Dr Ethan Becker has highlighted a very interesting solution to the common challenge we face in communicating with others. Simply put, understand the other person???s style and then seek to imitate them in their communication style. An international speech coach, Ethan was recently down in Kuala Lumpur to run a workshop on harnessing the power of communication. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him at this workshop and also to interview him for our October 2012 issue of HR Matters.
Conversations, whether at work or at home, with colleagues or with loved ones, and just as importantly, with those we seem to understand well, are often fraught with much difficulty. Now, we cant help the things that are outside our control. But we certainly can do something about what is within our control.
We all bring to our conversations, whether we realise it or not, certain preconceived notions and yes, expectations. The truth is that when our expectations are not met, it then becomes uncomfortable.
But as Ethan points out, a lot of it lies in the actual interpretation of words and our choice of language. Words do have different meanings for us. While language is aimed at conveying meaning, the different meanings a word may hold for each of us, means that there is no universal understanding or application of that word. So much of it is fluid and dynamic; our understanding of what is intended to be conveyed is affected by context, choice of phrase and other non verbal communication cues as well.
Yet, we can clear much doubt if we define the terminology we use. But let???s get real ??? who would want to do that? Ethan argues that you may add insult to an already volatile conversation, you may cause hurt or embarrassment. So, there is one more thing though that we can do. Aristotle is quoted as saying that we tend to think in one of two ways, namely inductive and deductive thinking. These patterns of reasoning are opposite ends of the spectrum and, in brief, can be described like so.
Deductive reasoning appears to work from the more general towards the more specific ie informally called a top-down approach. So, this might mean coming up with a theory for something, narrowing it down to something you could test and then making observations on that. It therefore leads to the data, that either confirms or disproves the theory held. Inductive works in the opposite manner. It moves from fairly specific observations into broad generalisations ??? informally called a bottom-up approach. Here, one starts with the data, moves up to general observation and then the formulation of a theory.
As these approaches are fairly different, and at opposites ends, putting two people together, each embracing a different pattern of thinking, can be pretty challenging. The deductive thinker could be seen as too quick off the mark, discounting information that appears relevant. The inductive thinker, on the other hand, can be seen as not moving to the conclusion quickly enough, inundated by a volume of data. The solution? Firstly, a more middle of the road approach will probably work well especially when talking to people for the first time.
Ethan???s solution is simple : if you have the opportunity to get to know your intended listener and are able to assess how they process information, tailoring your approach and style to what your listener is used to, or even expects, will do you a world of good and be beneficial to you in the long run. Let???s be clear about one thing ??? imitation here is not meant to mock. It is meant to ease the process, and it seems to me, to be a wonderful solution.