Communications - Consciously choosing your words and use of physical space

Each of us is unique and our uniqueness shows up in many different ways. One way, for example, which is critically important to the art of communication, is how we assimilate information and then communicate it to others.

We take in information through six channels, our:

  1. Eyes – visual
  2. Ears – auditory
  3. Sense of touch – tangible kinaesthetic
  4. Our emotional state – internal feelings
  5. Sense of taste – gustatory
  6. Sense of smell – olfactory

With most of us one of these six channels is stronger than the others. For example, if you want to communicate some complex or lengthy information to me my preference would be for you to start by giving me a ‘big picture’ overview. So if you start by showing me an overall diagram I am more likely to be on the same wavelength as you and I will probably conclude that you are a great communicator!

However, when I am communicating with other people I need to guard against showing t hem too many pictures/diagrams because their strongest preference may not match mine.

Arguments and conflict are often due to people not being on the same wavelength. One person may say “The way I feel about it is...” The other person replies “That's not how I see it.”

So what is your preferred channel(s) for assimilating information and for then re-presenting the world to others?

Let’s just look at four of the above six channels.

Work through the below list and mark the words you use a lot or which appeal strongly to you. There are no right/wrong answers to this exercise so do not feel you have to mark all the words!

A appearance
bright
brilliant
colourful
dazzle
glow
enlighten
flash
flicker
focus
glimmer
glimpse
glitter
highlight
illustrate
lighten
look
misty
murky
observe
outlook
paint
perspective
picture
reflect
illuminate
shine
show
sparkle
see
transparent
twinkle
vision
visualise
sketchy
opaque
B audible
bang
buzz
call
chord
clash
click
deaf
discord
echo
groan
grumble
gurgle
harmony
hiss
hum
hear
moan
murmur
natter
noise
purr
rhythm
roar
rumble
rustle
squeal
shout
shrill
sing
sizzle
thud
tick
tinkle
tune in
whine
C bend
bounce
break
bubbly
burning
clunky
cold
crisp
crunchy
floppy
fluffy
freezing
grasp
gritty
hard
hit
hot
kick
move
pressure
pull
rigid
rough
scratch
seize
shape
slap
smooth
soft
squelchy
stretch
stroke
thrust
tickle
tight
warm
D affectionate
agitated
amused
annoyed
anxious
bewildered
bored
enchanted
energetic
excited
gloomy
grateful
happy
heartless
horrified
impulsive
inspired
jealous
joyful
uptight
lonely
listless
miserable
nervous
passionate
peaceful
proud
romantic
sad
silly
stuck
suffering
sympathetic
thrilled
tired
tender
tranquil
unfeeling
upset
worried
weary
fed up

What is your preferred channel? How pronounced is it? Which is your least used channel? How might you strengthen it?

When communicating with an individual listen to their choice of words and phrases and try and select words and phrases belonging to the same channel(s) that the other person is using. Be alert to the words and phrases which seem to connect best with that person. That person’s profession or hobby, e.g. potter, wine buff, designer, musician, cook may give you a clue of their preferred channel.

When you are next preparing a talk or presentation for a group of people, consciously select words from each of the above four channels to aid each person's understanding.

Robert Dilts has analysed the thinking and communicating strategies used by several exceptional individuals including Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Mozart and Disney. His 100pp monograph 'Cognitive Patterns of Jesus of Nazareth: Tools of the Spirit' (www.robertdilts.com) includes a detailed analysis of Jesus' choice of words and the sequence in which he used the four channels.

Now let's move onto a related subject. When you are talking to one or more people can I encourage you to enrich your communication by making full use of the physical space around you. This is particularly powerful when you either (a) want to make a contrast between say, point A and point B; or (b) your talk is in distinct sections; or (c) different characters are involved.

Let's assume that you are standing on the chancel steps talking to the congregation about Martha's encounter with Jesus prior to the raising of Lazarus (John 11 vv 1-27). You could designate three separate physical areas immediately around you for (a) Martha, (b) Jesus and (c) the disciples. You are more likely to engage the congregation in the story if you invite them to join the other disciples and you point to where they are all standing. You then physically move from one designated area to another as you explain the story from these three different perspectives.

If are speaking from a pulpit then you could use your lower arms and hands to designate areas either side of and on the lectern for (a) to (c) above to help the congregation understand what you want to communicate.

You will obviously confuse people if you use a designated space for more than one purpose.

This technique of designating spaces by using your hands can also be used to good effect when meeting at a table with one or more people. Alternatively, use objects on the table to represent different things.

Try out these ideas and notice the difference in people's attentiveness and understanding.

Steven Covey, the author of 'Principle-Centred Leadership' said “Communication is simply mutual understanding”. The suggestions in this chapter should help you increase the level of understanding of your listeners and therefore your effectiveness as a communicator.

...back to Articles & Downloads