Why do so many professionals put a great deal of energy (and stress) into improving their public speaking skills, but few think about how to communicate more effectively in their everyday interactions with co-workers, a boss, friends, family, etc.? Communicating one-on-one is easy, right? Maybe you use different language when you talk to a co-worker than when you talk to a family member, but other than that it’s no big deal…..or is it?

Effective communication is the foundation to influencing and building/maintaining relationships. There are two important elements that we tend to consider when planning a presentation, but rarely consider when we are communicating one-on-one. These are:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Creating a message that sticks

Knowing your audience goes beyond name, rank, and serial number. It gets to understanding what’s important to them, how they will receive your message, and the context in which they are hearing you (e.g., Are they distracted? Have they just heard bad (or good) news? Are they rushed?).  

Creating a message that sticks means you understand your audience and can take an approach that will resonate with them. Will they respond to an emotional appeal or will logic win the day? Will your credibility influence them?

Usually, it’s some combination of the three. Once you have a sense for your overall approach, you need to be clear about your simple purpose (what are you trying to convey), find a way to grab their attention (maybe a provocative question, stunning statistic, or surprising observation), and provide the right level of detail (are you talking to experts in your field or novices? Will they respond to stories or do they respond to data and analysis?).

Whether it’s to crystallize your understanding of your audience or to create a message that sticks, understanding the DiSC style of the person/people you are communicating with is a fundamental starting point. Depending on who you are talking to, consider how these styles “show up” when you prepare:

  • The Dominance style is likely to want you to keep it brief, using a logical argument, and spoken with confidence.  
  • The Influence style is likely to respond to a compelling story, one that evokes a feeling and appeals to the impact on people
  • The Steadiness style may need time to reflect on what you tell them, but starting with a story and giving them time to think about a decision is key
  • The Conscientiousness style will want data and logic, and possibly time if you need them to provide an answer or decision

Bottom line…..communicating effectively even when it’s informal or with an individual or small group requires a pause and preparation. Not so easy, but worth every minute!

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