I remember a fortnightly meeting I used to have with two colleagues. While the meetings were ok, they were a bit hit and miss in terms of focus. Sometimes my colleagues would participate, and sometimes I felt like I was dragging them into the conversation, kicking and screaming.
Until I learned about the four styles of communicators.
When I changed how I communicated with my colleagues, they instantly became engaged in the conversation. It felt like we connected, and we got through so much more in each meeting than we ever had before.
The four styles of communicators
Picking the wrong communication style is like trying to get a message across to someone who doesn’t speak English by speaking slower and louder. It’s not particularly effective and just tends to result in frustration all around.
It’s become common knowledge that people learn differently. Some people learn best by seeing the material, some by hearing it, and some by getting hands-on experience.
What’s far less known is that we also tend to express ourselves along the same lines. The four styles of communicator are:
Visual Communicators who tend to use language based on the sense of sight.
Auditory Communicators who tend to use language based on the sense of hearing.
Kinaesthetic Communicators who tend to use language based on the sense of touch or feel.
Auditory Digital Communicators who tend to use non-sensory language.
Speak my language, please
We all want to be communicated to in the style which we prefer to use. It makes sense, doesn’t it. If someone speaks to me the way I speak, it’s far easier to understand them.
Let’s look at how the four styles speak with a basic example: expressing that you understand another person.
The Visual Communicator says, “I see what you’re saying.”
The Auditory Communicator says, “I hear what you’re saying.”
The Kinaesthetic Communicator says, “I’ve got a firm grasp on what you’re saying.”
The Auditory Digital Communicator says, “I have an accurate understanding of what you’re saying.”
We’re all translators
When someone communicates in a way different to us, we are forced to translate from their style into ours. What that means is that the message they’re trying to deliver takes more time to sink in, we often feel uncomfortable without understanding why, and as a result becomes harder to build rapport.
But we do develop effective strategies for translating when it’s important to us.
The receptionist at my chiropractor is highly visual. She wants patients to feel welcome at the practice, so she makes an effort to remember what’s going on in their lives. But because she’s hearing auditory messages as they chat with her, she translates the information into mental pictures and takes a snapshot. For example, if a patient says they’re renovating their house, she’ll create an image in her head about home renovations. When the person comes back in for their next chiropractic adjustment, that image comes back to her and she asks them how the renovations are coming.
Make it easier for people to understand you
If you want to communicate effectively, be understood by others more quickly, and help them feel understood, listen to how others communicate and speak to them in their preferred style.
If they’re speaking visual, you speak visual.
If they’re speaking auditory, you speak auditory.
If they’re speaking kinaesthetic, you speak kinaesthetic.
If they’re speaking auditory digital, you speak auditory digital.
If you’re talking to a group, use all four styles so that you speaking everyone’s language at least some of the time.
If you’re serious about being an effective communicator
Initially it’s not easy to listen for people’s communication style because we tend to listen to what people are saying, not how they’re saying it. But it’s well worth the effort when you realise the rapid rapport you can build with someone when you speak their language.
My challenge for you is to pick one style, for example visual, and listen for visual language in people’s words. Over time your ear will become attuned to visual language. Then pick another style and do the same.
When you’ve developed an ear for all four styles, start expanding your own vocabulary with the styles that are not your preferred style and use this new way of speaking with people who speak differently than you.
As for my fortnightly meetings with my two colleagues, my highly visual language was never going to hit the spot. One colleague was highly kinaesthetic, so I used a lot of touchy/feely words and phrases with him, such as “solid, grasp, pull some strings, get a feel for, stumble.” My other colleague was highly auditory. With her I used words like “resonate, clear as a bell, I’m all ears, that really clicks with me.”
When you can alter your style of communication to match the person you’re speaking with, be ready to expand your circle of influence.
Because you’ll find that people you struggled to feel a connection with before start feeling understood by the new you and they’ll want more of you.
And they won’t even know why.
Debbie Thompson is a leadership coach who combines her years in leadership positions with her love of coaching high achievers to outstanding results. She works to help managers, leaders and business owners master that “leadership thing” so that they get more clarity, have more impact, and multiply their influence.