By matching speakers’ preferred communication styles, you can build both rapport and alliances with a range of people. Here are four communication styles and how you can relate to them:
Paraphrasers focus on literal meaning. If you make a cynical joke or test their gullibility, they’ll probably misunderstand you. They accept what they hear at face value and seek to absorb it in a clean, orderly way. They’ll respond to you with phrases, such as “Let me make sure I understand you. . .” or, “Just to review. . . ”
Manage paraphrasers by thinking in logical sequence. Avoid vague or ambiguous comments. Don’t try hinting at what you want—come right out and say it.
Thematizers favor concepts over hard facts. They’re guided by general themes, such as overtaking a mighty competitor or employing outside-the-box thinking, to spur innovations. You can spot a thematizer by her eagerness to discuss lofty ideas rather than nitty-gritty details.
Win over these communicators by reinforcing the value of their favorite theme. Then talk in terms of drafting a “road map” or “recipe” to achieve the larger goal they’ve embraced.
Storytellers use anecdotes and parables to draw life lessons. Abraham Lincoln was a master storyteller; like many wise, diplomatic leaders, he relied on parables to defuse conflict and convince bickering parties to work together.
To bond with a storyteller, sit still and listen. Don’t feel obliged to respond with your own anecdote to top what you’ve just heard. And don’t interrupt the speaker—wait until he concludes and summarizes the “moral of the story.”
Problem-solvers love quizzes and trivia contests. They enjoy brain-teasers and spend their lunch hour completing crossword puzzles. They pose difficult questions (Why does that work that way? What’s causing that reaction?) and then dig for answers.
Appeal to them by framing assignments as challenges. Emphasize the need to seek solutions, fix what’s broken or solve a riddle.
Call attention to your remarks: Package your points so others listen
To ensure that your message sinks in, you can raise your voice or repeat yourself. But there are gentler and more effective ways to drill home an important point to your staff.
Try these techniques to enliven your remarks to capture others’ attention:
Cite a startling fact. Before diving into the meat of your message, whet the audience’s appetite to hear more by surprising them. For example, if you’re going to evaluate marketing opportunities in Alaska, begin by noting that the entire state’s population is less than Columbus, Ohio.
The easiest place to unearth tantalizing facts is to browse a Web search engine or check an encyclopedia. By beginning with an eye-opening fact, you not only spark interest but also make others wonder what else you have in store. You’ll captivate them to want to stay tuned for more.
Teach a history lesson. Place your subject in a historical framework. That helps listeners put your topic in the proper context so that they understand it better. For example, if you work at a public company, peruse old annual reports and compare financial results from years ago to today’s numbers.
Shift your viewpoint. Guide your listeners to think about the subject from an entirely different perspective. Encourage them to pretend that they’re hearing your message as young children, or an alien who’s studying earthlings, or someone with amnesia. By asking them to step outside of their routine and listen from a fresh vantage point, they will definitely pay attention and possibly come away with newfound insights.
Inject flair into your remarks
Charismatic communicators don’t take talking for granted. Rather than relying on whatever words first pop into mind, enliven your comments with creative imagery.
This way, you increase the odds that others will heed your message. You also come across as an intelligent, compelling communicator.
Whether you make a literary allusion (“their campaign reminds me of Charles Dickens: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…'”) or place your company’s current events in historical context ( “I don’t want us to assume the battle’s over—look what happened when a newspaper jumped the gun and reported that Dewey beat Truman”), your goal is to find colorful ways to drill home your points.
Inject flair into your remarks by applying these strategies:
Look for clever comparisons. When you read a book or a newspaper article, note any evocative metaphors. Create a file of your favorite articles and weave them into your conversation. Example: A credit union manager noticed in a Wall Street Journal article about how Russia charges high fees to let international airlines use its airspace that Russians were called “modern-day Barbary pirates” (referring to pirates who plundered North African seafarers in the 19th century). “I was in a meeting discussing how our competition was imposing all these banking fees on their customers, and I said, ‘They’re acting like modern-day Barbary pirates, plundering the innocent.’ My boss just loved that line.”
Paint word pictures. If you’re trying to explain a lofty or complex concept in concrete terms, provide a visual image. How? Begin with the phrase “Imagine that…” Then choose a familiar device (stacks of dollar bills, football fields, grains of sand) to describe a less familiar idea (effect of taxes, vast distances between points).
Overcome public speaking jitters: Transform fear into positive energy
Surveys show that having to give a speech is the No. 1 fear among Americans. That doesn’t mean you have to accept a dry mouth and a wet forehead.
Here’s a three-step plan that can help you battle the fear of public speaking. You won’t make all the anxiety go away, but at least you can prepare for it and devise strategies to make it work for you, not against you.
- Visualize a triumphant finale. In the days before your speech, imagine yourself uttering the last sentence of your speech and basking in rousing applause. Rehearse that last remark in a mirror so that you have it down cold. See yourself in the very room where you’re scheduled to give your talk—the chairs filled with people, the artwork on the walls, etc.
- Keep busy. In the hour before your speech, your fear level will soar. That’s totally normal, so don’t worry. Experienced speakers report that the five minutes leading up to their presentation are the worst. After they get over that initial hump and start the actual speech, they relax and largely forget that they’re nervous.
Rather than sit around letting yourself get the jitters, fill the hour before your speech with lots of activity. Talk on the phone, complete a report, read a new potboiler—whatever it takes to divert your attention temporarily.
- Release nervous energy. Don’t bottle up your anxiety. Unleash it in the form of physical movements, from hand gestures to lively facial expressions. If you stand ramrod straight and don’t move a muscle, you’ll sound tight and look even tighter.
If you like to pace, wait until transitions between your main points to take a few steps; this way, you visually reinforce that you’re moving from idea to idea. You can even wiggle your toes if you’re really nervous—no one in the audience will notice that!