Let’s say we had one of those rare occasions where you shared complex information, thoughts, feelings or ideas with me, and suddenly, it clicked. Things tumbled into place. Implications and obstacles flashed in my mind.
In an instant, I fully understood your message.
Too bad it doesn’t happen very often. Like, for example, when trying to explain sensory issues and no matter what is said, the other person doesn’t seem to ‘get it’.
But what if we flipped that around: The other person doesn’t get it because of what is said. Or more precisely, the way it has been said.
Thanks to a suggestion by Natalie E., I have been thinking about what to do when other people, especially family members, don’t understand why my child is behaving in a way that is different than other children.
There were so many ways to approach this issue.
I chose to narrow it down to a simple concept that I shamelessly stole from Mel Abraham*. In one of his articles, he talks about improving the world through better communication.
People are more likely to understand a new idea or insight when it is explained in the same way they already think.
In this framework, there are two axes: detailed oriented vs big picture oriented, and low emotion vs high emotion. That gives us the four quadrants of:
Data wonk: The detailed person who is comfortable with lower emotion – an analyst. Someone who loves to dig deep into data.
Storyteller: Someone who enjoys adding detail in order to connect emotionally as well as share information.
Visionary: This is the big thinker who uses emotion to engage people into their cause. Think of leaders who are able to rally people behind an intangible idea.
Architect: This person thinks big and is most comfortable using data and facts to create that big idea – a person who takes a lot of information and simplifies it into a big-picture concept. These people are often visual thinkers when organizing information. Doodling might be a way to organize information.
To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.
1. Determine which method describes you. That is not only the form you will revert to when nervous, regardless of your intention, it is also the filter through which you hear other people. You could be missing important information the other person is trying to share with you because it doesn’t make sense to you.
2. Listen to the other person to understand their quadrant. Do you need to add details and facts (data wonk)? Create a parallel story so the message fits into an understandable framework (storyteller)? The grand picture of where you see things in five years – the goal you are striving to reach (visionary)? Facts and information that point to a bigger picture (architect)?
3. Consider the words and phrases they use frequently. Can you use them? It would make your talk more comfortable and meaningful to them.
3. Once you have an idea which quadrant would be the most suitable, create the message you want to share prior to needing it. If possible, test it out on another person with the same style. It can be difficult to speak in another style, both because of awkwardness, but also because it doesn’t make sense to us.
4. If reading this was of interest to you but you also started to wiggle your leg or play with your fingers, consider having some fidget items handy so you can concentrate on what is most important to you. Head activity can be aided by body activity.**
* This article's framework was taken from Mel Abraham.
**Thinking and fidgeting.
P.S. On a completely different note, if you would like to make this November 11 more meaningful for yourself, your students or your family, considerwatching or inviting this amazing playwright. After the show I attended, a vet approached the stage with tears in his eyes to thank her.
She is scheduled for several locations in Alberta and BC.