Message received… or over and out?

In marketing as well as in other business communication, it’s really easy to think that sending out a message equates to the recipient understanding it clearly. One of the issues that business people have with marketeers, and I’m sure it’s true for other professions as well, is that we can often create more confusion than clarity. Drown people with information overload, rather than explain simply and in everyday language. Use jargon when it’s inappropriate or unnecessary. If you’ve ever sat down to a discussion with a ’teckie’, whether this is an IT manager, software development specialist or website creator, and be made to feel ill at ease, this is perhaps because the person who is communicating with you is not really listening and adapting their communication style to making you feel comfortable. It’s so easy to “blind people with science”.

As a trainee teacher I was introduced to the concept of varying my teaching style according to whether people were visual, auditory or can kinaesthetic learners. Whilst every pupil can learn using all three techniques, individuals are programmed to respond better to the one teaching style with which they feel most comfortable. Some will like videos and illustrations, others prefer interactive and collaborative exercises or story-telling. The art of a good teacher is to respond to the needs of the particular pupils in their lessons by adapting and presenting material in different ways.

If you speak to an HR manager, sometimes they’ll refer to business people by their DISC style. Again, the idea behind putting people into these 4 groups, is that communication with each of these personalities can be achieved better. We can adapt our own style to fit theirs. For example, many of us will have seen how candidates on TV in The Apprentice sometimes find it difficult to communicate with Alan Sugar, as he displays a very dominant personality and style. Whilst this often makes great television entertainment, it certainly wouldn’t be helpful if this happened within a company or between a company and its suppliers or customers. Compare his personal style with that of Mel or Sue on the Great British Bake Off. What’s noticeable is that they take the time to help reassure the candidates as they try to get through these very stressful situations and present their work at their best. Mel and Sue represent the opposite side of the spectrum, a personality style the HR managers will call S’s or steady relators.

The other personality types are described as C-styles who love technical detail and factual evidence, typified by characters such as Mr Spock in Star Trek or, more recently, Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Their sometimes very literal interpretation of events can be cause of much miscommunication, which is used by the writers and directors to add interest and humour to the story lines.

Finally the fourth character, the I-style or influencer, who generally likes to be the centre of attention, loves having fun and is very sociable. These people will often make decisions based on their gut feeling, their instinct or emotional state rather than simply logical thinking. Present them with too much technical data and they will simply switch off.

Of course when you’re designing an advert, it’s impossible to adapt it to suit every particular communication style. If you’re doing a presentation to several people, the way you present information isn’t going to suit everybody in the room. But being mindful of the person we are trying to communicate with, particularly in a one-to-one situation, means that we can switch from simply transmitting information and hoping it’s been heard and understood by the recipient to having a much more interactive and meaningful encounter.

Over and out.