My husband and I will be celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. It’s been a great adventure so far…but as you know from your own experience, every relationship comes with a unique set of challenges. So it’s a good thing that we’re both willing to tackle those because not only are we life and business partners, but his first language is Spanish while mine is English!
In the beginning, our communication had moments of misunderstanding that surprised us both. For example, in the first year of our marriage, there were times when he would use a word that would push all of my buttons. (Sound familiar?) Of course, I’d react. He’d say I was wrong because I was not thinking of the correct definition of the word. I would go to my dictionary (English/Spanish) to prove he was wrong. He would go to his dictionary (Spanish/English) to prove I was wrong. Inevitably, we would end up laughing at the many definitions and usages of a single word and agree on the one we both thought fit the conversation.
What we didn’t know when we started our life together is we also have the challenge of different Perceptual Styles – he’s Activity, and I’m Vision. That’s not uncommon–most families and relationships are a mixture of styles and style challenges. But back then, we thought our disconnects were rooted in word choice–while in fact, they really were more about how we each see the world.
Once we understood our style differences and how they affect our communication, we didn’t need to pull out our dictionaries to settle “language” arguments anymore! In fact, it’s been over 30 years since we’ve referred to our respective dictionaries in the middle of a conversation, but I still smile when I think about what we thought was the source of our disconnect.
Disconnects in communication happen to all of us. It’s not because we’re not smart enough, and it’s not because other people aren’t smart enough. And it’s not because one of you isn’t listening or trying hard enough.
Words are a code we put on our thoughts and ideas to communicate our intention and meaning to others. The code you use on a regular daily basis to communicate is highly dependent on how you perceive the world – your Perceptual Style.
Let’s look at an example – storytelling. We all like a good story. But how we define a “good story” and how we tell stories differs among Perceptual Styles. How we tell stories also determines what we expect to hear when we listen to them:
- Activity people tell stories because they want to share an experience.
- Adjustments people tell stories to share information they know other people need.
- Flow people tell stories to create a feeling of belonging, a common bond.
- Goals people tell stories to state opinions and provide directions.
- Methods people tell stories to explain structure and how something is done.
- Vision people tell stories to impact and influence others.
It’s pretty easy to see how we can each get different meanings from the same story or conversation! Then, when you consider that most words have more than one meaning (just check the dictionary), it’s a miracle we ever make ourselves understood!
You have a natural and comfortable style of communication because of your Perceptual Style. And so does everyone else.
Once you become aware of the style differences related to communication, you can apply specific techniques to your communication to ensure that you are more fully understood. With practice you’ll be able to quickly get a good feel for how different Perceptual Styles can most readily receive what you are trying to communicate.
You don’t have to abandon your voice or change your fundamental message in order to have better communication in all your relationships. You can learn how to augment your natural way of communicating to ensure you are understood and that you understand others in return. And that’s what communication is all about–not dictionaries!
You can get started by joining us in Embrace Your Strengths, a new program about intentional communication that I’m offering together with my dear friend (and certified Perceptual Style coach) Allison Rapp. Our first course, Enlightened Communication will give you tools for connecting — and decreasing disconnects — that you won’t find anywhere else.
Effective communication is intentional communication. You can learn the skills that make it possible in the Enlightened Communication course.
Enrollment is open now–but it closes on May 24–or as soon as the 30 seats are filled. To make sure you’re sitting in of them, get the details now!
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