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Sunday, May 01, 2011

I SEE What you Mean: Sensory Modes in Communication

Connecting with others in the process of speaking up involves not only using the language of assertiveness but also understanding the subtle modes of communication which we all employ when speaking.  Each of us has a preferred learning mode.  

Think about what is the best learning mode for you.

  • Are you a person who remembers more if you hear what you need to learn?  
  • Are you someone who learns best through visual learning – reading, watching a film, or seeing pictures of how to do something?  
  • Are you someone who learns best if you have a hands on approach and someone assists you as you try something new?   
Each of us is different and we each learn best in one of these modes.

In addition I am more likely to speak in the mode in which I am most comfortable.  For example if I am a visual person, then I might say, “I SEE what you mean.”  Or I might say “This explanation is not CLEAR to me.”

If I am a more auditory person, then I might say, “I HEAR what you’re saying.”  Or I might say, “That SOUNDS just right for me.”

If I am a more touch oriented person, I might say, “I GET it.”  Or “I keep BUMPING into a problem when I try to do this.”   I might also say, “ I have the solution right at my FINGERTIPS.”

Most people are capable of moving between modes and using visual sometimes, auditory other times, etc.  

At moments of stress we tend to communicate in the mode in which we are most comfortable.

Being aware of sensory modes of communication helps in an assertive negotiation.  Notice the other person’s mode of communication.  Once you have determined if the person to whom you are speaking is more visual, auditory or kinesthetic (touch as primary sensory modality), then try to match the mode they are using.

Let’s say that you are talking with your co-worker, Bob, about his work on a project on which the two of you are doing teamwork:

You:  “Bob, we need to talk about our presentation.  I want to land this client’s account.”

Bob:  “Well, I’m LOOKING at a pile on my desktop and I can’t see the bottom of it.  I don’t think I can SEE my way CLEAR to work on the presentation today.”

You:  (Pausing and noticing his visual words: See, Clear, Looks) “Bob,  I SEE what you mean.  You do APPEAR to have a desk full of work.  However, we can persuade this client to join us if we make our position very CLEAR to our clients. I, for one, would like to SEE that happen.”

Bob:  “So you want me to LOOK at the presentation booklet as a priority?”

You:  “Yes, I would like our presentation booklet to APPEAR quite CLEAR to our client so they can SEE our VISION of what we could do for them.”

Bob: “OK, then where should we start?  What can I contribute to the presentation to make it LOOK great to our client?”


Note:  This moment of agreement came about quite quickly because you discovered what sensory modality is the most comfortable for Bob and talked to him in the mode in which he is most likely to feel understood.   He may not have any idea that you have used this method of communicating, but you are saved from a prolonged discussion.

Your desired results can be easily achieved if you stay in awareness of the sensory modality employed by the person with whom you need to negotiate.

Speaking up for yourself is most effective if you are connected with the other person rather than in a tug of war with them.  Observing others and determining what mode is the most frequently used by them will help you in your efforts to speak up. Using the comfort mode of the other person adds to his/her feeling of connection with you.

A great book on this subject is: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work by Suzette Elgin, PhD.
Another useful, although out of print, book is Frogs Into Princes by Richard Bandler.

Let me know how paying attention to sensory modes of communication affects your assertive interactions with others.

1 comment:

Ester said...

Just want to say thank you for the book recommendations. I stumbled onto your blog while searching up about assertiveness and I have to say it is a TERRIFIC find.