By Davide Costella
Have you ever wondered why sometimes you are able to persuade someone and other times not? Why some presentations sparked emotions in you and other presentations seemed boring? Why you find it difficult to get along with some of your colleagues, but others you get along with fine?
The answer lies in how language is used. You speak thousands of words per day, but are you aware of how those words can affect you and the people around you?
With language, we build our identities. With language, we create the Company’s missions and vision. With language, we build and dismantle relationships. Basically, everything we do is done through language and this is why it is so important to communicate consciously.
if you want to master the art of communication, one of the first aspects you need to practice is listening. Listening to the exact words a person uses allows you to capture valuable information that the person may not even realize he is giving you. People use specific words for a reason. Words are the way we express how we feel inside, what we believe and so on. So the words a person chooses to use can give you a hint at what’s going on inside him. This hint lets you know how to respond in the most effective way. Here are a couple examples:
1. As your direct report is discussing his development plan with you, he tells you that he has realized he does not like what he is doing anymore.
By listening carefully to his words, you as a manager can pick on the fact that his motivation is driven by moving away from something painful (“I don’t like what I’m doing”), which is a different motivation than being driven towards something (“I want to learn more about digital marketing”). It is like saying I want to quit smoking because I want to feel better (moving toward) or because I’ve had enough with coughing every morning (moving away from). Both are strong motivations, but call for different responses.
Knowing which motivation is at play, helps you know how to answer in a way that creates rapport. For example, you say, “Okay, I understand that you have had enough of what you are doing; you’ve been in your current role for 5 years. Tell me more about what’s going on.” This approach is more powerful than the way most managers might respond, “Yes, okay, but tell me what you do want to do and where you want to go.” Starting with a response that aligns with his motivation creates rapport. This could serve him better since he might not be clear yet on where he wants to go. This is a subtle, but very powerful way to ensure you can help others to feel comfortable enough to speak freely about what they need.
2. Another aspect that is very important to pay attention to is how people use modal verbs. A modal verb is a type of verb that is used to indicate modality – that is: likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, suggestions, order and obligation, advice, etc. Let’s imagine that you ask someone on your project team to complete a task and she answers: “Okay, I could do that this week.” The word “could” expresses a choice to either do something or not to do it. Hearing that, you can ask a few more questions to be sure she will actually get the job done, such as:
“Do you see any obstacles to getting this completed?”
“ What do you need to get the job done?”
“How confident are you of getting this done on a scale 0-5?”
As a project manager, you want to ensure that people are capable of accomplishing their tasks on time. Listening carefully to the words they use as they accept a job is a powerful way to support them.
In conclusion, the words people use are the mirrors of their thoughts and emotions. It is therefore very important that you (a) listen carefully to the words that are used and (b) ask the right questions to better understand the context.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can communicate more effectively, contact Davide Costella.
Self-Help Book / Personal Development