6
36
Guest

How to Adjust Communication to Motivate and Influence

By: Guest | September 27, 2011 | 
33

Today’s post is written by Brian Tolle.

Communication can either be the death knell to accomplishing great things or the clarion call-to-action.

Those who “get” the clarion call and use clear cut and precise language are great leaders: They can marshal the great forces of their team to bring in huge new business wins and manage even the most unruly clients.

Those who assert their leadership position by being elusive and mysterious, who use their position rather than their communication skills to manage, are leaders in name only.

How do you become the first? How do you work with the second, no matter your position?

I’ve studied this dark and nefarious art form for 15 years, and I have written about it recently in a book that will help managers become effective leaders by understanding how to tune their communication to the four basic behavioral styles they encounter in the workplace.

Behavior is a type of language. Learn to speak the languages others speak.

We communicate through language. It’s easier to understand, motivate, and influence others when we speak their language.

There are other languages at work besides those we are accustomed to…the languages tied to a national or geographical area. These other languages are tied to how one prefers to get things done and think, or what we call behavioral styles. You communicate in a certain way (your tailored language) based on how you like to get things done (your behavior).

Tons of research has gone into understanding human behavior. It turns out we are not so radically different from each other. Based on this, researchers have developed frameworks that group common traits into discrete styles or behaviors. If you understand and recognize the different styles, you can understand and speak the different style languages.

One such framework is the DISC Behavioral Styles, made up of four basic styles.

  1. Dominance
  2. Influence
  3. Steadiness
  4. Conscientiousness

Behavioral attitudes for each style

  • The dominance style is all about moving things forward; get to the point, give me the headline of the story.
  • Those who fall within the influence style use language to make connections with others to have a powerful affect on the world, to motivate and stretch what is possible.
  • The steadiness style has a focus on the team and being a valuable member, avoiding conflict and slowing down change so the team (and you) can stay productive.
  • Conscientiousness is all about perfection, having high standards and finding the most effective methods for achieving those high standards.

Each of these four styles has its own “dialect” – words or expressions that accurately convey and reflect what they value. Populate these words in your communication and you are on your way to speaking their language and influencing them.

Dialects for each discrete style

  • Dominance: Progress, proceed, move forward, leap ahead, push ahead, gain ground, drive, results, output, yield, decisions made, actions taken.
  • Influence: Fantastic, awesome, fabulous, extraordinary, exceptional, remarkable, phenomenal, dynamic, exciting, positive, energy.
  • Steadiness: Consistent, reliable, stable, steady, dependable, trusting, anticipate, think it through, plan, process.
  • Conscientiousness: Standards, systematic approach, methodology, deliberate, efficient, thorough, well prepared, analyze assess.

Some of your audiences will comprise general population who will reflect a cross section of these styles – you will need to craft your message in such a way that you use all four dialects.

Other audiences will share certain commonalities which usually results in them sharing certain style preferences. For example, an audience made up of senior business leaders speaks dominance whereas an audience of engineers speaks conscientiousness.

If you want to lead and influence, you must speak the language your audience already uses.

Brian Tolle is a partner at The Re-Wired Group, a business development consultancy that uses Demand-Side Innovation to create and commercialize new products, services, brands, and businesses. His work focuses on designing strategies to secure employee buy-in to organizational change as well as influencing consumer behavior through their Jobs-to-be-Done framework. You can find him in the comments here or on his Facebook page.

29 comments
Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

And though there is a certain truth to "women communicate this way and men communicate this way," I've found that these styles cut across gender and are more useful in understanding a different version of diversity in the workplace.

DouglasCrets
DouglasCrets

The more I think about Brian's approach, the more I really like the angle that he pursues: that behavior is a language and is often a more clear conversation methodology than talking and written text.

justinromack
justinromack

@ginidietrich I Found this post to be marvelously insightful. See too many leaders fall short on this. We communicate more than just words.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

Hi Brian! First, thanks for the great blog post. Really good topic and it's interesting to see how it's received by the different personality types.

DouglasCrets
DouglasCrets

Thanks for posting this Lisa. Brian should be on the site now ready to answer questions.

lifeisworthy
lifeisworthy

I'd agree with the author regarding the certain words you use for each style of communication. It's especially relevant when there's no opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation, e.g on the phone.

