Good intentions aren’t good enough…

"It's not what you do..."

The Fats Waller song goes T'Ain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)...

And it's good advice when applied to communicating because, as we explore in NLP,  it’s not just what you say that counts. How you say it can be more important.

Even this is only part of the story. And not even the most important part.  Because, as we also explore in our NLP training courses, it's important to be aware of the difference between communicating ‘at’ people and communicating 'with’ them.

And you need to be able to adapt your approach to suit the other person's communicating needs, based on how they are responding to you moment by moment.  This ability to adapt your style based on how the other person is responding to you is what will set you apart from the rest.

A painful lesson

Back in the 80s when I first began attending training programmes presented by most of the NLP ‘big names’ of the time. I was highly impressed with their style - so much so that

So I began to emulate one in particular. It was a big mistake - as I quickly discovered.

It's one thing to walk into a conference or workshop with the reputation that you can practically 'walk on water' and then proceed to mesmerise your adoring audience with your skill and wisdom. That’s performing – it’s not communicating.

Inspired by watching and ‘modelling’ the style of the Big Names, I used to, as was the perceived wisdom in those days, really get myself ‘into state’ to the extent that I would be practically punching the air with enthusiasm. It didn’t matter what my audience wanted to hear - I knew what they needed to hear.

I can still wince slightly if I choose think back to some of my ‘performances’.  I was, as Benjamin Disraeli so wonderfully put it, inebriated with the exuberance of my own verbosity!

Happily not getting repeat-business from the individuals or organisations that I ‘communicated at’ provided me with a very effective (and speedily adopted) motivation to adapt my behaviour.

Performing or communicating?

Real communication is about exchanging ideas.

And it's about interacting.

Yes, it’s useful to have a plan for how you would like an interaction to go, whether it be with a friend, or customer, or group.  However once you begin communicating with them what matters is how they are responding to you from moment to moment - and, even more importantly, how you use these responses to adapt your style and your message.

The meaning of your communication...

This idea that your effectiveness as a communicator is based on your ability to receive and, more importantly, to respond to moment to moment feedback from the other person is, of course, encapsulated in the NLP Principle: The meaning of your communication is the response you get.

It also encapsulates in the more widely known warning: message intended isn’t always message received!

To motivate yourself to communicate with more awareness of the other person think of times when you did not operate from this principle. Or when you saw other people just carrying on regardless of how the other party.  For example:

  1. People who do not notice or respond to feedback – salespeople from their potential customers, customer services people from their customers, managers from their teams, teachers from their pupils
  2. The person who organises a party which people do not enjoy and who then moans about their ingratitude ‘after all the trouble I went to’
  3. The trainer who, when presenting their meticulously planned workshop, doesn’t recognise when the content or style isn’t what people want – yet carries on regardless (and is then surprised when their customers mark them low on the feedback ‘happy sheets’)  (Check out our Presenting with Influence workshop)
  4. The shop which opens in a burst of enthusiasm and then, because they didn’t check what the customer wanted or whether their potential customers wanted the product (or were prepared to shop for it in this location), is shocked when they go out of business a few months later

Action points

Feedback-led communication is a joy to engage in and is the best way of achieving a ‘win-win’ for both parties. It is also, by using the skills you’ve encountered at NLP Core Skills, relatively easy to engage in:

  1. Develop your ability to see visual indicators of state/mood changes and your ability to ear subtle vocal signs that the other person's state has changed (We cover this thoroughly in our NLP Core Skills course)
  2. Use these skills to pay attention to how the other person is responding to your message (or information or workshop or product etc) as you are delivering it. Remember that waiting until afterwards to consider the feedback may be far too late
  3. Rather than trying to overwhelm them with your wonderfulness or with that of your message/product deliver in ‘bite-sized chunks’ so you can gauge from moment to moment how you are being received – and can then adapt as you go along
  4. In planning, delivering, and afterwards assessing how you came across make good use of Different Perspectives (aka Perceptual Positions) to put yourself in their shoes and to see things from an objective angle (another NLP Core Skills technique.

And finally…

The Big Picture, here, is to do with your attitude towards the other party.

If you think you know what is right for them then you only need to communicate at them. However, it is unlikely that a sophisticated audience/customer will appreciate not being included in your plans for them!

Communicating ‘with’ people, and exchanging ideas and information and messages with them communicates the 4 R's - Respect, Recognition, Reassurance and Responsibility - thus demonstrating your respect for their integrity.

Back in the early 1900s during one spat in Parliament between the ever-sparring politicians Gladstone and Disraeli they exchanged as follows:

Gladstone: Mr Disraeli cannot possibly be sure of his facts!

Disraeli: I wish that I could be as sure of anything as Mr Gladstone is of everything.



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