Have you ever tried to persuade someone, just knowing that you were right, only to find them less than convinced?
The problem may well be that you were talking to someone who has completely different communication preferences to you.
All of us have experienced meeting someone with whom we felt either instantly comfortable or disliked for no apparent reason. Every day, we face the challenge of being understood and accurately interpreting others. We are actually more likely to misinterpret something we hear or read than to correctly decipher every nuance in a discussion.
This issue becomes critical in job interviews. They are a performance. You are on show and your task is to appeal to your prospective employer. It won’t happen if your interviewer dislikes your communication style.
Great Communication: Start with Style
I work for my husband's company as his HR Manager. Only recently I realised that I was completely missing the mark in persuading him to take up my suggestions. Given that I've coached others in this area, you'd think that I'd know better, but it took me a while to realise that I was using the wrong communication style.
Many of us shy away from the idea of altering our communication style. We still have remnants of the old ‘take me or leave me’ approach and often feel that it would be fake to change the way we engage with others.
The problem with this attitude is that we are likely to fail to connect with three out of four people.
Do you speak my language?
Carl Jung's theory ‘I Speak Your Language’ asserts that under stress such as during a job interview, most of us favour one of four basic communication styles, with the problem being that people by far prefer to listen to someone with their own communication style.
None of us has any trouble working out the style of the person we are trying to influence; the difficulty arises in changing our own approach.
To excel at matching the communication style of your decision-maker, it requires three separate steps:
I call it the hundreds and thousands on the icing on the cake. We are talking about high-level interview communication skills here!
Step #1: identify your default style and your listener’s
The purpose of communication is to exchange information, build relationships and connect with others. Understanding where the other party is coming from will allow you to adjust your own style to better match theirs.
Step #2: Change your communication style and message content
The next step is to adapt your approach to better connect with the other party. Adjust the tone, volume and speed of your voice. Monitor your facial expressions and your use of gestures. Construct the content of your communication to appeal to their preferred style.
I-Speak in Practice
How does I-Speak work in real life job interview situations?
A former client, Dimitri, had real enthusiasm when he answered questions in our interview practice and came across as a very friendly and down to earth person.
However, and it was a big however, Dimitri had no light and shade in his voice at all. It was relentlessly loud and after a while, it started to feel like a verbal assault. Moreover, there was no subtlety in his answers and no mention of people. He sounded like a bulldozer.
We talked through I-Speak and Dimitri had no problem at all identifying that his default style was ‘Sensor’. After that, we spent a considerable amount of time working so that Dimitri was able to give a more nuanced response in interviews. It worked and Dimitri found a new role quite easily.
However, my most striking memory was the look of revelation on Dimitri’s face when he said: ‘Now, I understand why I’ve never been able to maintain relationships with my internal customers – I drove them crazy with my approach.’
Dimitri’s new self-awareness came too late for his previous roles but it did provide him with a base for more productive work relationships in the future.
Great Communication: Start with Style and then add Substance
Coming back to my efforts to persuade my husband, my natural style is Intuitor. I'm always raving on about the latest article I've read and the improvements we can make if we adopt a particular new idea. Now, Phil is a Thinker through and through. So, he's never naturally going to want to respond to any of my ideas immediately, especially if I haven't laid a methodical, systematic basis for my suggestion.
These days, I present my opinion in a quiet, detailed and self-contained way. And, instead of trying to force a quick response from Phil, I say… ‘Have a think about it and we can follow it up tomorrow.’ Lo and behold, when I raise the issue again the following day, guess what? More often than not, he agrees with my suggestion.
At a gut level, I guess we’re talking about how we make people feel. We’re talking about self-awareness and the capacity to change our communication style.
Both are difficult issues to grapple with and very few of us seem to master them. Imagine what you could achieve in your career if you became one of that rare breed: someone who is genuinely charming, someone to whom people naturally gravitate.
Tuning in to another person's style allows you to adapt your own approach to better connect with the other party. This allows you to move to the elite level: you assess the preferred style of your interviewer and change your own style and content to match so that she feels at ease and enjoys the interaction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is the author of My Career Rules! and is one of Australia's leading career experts. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's Careers, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au
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