ThomHolland
ThomHolland

I certainly understand why you would want to tailor your message for your audience. (That's definitely a great point to make) However, I'm a little confused on how DiSC profiles fit into the conversation.

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

Fascinating stuff! Where can I read more about the DISC behavorial styles? Do you have a book?

cirklagirl
cirklagirl

I am a firm believer in the whole body language thing. Most of our communication is through the tone and the way that we position our bodies. A good resource for learning more about this is to study NLP. Thanks for a great post!

BrianTolle
BrianTolle

@justinromack Thanks Justin. Leaders' biggest challenge? Appreciating what they intend to communicate isn't always what others hear.

Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

@ginidietrich Thanks for the feedback Gini. I agree, it's always interesting to see how people process this information because it's often a reflection of their DiSC style. This conversation is a typical opportunity that we all have in our daily lives where people can't help but give us clues here and there about how they prefer to communicate based on what they value.

Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

@lifeisworthy That makes me think about how talking with a person on the phone sometimes makes it easier to make an educated guess as to their preferred DiSC style than it is meeting them face-to-face. I have found that when I talk with a person on the phone, it's easier for me to pay attention to their pace and what they focus on -- both which help me make an educated guess as to their style preference. But when I am meeting someone for the first time, face-to-face, it's almost like there is too much information coming at me and I can get distracted by mannerisms or traits that are more noise than data points.

Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

Hi Thom, let me give you example. When I talk with a Dominance-style leader, I know I need to get to my point right from the start or they will lose interest in what I have to say. Give them the headline or at least start the end of the story first. But my preferred style is more Conscientiousness -- I want to make sure he or she has all the information I have. So I would prefer to start the story at the beginning -- only logical, right? Unfortunately, that approach doesn't work with my high Dominance-style audience members -- they start tuning out until I get to my point. I adjust how I converse with them based on what I have guessed is their preferred style. I just realized your question may be more related to how you can make educated guesses as to a person's DiSC style preference. I'd be happy to talk about that if you are interested.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@ThomHolland I think it's a pretty interesting twist on understanding different people and how they communication. I notice that when at first I feel bristled by someone's type of communication, sometimes, if I stop and think about their style, and who they are, I can put it into perspective and not feel pissed off which is what I was likely to be! LOL. It makes me stop and think, ok, this is their style, this is how they know to communicate. Anyway, that's just my interpretation of it. Brian will be here soon, I'm sure. :)

Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

@cirklagirl I agree that a big part of communication is through tone and body expression. That's why I've always worried about people who rely on email too much, especially to convey nuanced information. Sorry to bring it back to DiSC, : ) but what I've noticed is that high D-style people tend to prefer email because its quick and efficient so they can check that to-do item off the list. The high C-style people gravitate towards email because the medium allows them to share lots of information and provides a trail of who said what. That's why you might have the experience of a co-worker who sits in the cubicle next to you send you an email while you are at your desk.

justinromack
justinromack

@briantolle For many, unintentional communication happens about as often as we exhale. Organizations are the absolute worst about this.

ThomHolland
ThomHolland

@Brian Tolle I think you originally lost me when you gave the example of senior business leaders being "dominance" and engineers being "conscientiousness". My immediate thought was; it's not possible to group all business leaders in the "dominance" group and all engineers in the "conscientiousness" group, therefore, this thought process is invalid.

But then again, I recently tested high for the "conscientiousness" style so it would make sense for me to think like that, right? :-) ....point taken.

Thanks for the great article and feedback Brian.

Brian Tolle
Brian Tolle

@ThomHolland Hi Tom, you're right on the mark. Your comment has an analytical quality to it that has Conscientiousness written all over it. For the C-style, the "data" has to be tested/verified before it can be accepted. Sorry to use you as an example, but your statement "...therefore, this thought process is invalid" is a great example of the C-style dialect. But if I used that language with a high Influence style person, they would look at me like I was from another planet. Thanks for the examples.

Trackbacks

  1. […] How to adjust communication to motivate and influence – This is a great topic. When it comes to communicating with our audiences, it is important to tailor the message to their communication styles. Here is my favorite quote from the post, “If you want to lead and influence, you must speak the language your audience already uses.” […]