On the surface, you speak the same language. But are you fluent in me?

There is so much going on in the world around you right at this moment, that you cannot possibly, consciously process all that information. It would just be totally overwhelming.

To cope and save essential gas (energy) for other things, every person has their own unique way of processing the data hitting us from outside (and internal self-talk) through our experiences, beliefs, values, preferences, memories and past decisions.

Purpose To understand the Human to Human Interface – that is, how we communicate and understand each other. To be able to apply this knowledge into all communications to become purposeful and intentional about our relationships and communications.

Process There's quite a lot of learning here so I've split this into three parts, each with an exercise that you should use to see how powerful it is to improve your own conscious communications.

Payoff This understanding and the practice of deliberate, purposeful and intentional communications is life changing. Your relationships will improve tremendously. You'll find fewer misunderstandings and greater confidence in what you say and the message you get across. Only, make sure that your message is worth hearing – because from now on, they will hear it.

Language Barriers Audio

The language we know and use is a major part of our communication process. I'm assuming that you speak and understand English as this is written in English. You may also be aware that I use British English (that is correct English and spelt correctly using s and not z for example. The letter u is in colour. Not incorrectly as they do in Amerika :-))

What you may not know is that I am from Yorkshire and my “natural” accent is possibly unintelligible to you. If you read the KJV Bible, you'll be close to a Yorkshire style.

If you speak Mandarin to me, I may grab a few words, but I won't understand.

When someone speaks a foreign tongue or with a strong accent, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding. Layer on that the cultural and societal forces that shape how we think – most often closely associated with our mother tongue.

On top of the tongue you speak, there is also the language you use within that tongue that can indicate a preference for the way you process information. Particularly, your brain's processing preference for visual, auditory, digital or kinaesthetic processing.

And you can get good clues about my preferences by listening intently for the words I use.

Here is an exercise called:

I Colour I Listen.

This tool is designed to practice one of the key listening skills you need to communicate effectively. Every person has their personal preferences for the way their own brain processes information. Many people “see” pictures or images, others need to “get a handle” on or need you to “walk them through”, others still prefer to “hear” what the idea “sounds like”, and others like to “understand” or make “logical” “sense” and prefer that you give them “step by step” instructions.

Your role as a communicator and leader is to have the flexibility to use the preferences of the other person. Not forgetting, of course, that you have your own preferred processing style… and this is usually the default mode that you use with others.

You know those times when someone (perhaps your partner) tells you something and you simply don’t hear it? Quite often it is because you filter out words that are not in your preferred processing style. (Oh and by the way, it’s NOT their job to use the ‘right’ words for you, it’s your job to “tune in” to their style. And of course, it is also your job to use their preferred predicates and not theirs to “tune in” to yours.)

If you are a visual person, the chances are that you have heard someone else reply “I just don’t see it!” when you are explaining something… and that is true for them… they do not “see it”. Perhaps they need to “understand”, or “hear what it sounds like”. Oh and a few people need “the sweet smell of success” or the “taste of victory”.

Have a conversation with someone, listen for the predicates that they use most, and then use their predicates (processing words) instead of the ones you normally use.

Using this

Find someone you know well to work with on this activity to start with. When practiced it becomes a normal part of your routine.

Take notes of VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic) words, Key-words or phrases used by the other person, and ignore (as much as you can) content. The conversation should last no more than 5 minutes.

Ask open questions and practice your active listening skills – paraphrasing, clarifying, reflecting, linking, summarising, encouraging. Commence by asking the other person to relate a story about their last holiday (or some other significant recent event that is personal, but not too personal).

The other person responds as themselves.

After about 4 minutes, you should wrap-up the conversation appropriately.

“How do you feel about the conversation?”

“What VAK words were most used?”

One key tip to help you pay greater attention to any other person. Look them in the eye and make a note (mental or real) of their eye colour. By the way, ‘Brown’ or ‘Blue’ is not the answer… what shade of brown? How bright? Different flecks of colour.

This not only ensures that you make eye contact, you attune yourself to the detail.

I Colour I Listen Template

Download the PDF to use this: