One day I met one of our ushers in the church office. I asked him a simple question:
How did you feel about Sunday?”
This man is intelligent, and definitely has opinions, and he looked at me with a completely blank face. Now, being the only girl on a 9-person pastoral staff, I’d done some work learning the difference between guy and girl communications (also known as right and left brain communications) and realized almost immediately my error. I changed my question. I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask the right question.
What did you think about Sunday?”
Immediately, the light bulb went on, and he gave me more than two paragraphs of information.
The language you use can make a real difference in how people hear you. Here are a few keys to learn how to speak someone’s language:
1. Assess which part of the brain they are using – just like I did above, when my natural language “feel” didn’t work, I tried the opposite: “think”. People who use feeling language will naturally access their intuitive side for conversation. People who use thinking language will operate more on logic, facts and figures.
2. Listen to their sensory language. We all have primary learning styles, and often this comes out in our language. Think of the five senses. Some people will naturally access information through their auditory system. These people will use language like “I hear you”. If you tell this person “I see what you mean”, they will sense that you aren’t on the same wave length. Instead, use the language that makes the most sense to them.
3. Speak to their intellect. My husband had two experiences in his early years that illustrate this concept. A kid in school came up and asked him a question (I don’t remember what it was).
My husband, in his usual high vocabulary, replied. The kid gave him a blank stare.
Realizing he had not communicated, Wes tried again, this time using teen vernacular. This time the kid got it, and the communication cycle was complete.
A few years later, Wes was working at JPL/NASA. One of the engineers emerged from his office to find that his document hadn’t printed. He asked Wes a question about the printer. Wes replied in normal English “I don’t know.” The engineer gave him a blank look, two tries later, each time increasing his vocabulary, Wes finally said “I am not well versed in the operation of this machine”; the engineer finally understood, the lightbulb went on, and communication was complete.
4. Listen to body language and make sure yours is consistent. One day I discovered one of my kids getting into her swimming suit in the dead of winter. I asked her why. She said “I’m cold.” As you can see, her body language and her verbal language were not in agreement. Similarly, if you say “I’m listening” with your mouth, but your body says you aren’t, people will pick up on it. Make sure you have congruence between the message you want to convey and your body language.
Next watch the body language of those you are listening to. Very often, they will tell you things with their arms, facial expressions, shoulder tension, etc. that will give you clues as to what is really going on.
You are in this to help others. Gaining new skills as a interpersonal communicator will enable you to make a real difference in the lives of others. Take time to learn the details, practice with a friend and you will be glad you did.