“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ” —Hans Hofmann
As professional change facilitators, we have many reasons to communicate with our clients: listening, learning, educating, informing, persuading, guiding, or simply expressing ourselves. We also have numerous vehicles for conveying our intentions: speech, images, text, non-verbal signals, etc. While the look and feel of our messages and our choice of media are essential parts of our success as communicators, the most critical ingredient is how effectively we use language.
There are many aspects to using language so that we achieve our intended impact. I have chosen three that often challenge those in our profession:
- Matching (applying the proper frame of reference)
- Candor (being frank and straightforward)
- Succinctness (being accurate, crisp, and compelling)
You may be curious—of all the elements that contribute to the effective use of language, why did I choose these? I’ve been training and guiding change professionals for almost four decades, and I can say with certainty that these three components are in short supply among many who aspire to practice our craft. I find few who disagree about their importance, but many internal and external practitioners are unwilling or unable to engage their clients consistently in these ways. Maybe they’ll do it if the circumstances are just right, but, too often, well-executed matching, true candor, and refined succinctness fall prey to political pressure or lack of skill. Whenever this happens, clients get less than they deserve from us.
Even if you consider yourself proficient in these areas, I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to up your game—challenge yourself to be even more aware of when you might emphasize these three facets of effective, change-related communications.
Match Your Communication to the Listener’s Frame of Reference
Each client you encounter looks at the world through a unique lens—his or her frame of reference (FOR). Individuals use FOR as a codebook for interpreting the information they process through their senses. This is shaped by many elements—personality, age, experience, role, etc. Many models can be used to discern a person’s FOR. These can provide the proper style of communications to increase the likelihood the receiver will understand and relate to what is being said. It’s less important which of these models you use than that you have one or more to rely on when tailoring your messages.
As an example, Carl Jung’s work in the 1920s has inspired numerous proprietary models describing differences in how individuals see the world and prefer to receive information. Each of these frameworks has its particular features, but all are variations of the same four basic FOR perspectives Jung first developed:
- The Sensor communicating style puts a heavy emphasis on action. Individuals preferring this style thrive on accomplishing tasks without unnecessary deliberations or delays. Primary Sensors are direct, energetic, task-oriented individuals.
- The Thinker communicating style tends to emphasize logic and order. This individual enjoys analyzing, dissecting, and solving problems. The solutions developed by the primary Thinker are weighed carefully and tested to ensure the chosen decision is the ‘‘right’’ decision.
- The Intuitor communicating style tends to emphasize ideas. Individuals preferring this communicating style are imaginative, innovative, visionary, and conceptual. The primary Intuitor doesn’t take things for granted. This individual tends to question himself or herself and others because the Intuitor has learned the value of continuous investigation and reexamination in making and understanding complex interrelationships.
- The Feeler communicating style tends to emphasize human interaction. Individuals preferring this communicating style seek and enjoy contact with others. During interpersonal interactions, a strong Feeler will focus on the emotions of the situation. The Feeler will try to empathize and understand the emotions of others as well as their own emotions.
Regardless of what FOR framework you use, your ability to apply the correct communication style appropriately helps ensure that your messages will have meaning for the listener. For example, if a client is primarily concerned with how a change will impact the targets (Feeler), he or she may not resonate with a message that stresses the sequence in which the change will be implemented (Thinker).
Though people usually have a strong tendency to see their world through a favored FOR, there are many influencing factors that can affect what FOR a person may actually apply in particular circumstances. The listener’s change role (sponsor, agent, target, or advocate), for instance, can influence whether information is seen as relevant or as noise. Information about the organizational benefits of a change that may be extremely valuable for a sponsor could have little meaning for a target who is just trying to figure out the implications of the change on his or her daily routine.
You may be saying to yourself that all this is too elementary for someone with your experience, but the ugly truth is that it is extremely common for change practitioners with many years of practice to let their guard down and start assuming their clients see the world the same way they do. Remember, pilots with thousands of hours of flight time keep themselves in compliance with basic take-off procedures by reviewing them every time they climb into the cockpit. Surely our egos will survive another pass at the fundamentals below.
When we use FOR effectively, we:
- Take the time to understand the listener’s perspective on the situation at hand,
- Craft messages that will be heard effectively by the listener,
- Organize messages so that the information most important to the listener is presented first, and
- Choose words carefully to avoid misinterpretation.
When we are not using FOR effectively, we are likely to:
- Assume that our view of things matches the listener,
- Provide too much, too little, or irrelevant context for the listener,
- Choose words that have a different meaning for the listener, and
- Present information in a sequence that does not take into account the listener’s way of understanding things.
In my next post, I will describe in detail the use of candor and succinctness in effective communication.
Posted by : Daryl Conner
Tags : advocate, agent, change, client, communications, implement, lens, practice our craft, practitioner, solution, sponsor, target
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