It’s not hard for most of us to recall a time when we let people down by inaccurately anticipating their preferences or expectations. Whether it’s the wrong birthday gift for a spouse or sales approach for a customer, the culprit is often thinking that what we would want for ourselves is best for others. Particularly in the workplace, we tend to follow the Golden Rule – we work with and treat others as we would want to be treated. While this is completely natural, it also limits our effectiveness and can create friction.
Just like a radio receiver, people have unique frequencies. To best get your point across, you need to think about how to package it in a way that taps into each person’s frequency. In other words: Don’t treat others how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated.
An easy way to identify people’s preferences – and to communicate with them more effectively – is to familiarize yourself with a popular personality framework called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, based on Carl Jung’s Psychological Types. Here are some examples of the core personality preferences, and how best to tailor your communicative strategies:
“Thinkers” make decisions more objectively and impersonally, placing greater value on clarity than harmony. When interacting with them, use logic, data, and causal relationships to support your ideas. Ask what they “think,” not how they “feel.”
“Feelers” make decisions more subjectively and empathetically, focusing more on how their decisions affect others. When interacting with them, mention points of agreement first, talk about people’s concerns, and acknowledge the feelings of those involved.
Perceiving the World
“Sensors” prefer information that is tangible, concrete, factual, and grounded in reality. When interacting with them, be to-the-point, stress practical applications of your ideas, and relate new approaches to old ones.
“Intuitives” prefer information that is conceptual, theoretical, and oriented toward the future or potential. When interacting with them, use metaphors and analogies, talk about possibilities and alternatives, allude to the “big picture,” and don’t overwhelm them with details.
We all have clients that we cater to and want to make happy. Be it an investor, employee, or customer. To influence them, effective communication is essential. And to communicate effectively, you must know your audience. The more you can tailor your approach to meet other people’s preferences and working styles, the more effective you will be at getting what you want.
*** This article is based on the research and writing of Michael Schwalbe, a seasoned investment analyst and workplace psychology wonk. His work contributes to the knowledgebase of the Behance team, which runs the Behance Creative Nework, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.