It’s All a Matter of Perception

Have any of the following situations driven you nuts:

  • After giving your foreman detailed verbal instructions on how to proceed with a project, the finished product shows he forgot or misunderstood an important detail.
  • For a married couple, you put together a beautiful proposal with photos, drawings, and a budget. The wife glances at it, sets it down, and then asks you to tell her about it.
  • You carefully demonstrate an installation technique or new software program to an employee, but before you finish the demonstration, he or she says, “To learn, I have to do it.”

In each of these cases the common denominator is how people understand and process information most effectively.

Each of us has a preferred way we like to get our information. This preference is hard-wired into our brain. We prefer our information in one of three ways: seeing or reading; auditorily, by hearing; or tactically or kinetically, which means we need to write it down or manipulate it. While we use all our senses to understand our world, our best information gatherer is our dominant learning pattern.

Now one of the cool things about this information is that you can figure out how an individual processes information. Ask someone a simple question that takes a little bit of thought — like what's their favorite movie, what they had for dinner last night, or their spouse's birthday. Then watch their eyes. The verbal person will tend to look up, the auditory learner will look toward one ear or the other, and the tactile person will look down.

Their language patterns will also match their learning preference. The visual person will see what you mean and want to have a look at the situation. The auditory person will hear what you have to say and be ready to listen to you. The tactile or kinetic person will want to get a feel for what you say, so they can be in touch with the situation.

By determining how people best process information, we can deliver the information to them how they want it.

With the visual clients, give them information to read, pictures to look at, and use that laser pointer you got at the last trade show to direct their eyes to where improvements will be made. For the auditory clients, give them a well-organized verbal description of the project. With the tactile clients, walk them around the project site as you discuss the plans. Hand them carpet and tile samples to feel and be sure that your $150,000 proposal has some weight to it, so it feels like a $150,000 job.

Let's apply this information to the situations above. In the case of the foreman, it turns out he is a poor auditory learner. If he's like me, spatial information that is given verbally doesn't register easily. To remedy this situation, give him the information in writing or drawings (visually), or have him take notes when you give directions (tactically), or both.

In the case of the potential client, the wife is giving you a clear message on how she wants the information delivered — auditorily; so be prepared to give a well-organized verbal presentation to this client because that's how she will best understand your proposal.

In the final example, your employee is clearly a tactile or kinetic learner. For employees like this, you can talk and show all day, but until they get their hands on the keyboard or the tool, you are wasting their time. They have to touch and manipulate to understand and learn.

Additionally, if you match your language pattern to the people you are talking to, they will feel that you understand them. For example, if they want you to hear what they have to say, and you respond that you see what they mean, on a subconscious level, they'll think you don't. Respond instead that you hear them loud and clear and they'll think you do.

So, I hope you heard my message, and have a feel for what you have just read. Since this is my last column for the year, have a wonderful holiday, and please stay in touch. I love to hear from you and see those e-mails in my in-box.

Linda Francis , author of Run Your Business So It Doesn't Run You, trains and consults in the remodeling industry. She is based in Northern California; Phone: (707) 485-0162 or l francis@pacific.net

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