The 3 techniques to transform your communications. Get what you want – at work and at home

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

— George Bernard Shaw

As corporate communications specialists, we know that communication, or its absence, is the root cause of every success and every failure or conflict in the world. Learning how to improve communication skills unlocks huge value – business (and home) relationships improve drastically and you get more of what you want more often. Based on years working with high-performing companies and leaders, we learned that at the heart of improving communication skills is personality. Treat communication as separate to personality and you will not get far.

Later in this article we will share the one tip (three words) that will not only drastically help you and your organisation improve your communication skills, but will resolve many conflicts before they even start. Our personal experience at least. We will also share the one miscommunication that cost 220,000 lives in less than a minute. Please try to avoid that one!

How To Improve Your Communication Skills At Work Or at Home

How To Improve Communication Skills At Work Or at Home

It is easy to forget that communication is first and foremost a function of the personalities involved. To improve communication, we need to first improve our understanding of people’s personalities. The formula is straightforward – RPI: Read, Predict, Influence:

  1. We read and assess the personality of our counterparty
  2. We use this to predict their future actions
  3. Once we know what they are going to do, we adjust our communications to influence the outcome in our favour.

These are as useful in the workplace as they are personally. In fact more-so, as we have the option to detach from business and not get so personally involved.

Just because the formula is simple, does not meant the implementation is always straightforward.

How To Assess Personality

How To Assess Personality

This is a complex topic and is the subject of a separate article as well as a forthcoming book by Alex Blackwood. There are currently more than 40 personality tests in regular use around the world. The good news is that later in this article we will share an incredibly simple and effective personality test that you can start using with other people immediately.

Some personality tests are almost household names, like the Myers Briggs MBTI test developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, based on the speculative musings of psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Having worked with almost every personality test there is, we find many to be as accurate as swishing tea leaves. There is a serious lack of scientific process or independent evaluation for most of the systems including the one just mentioned, which has been demonstrated to reveal totally different results for the same person within hours! Hardly a scientific method, even though it is still used by many of the world’s largest organisations.

The tests we use the most and incorporate into our corporate workshops are based around the Process Communication Model, developed in large part for NASA to choose which astronauts to send to space to share a tin can with 5 other humans for 6 months. One could say it has been tested in the field! Such applications as space travel require extremely intense psychometric examinations. We have developed something with a slightly lighter touch that is still effective.

Where Can I Find A Simple & Effective Personality Test?

Personality Test

Based on our study of more than 40 personality tests, thousands of questions and tens of thousands of responses, we have developed a 60-second personality test designed for use in an informal manner. While it is neither NASA grade nor fool-proof, it is combines the best of what Big 5, DISC, PCM have to offer in a lean, stripped-down package designed for today’s busy executive. It will give you an immediate advantage and set you on the path to unlocking the power of personality assessment.

The best way to learn it is to take the test yourself to get an initial understanding of how it works. After that you are free to peek “under the hood” and see how we compiled the test. It’s yours to explore, use and share. No cost, no restrictions. All we ask is that you use it for the right reasons and do not use it to manipulate the people around you.

We have more comprehensive tests available and we offer one-on-one consultations (on location or online) as well as our full corporate team package.

Check Out Our Personality Test

How Can I Predict Future Behaviour Using Personality?

Predict Future Behaviour Using Personality

Each personality type has a personality profile, dominant colour and supporting colours. Based on these, you know how they are likely to react in certain situations. I say likely, the 60-second test is by no means foolproof and in fact the general science of personality is not exact. There are so many variables. I compare it to technology (artificial intelligence). On the one hand google knows what you will search for almost before you do. On the other hand, we still cannot manufacture a toaster that toasts different types of bread evenly on both sides. It’s complicated. And humans are more than a question in a google search window. And we are more than a slice of bread!

That being said, the personality type tells you how you (or they) are likely to react in certain scenarios (i.e. when threatened, charmed, questioned etc). It will also inform you how to communicate in response to those reactions to achieve your outcome. Now you have a plan and are in control. So far so good.

How Can I Influence People Using Personality?

How Can I Influence People Using Personality?

You have two options. Maybe you need to deliver a certain message to your counterparty. We call this message an input. Every message will create a certain reaction. We call this      reaction an output. However, because of the previous personality test, you now know the likely reaction or output. Any combination of message or action and the associated reaction we refer to as an input/output scenario in transactional communication.

Now you know in advance how your counterparty is likely to react (the output) and you can make a pre-emptive strike to neutralize their reactions that may be negative to you and your cause. For example, they are type red “Fixer” and you know they will immediately question an attack in a strong manner. You can be prepared to counter that attack with whatever means at your disposable. On the other hand, If you know they are type Red in advance, you can gently whisper and coax them in your direction, while acting as a supporter. On the other hand, if they are type green “Zagger”, you know that charm and wit will usually get what you want, with a last resort of extreme assertiveness and they will often submit. For a type Blue “Planner”, you can already present the reasoned, logical arguments in advance and achieve immediate agreement.

Alternatively, you may not have a message to deliver but instead have a certain outcome that you want. In that case you can deliver any message you want, in order to create a certain output in the input/output scenario. Effectively creating a certain reaction which you desire and are perfectly prepared to neutralise. You are now several moves ahead and in complete control of the game. We did mention earlier to not abuse this, remember?

How To Resolve Conflicts With Three Words

How To Improve Communication Skills

Ok, so you learned an on-the-spot one minute personality test. You learned how to use it to predict behaviour and you know how to influence the situation now in your favour. Congratulations! But it won’t always work, and even if it does, there may be bumps on your road to world domination.

So what happens when you feel you are moving into the conflict zone? Or even anytime that you feel there is mistrust brewing? This is a great tip that I learned from FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. It’s not an entirely new concept, it has been addressed is a staple of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and similar methodologies. But Chris uses it to perfection in high-stakes situations and you can too.

Here it is for you – are your ready? Simply repeat the last one to three words that your counterparty said… and add a question mark. Suppose they say “That’s outrageous!!!”. Instead of getting angry and countering. Just stay calm. “That’s outrageous?”. Then shut up.

Now all the pressure is on them to explain. Try this in high-pressure or passionate interactions and you will be amazed at the results. More about the great Chris Voss here. I also highly recommend his book, Never Split the Difference, and his masterclass.

The Worlds Greatest Misunderstanding

The Worlds Greatest Misunderstanding

I did say I would share the possibly the world’s worst misunderstanding that cost 220,000 lives. Here it is – mokusatsu. It doesn’t look like much, but this (partly) resulted in the bombs being dropped on Hirohima and Nagasaki.

The Japanese government was given an ultimatum to surrender to which they responded “mokusatsu”. In Japanese this has a nuanced meaning. One interpretation is “not worthy of comment”, an interpretation that enraged the US President Harry Truman and prompted the unprecedented dropping of the two bombs. It also has other meanings, one of which is  “to remain in a wise and masterly inactivity”. It was this latter meaning the Japanese press representative had intended… basically to stall and say nothing while they worked out a correct response.

More details are in this US government NSA document that was declassified in 1968. The moral of the story is to treat sensitive communications with respect and do not jump to conclusions. Again, we did mention earlier to not abuse this, remember?

Conclusion on How To Improve Communication Skills

How To Improve Your Communication Skills

Seeing the future is not an exact science, but with personality assessment on your side you can anticipate your counterparty’s behaviour. Following the three step plan – Read, Predict, Influence – you will get tip the odds in your favour. It may never be 100% but you will get more and more of the results that you want.

May the force be with you.