Your brain is magnificent. It's also limited. And it's also a gas guzzler!
There is so much going on in the world around you right at this moment, that you cannot possibly, consciously process all that information. It would just be totally overwhelming.
To cope and save essential gas (energy) for other things, every person has their own unique way of processing the data hitting us from outside (and internal self-talk) through our experiences, beliefs, values, preferences, memories and past decisions.
Purpose To understand the Human to Human Interface – that is, how we communicate and understand each other. To be able to apply this knowledge into all communications to become purposeful and intentional about our relationships and communications.
Process There's quite a lot of learning here so I've split this into three parts, each with an exercise that you should use to see how powerful it is to improve your own conscious communications.
Payoff This understanding and the practice of deliberate, purposeful and intentional communications is life changing. Your relationships will improve tremendously. You'll find fewer misunderstandings and greater confidence in what you say and the message you get across. Only, make sure that your message is worth hearing – because from now on, they will hear it.
The Eyes Have It!
When we think and access memories, most people move their eyes. And the direction of their eye movements can give us useful clues about their preferred communication style:
As a good communicator, you want to be using the other person's preference when speaking and their eye movements offer a first clue to help you adjust your “normal” style to theirs.
Note that someone trained (like a good newsreader) or thinking about something with which they are extremely familiar, may not move their eyes at all.
- If someone looks upwards, towards the heavens, or straight ahead (focussed on the distance) they are likely to be visual communicators. That is, they see memories and process their response as pictures or movies.
- If someone looks to the left or right, they are processing using sounds.
- If they look down to their left (your right) they are processing digitally, that is using lists, bullet points, numbers.
- And down to their right (your left) they are processing kinaesthetically – that is, movement, tangible things, or feelings.
It's not that people won't hear what you say it will simply be easier for them to understand your communication if you use their preferred communication style. Thus, if you normally and naturally use very visual language, (talking in pictures) and they are digital, change your communication to include bullet points, lists, numbers, counting on your fingers or perhaps a flow chart (works for both of you).
And something else to consider: Visual thinkers tend to be quite quicker, more superficial thinkers, kinaesthetic tend to be slower, deeper thinkers. If you are highly visual in style, slow down for your kinaesthetic audience.
Look 'em straight in the eye.
Have you ever sat across from someone who seemed shifty and untrustworthy when they were talking? I'm pretty certain that you got that impression because they wouldn't look you in the eye. It doesn't by the way, mean that they are shifty and untrustworthy it could be they are nervous. But they could also be completely untrustworthy. :-)
At the same time, you don't want to stare at them. After a short time, that becomes intensely intimidating. So where do you look?
Here's a hack that will help:
Imagine an upside-down triangle on the face.
The Business Situation: The triangle “base” is above the eyes on the forehead, the tip down to the bottom of the nose. Look in the middle. – Roughly the place of the “third”eye – just above the bridge of the nose. The triangle is where you look 50-75% of the time. All the time, will make most people uncomfortable. None of the time makes everyone uncomfortable.
The Friend situation: With friends, you can move the triangle down dow the “base” is across the middle of the eyes and the tip extends below the mouth. Again, focal point is the middle. Half way down or the nose tip.
The Intimate situation: Only for your partner or really, really close friend – NEVER at work! Move the triangle down, the “base” is below the eyes, the tip down to the hollow in the neck. Focal point is middle, for great intimacy, focus on the hollow of the neck.
You can test the intimate version with a (very) good friend who knows what you are doing here. See how long you can hold the gaze before they squirm.
Oh, and please please please remember when you are online. Looking someone in the eye on a videoconference requires that you look at the camera (not at their face on your screen!)
Remember – eye movements are a clue to help guide us how we might better communicate with this person. They also tend to use VAK words in their speech to indicate their preferences. That's next in @Language Barriers