Communications skills: how to learn your employees' languages of connectionby
Ensuring employees feel connected with one another remains critical as the pandemic continues to change how we work. By understanding the six languages of connection, we can adapt our communication depending on who we are speaking to in order to nurture a stronger relationship.
We’ve all experienced a time when we’ve struggled to get our point across or failed to be understood or heard. It can be frustrating, time consuming and can even damage working relationships. Have you ever considered, however, that you have the power to change this? It all comes down to speaking in a language that aligns with your listener’s prominent personality type.
When we learn to recognise and use the preferred perceptual language of other people, we connect better with them.
Our personality structure has a strong influence on how we perceive the world, how we communicate and how we connect with others. When we ‘match’ the ‘language of connection’ with the one that our employees, team members or managers prefer, we get our message across, while building trustworthy connection with them. The Process Communication Model (PCM) is one tool I have successfully used for this purpose.
The six personality types used in the Process Communication Model (PCM)
PCM is a behavioural model of communication and individual personality differences. It has been used and validated by NASA, a former American president and is worldwide leading. It is successfully employed for building better self-awareness, improving communication, managing stress and conflicts, strengthening relationships and team development.
According to PCM, we all have six different personality types ‘in’ us, arranged in a preferred set order. Our base type, the foundation, is already distinguishable at birth or within the first few months of life. The remaining five types are arranged by age seven, according to developmental psychology and social influence principles.
The metaphor of a six-floor condominium is often used in teaching PCM, as it helps us visualise the composition of each unique personality structure. There are 720 different orders of the six floors in our condominium.
The model speaks about personality types ‘in’ people, instead of types ‘of’ people. Personality models that speak about types ‘of’ people inherently invite separation and bias, entitlement and prejudice.
The six distinct personality types found within each of us, with their traits and character strengths are summarised in the table below:
PCM offers valuable insights into the ways these types in us influence how we think, feel and behave. Each type has its own perceptual filter, a preferred way of seeing the world. Since we have all six types in us, we all have the capacity to appreciate and connect with any other type.
The six ‘languages of connection’
When approaching communication, in PCM there are six distinct ‘languages of connection’, called perceptual frames of reference or ‘perceptual languages’. Discovered by Dr Taibi Kahler, the developmental psychologist behind PCM, perceptions are the ‘language between the words’, because the process of communication often carries more information than the content transmitted.
When we learn to recognise and use the preferred perceptual language of other people, we connect better with them and it’s easier to communicate our message. It will invite them to hear more and remember more of what we are telling them. In essence, they are then more likely to connect with us.
1. Thoughts: the language of the ‘thinker’
The thinker seeks to make sense of the world by organising, sorting and categorising the information they receive. They will talk about facts, data, characteristics and will ask questions about who, where, when, what and how. They appreciate others using this perceptual language with them.
Examples of how to communicate with a thinker:
- ‘I’ve seen your presentation. Would you share your thoughts about the options we have?’
- ‘I’ll give you the schedule of all the sprints in advance. Will you organise your team’s work using this?‘
- ‘What are the three main reasons that support this as the logical decision?’
- Use expressions such as: ‘I think’, ‘what options’, ‘does that mean’, ‘will you assist in making a plan’, etc.
2. Opinions: the language of the ‘persister’
Giving opinions, judgements and expressing their beliefs is second nature for the persister. They’ll see things through the perspective of purpose, values and trust, all filtered through their own personal values, beliefs and conscience.
Examples of how to communicate with a persister:
- ‘What is your opinion about…?’
- ‘I appreciate your dedication and the respect you show in regard to your job. I would value your opinion: what should we do in this situation?’
- Use expressions such as: ‘in my opinion’, ‘we should’, ‘I believe’, ‘respect’, ‘values’, ‘commitment’, ‘dedication’, etc.
3. Emotions: the language of the ‘harmoniser’
The harmoniser perceives the world by feeling about people and situations, using their heart as their compass. They nurture their relationships and attend to the welfare of others. A comfortable atmosphere is important to them.
Examples of how to communicate with a harmoniser:
- ‘I am happy to have you in my team and I really appreciate you’.
- ‘I appreciate your sensitivity to the needs of our teams and that you care about us feeling comfortable’.
- Use expressions such as: ‘I feel’, ‘I’m comfortable with’, etc.
4. Inactions: the language of the ‘imaginer’
The imaginer views the world by reflecting about what is happening. For them, life is an open space, perfect for imagining possibilities. While they might appear to be quiet and inactive on the outside, there is a lot going on inside. They respond very well when given clear directions.
Examples of how to communicate with an imaginer:
- ‘Take time to reflect on this and we will meet tomorrow at 10am for you to tell me what you visualised’.
- ‘Take time and visualise the interrelations between our departments. On Friday, come with a proposal for a restructuring that would raise our productivity by 10%’.
- Give them clear directions, using words like: ‘imagine’, ‘reflect’, ‘visualise’, etc.
5. Reactions: the language of the ‘rebel’
The rebel values fun and views the world by reacting to people and situations with likes/dislikes. They are more reflexive than reflective, more responsive than responsible, more creative than analytical. They’re lively, upbeat and always ready for some fun.
Examples of how to communicate with a rebel:
- ‘Wow! I like your t-shirt. Where did you get that? … Cool! Ok, so, I wanted to talk to you about…’
- ‘What you did with this app is cool! Great work’.
- Use expressions such as: ‘I like/dislike’, ‘wow!’ – fun expressions, slang, interjections.
6. Actions: the language of the ‘promoter’
The promoter values initiative and action is how they roll. They make things happen and then you’ll hear them say ‘let’s keep up the pressure’. For them, taking the lead and getting things done is their second nature. They’ll find a way around obstacles, and are always adaptable and self-sufficient. They rise to a good challenge.
Examples of how to communicate with a promoter:
- ‘Bring the documents to my office’.
- ‘Go after winning this customer’.
- Use expressions such as: ‘the bottom line’, ‘best shot’, ‘make it happen’, ‘go for it’, ‘enough talk’, ‘let’s do it’; include lots of verbs in your speech.
Change your language to bridge connections
So the next time you are speaking to an employee or team mate and are struggling to get your point across, remember these six languages of connection and consider which style would better suit the person on the receiving end. By adapting your word choice and how you communicate, you will have a much better chance of being heard and creating a stronger bond and a more trusting relationship.
Interested in this topic? Read Mastering the art of speaking up: how to be better understood.
Magda is a certified trainer in the Process Communication Model ® and a Senior Practitioner in Applied Neuroscience.
Previous to this, she gained over twelve years of experience in multinational organisations in Germany, Brazil, Romania and the United Kingdom, where she now lives. She started her career working in strategy consulting and...