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Stop Talking Past Each Other! Four steps to use the same "language" to communicate.

By Morris Elvis Gucor
Nicole Mills

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Do you ever have those moments where you can tell that you and the other person just aren't on the same page? You're having a conversation and are saying similar words but your wires are getting crossed. For some reason, you just aren't understanding things the same way. It can be frustrating, confusing, and time consuming. It can wreak havoc on teams if there is regular "miscommunication" causing painful and unnecessary time-sucks. The good news is that you can put a stop to it once you understand the structures of communication and start speaking the "same language"!

You may be surprised to know that for your whole life you may have been speaking a "different language" from others in many of your conversations! According to family therapist, David Kantor, we all have very strong communication preferences which shape our context of understanding and interpretation in all of our conversations. Kantor identifies three different communication styles. Each of us has the ability to use and modulate between the 3 styles, but we typically have a dominant preference. Just as ingrained as being right or left handed, we tend to naturally gravitate to one "language" style over the others.

Hearing the three styles of Communication:

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Language of Affect: People who prefer to communicate in Affect interpret and understand information through the contextual lens of emotion. They can comfortably speak about a topic based upon how it makes them feel, or discussing how it affects others. They may freely talk about feelings and emotions. You can easily identify the language of Affect by listening for key phrases like "I feel", or "are you ok?".

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Language of Meaning: People who prefer to communicate in Meaning interpret and understand information through the contextual lens of understanding. They can comfortably speak about the purpose behind something, or will seek out understanding. They may freely talk about how and why things are the way they are. You can easily identify the language of Meaning by listening for phrases like "I think", "what are your thoughts?", or "why is that so?"

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Language of Power: Those who prefer to communicate in Power interpret and understand information through the contextual lens of action. They comfortably speak about the actions or steps necessary to do something. They make talk about timelines, deliverables, and goals. You can easily identify the language of Power by listening for phrases like "Do something", "I want", "I need it done".

When we have major disconnects in our communications it's frequently because we are in different language modes at the same time. One person is talking about what needs to get done. Another person is trying to understand the purpose of the task, and a third is trying to express how implementing the task affects others. All three are discussing the same thing... the task! But they are coming at the conversation and interpreting it in 3 different ways. They are talking past each-other!

How to Stop Miscommunication:

1. Start out by learning your own language preferences. What do you tend to talk about the most? Do you notice that you talk about feelings, understanding and purpose, or getting things done? Notice when you use different communication styles in different situations.

2. Take a pause when you think you are talking past someone. What is your communication style in the moment? Listen in for key words that will let you know what their communication style is. Is it the same or different?

3. Become comfortable with switching your language style to improve conversations. You can't change the other person. The empowering thing is that if you recognize that you are speaking "different languages", you can switch to their "language" and get on the same page!

4. Use influence to shift other's communication style. Once you get more comfortable with seeing and changing your conversation modes, you can try modulating the style of others through influence. A great way to accomplish this is to validate and acknowledge their perspective by using their "language", and then explain that you are looking at it differently and shift into your preferred mode. Without even realizing what's happening, they should be able to better understand what you are saying, and you can reduce miscommunication!

When we start tuning into each other's language styles, we notice that personal judements fade away. We are empowered to change the structural dynamics of our communications, and benefit by strengthening our relationships, increasing our knowledge and awareness, and improving our performance. It's time to really start communicating!

Tags:communication leadership management team coach high performance dialogue structural dynamics Kantor success development