By: Brenda & Harley Robinson
Have you ever made one of these statements?
“Why don’t people just listen better?”
“I had it written down and she never looked at it.”
“What difference does it make to her to know it works – it just works!”
“I told him twice and he still didn’t understand.”
“I didn’t have time to write it all down for him.”
“If people understood the process better they would know why it’s a problem.”
Perhaps you were experiencing the frustration that comes with not understanding styles of communication.
Awareness of communication style allows us to respond more effectively to people because we are more attentive to their styles of communication. An essential part of communication is sending and receiving information. Communication is successful only when the information is sent, received, understood and then most importantly, acted upon. When we can send information to people in a style in which they understand readily, our chances of successful communication are improved dramatically. Three styles of communication are:
AUDITORY: People receive information best when they hear it – with their own ears and can repeat and hear it again for clarity.
VISUAL: People receive information best when they can see it and review it again by looking at it.
KINESTHETIC: People receive information best when they can feel it, be a part of it and/or experience it and understand how it works.
Consider some day-to-day activities and the way you process information in these settings.
How do you manage the menu in restaurants? Do you discuss the menu with others and ask questions to help you make your choice? You may be auditory in your style. Do you read the menu carefully and select a meal based on what looks good in the menu? Do you read through the whole menu before you choose? In this case you may be visual. Or, do you order based on what you feel like eating or what you’ve eaten in this restaurant before. Or do you order something that smells good? You may be a kinesthetic processor of this kind of information.
How do you handle directions for assembling Ikea furniture or any product that requires assembly? Do you discuss the directions briefly before you start and ask questions about the directions to others working with you? This would be an auditory approach. Perhaps you spread the directions out on the floor and follow them step-by-step, reading carefully before taking action. You would be using a strong visual style in that case. Or, do you go ahead and put the thing together in a workable way and when you have four parts left over, ask where the directions are? You are probably kinesthetic.
In what way do you communicate for following directions on microwave popcorn? Do you yell out “How long do I zap this stuff?” That would be an auditory approach. Or, do you read the directions on the package carefully and follow them step-by-step? That would be a visual approach. Perhaps you put the package in the microwave oven, push a few buttons and watch to see what happens. You must be kinesthetic.
So what happens when you try to direct a person through the steps of a process or the requirements of a task? With an auditory person, you may give full instruction, and they will probably ask you to repeat or clarify the instructions. The auditory person may even talk out loud as they follow the steps. Typical statements from an auditory person would be:
“Did I hear you right… the first step is to…”
“Could you say that again slowly?”
“Could you run that by me again?”
“Would you repeat that for me?”
We need to understand that the auditory person processes information by hearing it. We have to be patient any not assume that it has anything to do with intelligence or capability. It is just a different way of processing then some others use.
The visual communicator will probably respond to your directions by taking the time to write them down. They may read back to you what they have written to clarify or confirm the message. Typical comments from a verbal communicator would be:
“Could you wait until I get a pen and paper?”
“Do you have these instructions written down somewhere? Could you fax or E-mail them to me?”
“Could you confirm that in writing for me?”
“I don’t see that in the information I have.”
“Tell me where it is in the manual.”
Kinesthetic-people, are often more interested in how things fit together, or, in what makes things work. They want to do what needs to be done while they are receiving the instructions. Typical questions or comments from the kinesthetic person would be:
“Okay, I’ve got it started…should it be making this noise?”
“What happens after I do that?”
“How does it work when you put it all together?”
“I’ll try it first, and call you when I need help.”
Pay close attention. When another individual gives you the clues as to their preferred communication style, you can use that information to adapt your style to achieve the best results. If you are visual, and the other person is visual, you will probably have an easy time finding the best way to clarify your information. However, when your style differs from that of the other person, you will need to be aware and respond consciously in keeping with other’s style. Always remember – the auditory must hear it, the visual must see it, and the kinesthetic must work with it feel it and/or experience it.