your team up into its separate modalities, the separate modalities of your team will actually start in-house fighting (i.e., fighting amongst yourselves, and then you'll get distracted and lose the negotiation). However, if you are working as a cohesive unit and you know that each modality is valuable, you can allow for expression of each modality in turn. For instance, Visuals and Digitals get to the center of the issue really quickly, but a problem can arise when the oppositional team changes the argument into an emotional issue. The Visuals and Digitals get hopelessly lost, frustrated and scared—they are out of their element. Then it's really great when their trusted fellow Kinesthetic and Tonal team members come to the rescue and save the negotiation. The inverse of this is completely true too. Where the negotiation started out as emotional and suddenly became visual or digital (theoretical), then your team has a balanced and unified front and remains calm and collected when their Visual and Digital compatriots come up to bat. When a negotiation team has this kind of working relationship where they can support each other and know that any shortcomings one person has can be supplemented by another's strengths, then this opens up the team's ability to have an exceptionally strong right brain connection with one another that gives them an optimum ability to negotiate. In short, all fear is removed from their side of the equation. They are completely relaxed and enthusiastic.
Another aspect of the business world is management. You may have a manager who is a Visual, and this can create a lot of problems if he or she is talking to someone who is Tonal. Tonals have a tendency to be distracted by visual information and have a tendency to look away so that they can focus on what they are hearing. A Visual perceives that the second that you are not looking at them while they are talking that you are not listening to them. Their response can be to get very agitated at the Tonal, perceiving inaccurately that the Tonal is not listening because they are not looking. The Tonal can begin to get upset if the Visual amps up their words or tone. It's not uncommon in this set of circumstances for a Visual to actually yell at a Tonal, "Look at me while I'm talking to you!" If the Tonal looks, they can't remember their part of what they're trying to communicate because they're in flight or freeze. Teaching people to at a minimum understand, value and recognize the four basic modalities greatly enhances communication.
Boardrooms in particular are very susceptible to getting trapped in one modality, which leads to immense calamity. I have actually witnessed entire board rooms that are completely trapped and camped out in only one modality. Let's give an example: We have an entire group of people who are Visuals and they are all communicating very well amongst themselves. So then lots and lots of their internal negotiations go really well, until a situation arises where an emotional valuation of a crucial circumstance is necessary, and there is no Kinesthetic board member to offer information or feedback. The Visuals make a decision that they think is right and it turns out to be completely wrong because, ironically enough, without the kinesthetic information, they couldn't accurately see (feel) the whole picture. Convinced that they are totally right, they keep going down the wrong path until they reach a point of no return (the company goes broke). They were successful up to the point that they needed information from another modality (beyond their immediate sphere of influence). This is why it's very important to try to have a board of decision makers be comprised of a balance of the four modalities and for them to have respect for one another's gifts. It's also equally important to enhance these four abilities in ourselves as individuals no matter what our modality is to become better communicators in the workplace and in our relationships.
Here's a real life, true story of what can happen when a board is imbalanced: There was a successful high end clothing business in New York that was sold to a corporation whose board of executives were all Visual and Digital. The new fashion design was presented to them and everyone agreed that the fashions were exquisite in their beauty from a visual aspect. However, unfortunately, the fabric was being purchased from one manufacturer and nobody in the Visual-Digital boardroom asked how the garments actually felt on your skin, or what the experience of wearing them was when made out of this cloth. Even though the fashion line was well received on the runway, it failed because the cloth didn't feel good on your skin and consumers wouldn't buy it. No one from the boardroom bothered to ask, "What does this piece of clothing feel like?" Unfortunately they got the answer to that question after the company went broke. Hence the importance of a four-modality balanced boardroom! A Kinesthetic member on the board would have been feeling the cloth immediately and saying, "Nobody in their right mind would want to wear this!" True story!
What I offer:
- I have easily accessible tools that I teach individuals and groups on how to readily access, even under the most strenuous negotiationing circumstances, information that will bring everybody back to the place of communicating.
I have a several workshops I offer on communication, including the following:
- The Efficiency of Being Understood and Understanding
- Direct Communication: The Key to Unlock Your Prosperity
- I have extensive experience working in the corporate world with both groups and individuals.
In my opinion, communication is the most important skill to have in our lives. If we can't make ourselves and our ideas known and understood by others then one would have to ask questioningly in the absence of this understanding, to what degree do we actually exist? Because everything that comes to us in life that we will need to live our lives, we will need to ask for in the form of an understandable communication that will allow us to receive, to give, to survive, and to thrive. So, a simple way to look at this is Communication Is Actually Life.