Effective Communication – It’s Not That Difficult!

Nigel Hartley
Effective Communication – It’s Not That Difficult!

But it is for many people. Why is that? 

We are currently operating in a very fast paced, challenging time that is constantly changing, so effective communication is imperative. However, we find that people don’t understand that people they are trying to communicate with process information in a unique way and it feels to them like you are talking a different language.

What is the answer?

Practical profiling tools for businesses undergoing change. Shirlaws developed Compass an online suite of four indicators (TFK, Pace, ELM and Risk) that provide valuable insights about workplace productivity and behaviour. Compass indicators deepen individual and team awareness, bringing respect and adaptability for everyone’s different styles and skill sets.

Now, you may be asking “what is an indicator?” Instead of focusing on underlying personality traits, we focus on behaviours, relationships and outcomes. Our indicators help people understand their own – and other people’s – behaviours. Understanding how people have behaved historically, and why, and what is needed going forward provides a bridge between the past and the future.

For the purposes of this article we are going to focus on Think Feel Know (TFK), a communication behavioural tool. We will give practical examples of how we use the indicators and the results the client’s achieved.

So why is effective communication so challenging?

Imagine you are lost in a remote part of the world with no cell coverage and no one speaks English. Challenging? Yes. You may well get by with hand signals, a few words, drawings and body language, but it can be tough. While some might consider it an adventure, others find it incredibly frustrating and stressful.  And, that’s the point.  We are all different.

Now let’s turn to day-to-day communications at work or at home.  How often do you feel no one speaks your language?  Miscommunication or misunderstanding is the number one reason why so many tough conversations escalate to uncomfortable levels of tension, resentment, and lack of trust. Aiming for increased respect and unity, Shirlaws created Think Feel Know (TFK).

We all have different ways we prefer to process information, communicate, and make decisions.  We talk about three styles:

Think – Data driven, linear, has to go through a process before making a decision. Makes a decision from pure practicality.

Feel – Needs stories and drawings to illustrate the situation but can miss out on gathering all the facts. It has to “feel right” before a decision is made.  Note this is not emotion, it is about energy.

Know – Makes quick “gut” decisions. Needs little data, loves the bottom line, and is just as happy to make another decision immediately.

Also, it is important to note that everyone uses all three styles.  There is no right or wrong, and each of us has a primary and secondary that we tend to rely on.

Now that we have the basics down, rather than give detailed descriptions etc., I thought I would share some personal experiences with clients over the last few months to bring this tool to life and give you some real-life applications.

Example 1. Working with a very successful manager I learned he sometimes let his client/co-worker relationships get the better of him. While he was really liked by clients and colleagues alike, this manager would easily get upset. Why? Because the manager is high Feel and while great at building strong relationships he neglected to get all the necessary Think (data, facts, and deadlines) aspects answered for his team. Once he understood the need to take care of Think, Feel and Know during the ‘fact find’ of any engagement and/or relationship, all that stress went away, and the manager became much more effective.

Example 2. TFK can be employed in many situations, especially sales. A healthcare client took the TFK fundamentals and applied them to their patient input sheet. If someone gave lots of data, they started with the assumption that this patient was predominantly Think. If the patient told lots of stories they would assume that they were predominantly Feel and if they answered yes or no and left some of the questions blank they would assume the patient was a Know. After incorporating this awareness, they refined the process and began pairing providers with patients who had the same predominate style, resulting in improved communication.

Example 3. Did you know that those who are predominantly Think tend to look up and to the right when they are processing information? Now what if your boss thought that every time you were doing this you were rolling your eyes! Once our client was aware of this behaviour, this very simple misunderstanding was quickly resolved when both parties understood some of the body language elements of Think Feel Know.

Example 4. Recently I was in a meeting when an agenda item was raised to a heavy Thinker with a request for an instant answer. What happened? This person got flustered and I could see this could easily have escalated. I reminded everyone that this person was heavy Think and that we should respectfully give him time to do data gathering before expecting an answer.  We tabled the request for a few days. Not only did things quickly settle down, but he came back with a brilliant solution that worked better for everybody.

Example 5. While assessing a management team recently, we learned that the CEO was a strong Know and the head of operations was a strong Feel.  We respectfully pointed out the challenges that a strong Feel might have communicating to a strong Know which could result in miscommunication, confusion and, ultimately, stress.  We subsequently learned that this was exactly what was happening.  We were able to show the head of operations ways to improve their communication methods with the CEO which resulted in much better communication and ultimately less stress in the workplace.

Five very simple examples that demonstrate in practical terms that communication does not have to be as challenging as we make it.  The real power is in not only understanding ourselves but in understanding how the person we are communicating with likes to receive and send information.

Nigel Hartley is a Business Advisor with Shirlaws and Director of Shirlaws USA where we help businesses Grow, Fund, Exit. You can contact Nigel on +707 573 7154 or by email:nigel.hartley@shirlawsgroup.com

Stay tuned for more blogs and podcasts on Navigating Change in Uncertain Times over the coming year as we help leaders build business resilience with agility and speed.

Nigel Hartley