E-Mail Tip #34 - Use Neuro-Linguistic Programming
In the 1970's, John Grinder and Richard Bander developed a communication theory based on how individuals take in information. Each of us has a "preferred channel" which is most easy for us to decode information. The theory suggests we respond best to information if it comes through our preferred channel:
• Visual - based upon what we see
• Auditory - based upon what we hear
• Kinesthetic - based on what we feel
Maximum communication efficiency is obtained by matching your verbal output to the channel most used by the receiver. Determining the neuro-linguistic preference style for anyone is fascinatingly simple. All you do is pay attention to the words used by an individual in everyday conversation. For example, here are styles of individuals based on typical expressions:
• "I see your point." (visual)
• "You look disappointed." (visual)
• "I hear you." (auditory)
• "He never heard a word I said." (auditory)
• "How does that grab you?" (kinesthetic)
• "You seem happy." (kinesthetic)
The system is amazingly accurate and easy to apply. As an experiment, I asked each student in a class to tell a little story about a close friend. Within the first two or three sentences, each student had given away vital clues as to his or her preferred neuro-linguistic style.
Modifying your communication style to match the other person can dramatically improve communication. For example, a student of mine was in a face-to-face coaching session with her math teacher. She had been having difficulty explaining her problems with double integrals. She said she really felt lost in the lectures and was not connecting with the theory. (Note the use of the words, "felt," and "connecting." Her primary channel was kinesthetic.) She was getting nothing but frustration and anger back from the professor who was doing his best to explain the concepts. At one point he said, "I don't see what your problem is with this stuff." The student, having just left my lecture on neuro-linguistic programming, recognized the mismatch in communication style. She was a kinesthetic communicator and the professor was visual. She immediately got up from the chair and went to his whiteboard to draw a picture of where she was having trouble. She said the professor just melted and became easy to understand after that change. She changed her output to match his preferred input style. Within 15 minutes, they had resolved her blockage and parted happily.
What does all this have to do with e-mail? Even though the medium is strictly visual (unless you send audio messages or send your messages in code) you can still use the model with great success. Just pay attention to the phrases an individual uses in a note. If he is a visual person, you might want to attach a PowerPoint slide with a drawing to highlight your key point. If he is an auditory person, you can slant your wording to "play into" his need for that connection. Kinesthetic people want dialog that helps them get in touch with your feelings.
It is not difficult to apply the neuro-linguistic programming tool to cyber communication. The more you practice detecting the styles of other people, the easier you will communicate with them. Start by determining your own style, if you don't already know it. Just select a few of your old e-mails and read them. You will quickly pick out your primary channel from how you phrase sentences - especially when describing things. Be careful not to be fooled; we all use each of the three forms of language from time to time. Even though I am a visual communicator, I will write about how I feel. The majority of my language, however, will contain references to things like "focus" or "vision." Do you see my point?