2017-04-27 / Columns

Know Yourself Better, So You Can Communicate Better With Others

Think Outside, No Box Needed: Advice for Growing Your Business
By Jim Plouffe

Have you ever noticed that when you read your horoscope, or one of your friends’, how it all seems to apply? How can something so generally written be so specific for so many individuals? That is what is fascinating to me about horoscopes. How come the random information seems to apply?

I’m a sucker for all those personality tests out there. I have to force myself to ignore offers to take them. Even so, I have taken most of them several times. I have an entire file of them that I have kept over the years.

I have taken the Strengths Finders test several times, just to see how consistently the same strengths come up, and in what order. These tests are always promoting how important it is for you to understand yourself better so you will be able to identify how to work with the people around you better. Or if you understand how others think and react, you’ll be able to communicate better with them. I think that is why I could never resist taking them in the past, and why I can hardly resist them now. They push my “be a better communicator” hot button.

In the Strengths Finders test, they have made up 34 categories of strengths. When I took the test for the first time, they were identifying the top five strengths. The last time I took it, they were only identifying the top three strengths. Three is an easier number to work with than five. Think about it, going from five to three is 40% less that has to be explained.

I would recommend reading “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. You will gain some great insights into why you should focus on what you are good at, and why you should focus on what your employees are good at, instead of focusing on weakness (what you or your employees aren’t good at). Not that you shouldn’t focus on improving your performance, but it’s not likely that an accountant is going to turn into a star sales rep, or vice versa.

Have you ever taken the DISC test? I think it is the most popular employment test. My friend, Pamela Brooks, helped develop the baselines for that test. If you take that test, and then let her analyze it for you, she will give you insights into yourself that even your mother doesn’t know. I know, because I had her analyze me.

But that is the problem with all these tests. In the hands of a professional, they can be interpreted and used successfully to identify how to use your strengths with others. But when you are on your own, interacting with another individual or group of individuals, you can’t remember your own strengths, let alone figure out what the strengths of the people with whom you’re working. The brain can’t handle two conscious thoughts at the same time. If you are listening to a conversation to understand what is going on or what is happening, your brain won’t let you figure out or analyze how best to communicate with the individual unless you give up listening and go into analyzing.

No matter how I try, I remain a conscious incompetent at figuring out exactly the best way to communicate with someone in the first few meetings with them. Certainly after several meetings, it is possible to figure out an individual’s personality and whether they communicate visually, kinesthetically, or by listening, most of the time. But remember, we all communicate that way. It is just that one of those three is the dominant way we each communicate.

All most of us need to understand is that if we are communicating in a visual mode (I see what you are saying) and the person we are talking with is communicating back in a kinesthetic (I am starting to feel what you mean) or auditorial (I hear what you are saying) mode, it makes it harder for both of us to understand what the other is saying.

Good communication and leaders uses all three modes. That is all we need to understand. So stay away from horoscopes and try to resist personality tests. After all, it is almost impossible to change who we are.

Need help, guidance, or direction with your business strategies or marketing? Talk to Jim in person at (906) 643-6643, or ask him a question any time at jim@Think- OutsideNoBoxNeeded.com. Jim is also available for speeches and presentations to your company or organization.

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