Before you move away and think I’m crazy, stay with me for a minute. I know you’re speaking to them in English (most likely), but how we interpret our language internally is different.
This was a discovery by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970’s when they created a study of communication called Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or what is more commonly known today at NLP.
NLP is the study of communication with ourselves and others and as a Financial Planner, communication is a skill you need to master. Now if you’ve been in the business for some time you’re most likely to be an expert in this through experience, however read on because this is likely to explain what it is you’re doing, and if you have trainee planners in your firm, it will help them. You are taught all the technical information through your exams, but often miss out on the soft skills which are equally essential to the job.
The whole study of NLP is far too vast for this article, but I want to focus in on one area, which if you master can help you communicate better with your clients, colleagues, family and dare I say it, yourself. After all the longest conversation you’ll ever have is with yourself. It’s called the Communication Model.
The NLP Communication Model was originally conceived and developed by Bandler and Grinder as a model of how we communicate and interact with the outside world.
It explains how we process the information that comes in from the outside (the words people use when they speak to us, the tonality of their voice, the type of cloths people wear, how they greet us, etc) and what we do with it inside our minds, how we internalise it.
In NLP, we believe that ‘The map is not the territory,’ what this means is that a map is some personal representation of reality and as such, each person will have their own individual views on a situation. So, our internal representations that we make about an outside event is not the event itself. A good example of this is a party, have you ever been to a party or social gathering and came away and said to your partner … “that’s was brilliant!” When they reply, “really? I thought it was awful?” You see the party (the territory) was the same for both of you, but how you internalised it, your representation was different.
What happens is that there is an external event and we run that event through our internal filters and these filters are based on many things which include our experience, our beliefs, what we value in life and our meta programs (for another time).
We make an Internal Representation (I/R) of that event. The I/R of the event then combines with our physiology to create how we feel; happy, sad, motivated etc.
What this is really telling us is that the world that we experience is not the world that is outside of us, it is a world that we are creating inside. We do not experience reality as it is, we only experience our own perception of reality. Since we all have more or less different sets of filters (that being different sets of values, beliefs, experiences etc.), we will all have our own unique perception of the world. This therefore explains how one person can perceive an event completely differently than another person who have experienced the same event.
Have you ever noticed that you have provided the same presentation to different clients, some just get it and others, it falls on deaf ears?
Some people have to see what it is you are talking about, to really understand it, others really enjoy hearing what you have to say, others don’t really get what you’re saying until you engage them and ask them to participate, or you physically hand them something to do – perhaps complete a form, engage in feedback or move your mouse around your cashflow – they are more feelings based, or kinaesthetic.
This is at the core of the NLP communication model and these repetitional systems are often referred to as VAK – Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic and are a key method on how we internalise the outside world.
We each have a preferred style (Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic communicators) and we are all guilty of using our own preferred communication style and expecting others to be the same, but we’re not. When I said earlier that you may be speaking different languages, this is what I meant, you may be visually communicating, when all your client want is to read the content.
So how can you tell who is what style? A visual communicator will predominately use visual predicates and words such as ‘I see’, ‘it’s not clear’ ‘that looks fine to me’, they care more how they look, they often speak slightly faster than others who are not visual communicators, because they are full of ideas and pictures speak louder than words! ‘can’t you see what I am saying to you!’
Whereas an auditory communicator, wants you to listen, they prefer to just talk it through with you, you can show them a hundred graphs, but ‘can you just tell me what that means’ often these are the types of clients where your meetings overrun, because they just want to talk something through, to make sure it sounds right to them. They get frustrated when people just don’t listen to them and their voice tempo is steady and meaningful because language is important.
If you have a kinaesthetic communicator it’s important for you to know how this person feels, they may ask you, ‘how are you feeling today?’ They want to get a grasp on what’s going on. Often slower in their manner, they seem more thoughtful and considered in their approach. Comfort is more important to them, than how they look, and the meaning of the communication, is more important than the words or graphs they are shown. They like relationships and enjoy being involved, so engaging them in the process, taking a little more time with them, shows you care. They will use phrases like, I find this hard to understand, or I’m a soft touch.
Now it’s important to note that nobody is categorically one style and people often drift between all three, however they do have a preferred communication style. Also, no one style is ‘better’ or worse than the others, they are just different.
So, when you want to build rapport with these people try communicating to them in their language, use similar words as they use, if they ask “how are you feeling?” reply and reciprocate with “I’m feeling well today, how are you feeling today?”
If when they arrive in their flash bright sports car, tell them “that looks great, I bet you get noticed in that.”
When you are communicating, match the words that are being used with you back to them, speak at a similar speed as they do and ensure you are fully in the room with your client or prospect.
Remember the words we use, represent our reality, to get along with people, we need a certain level of rapport – people like people like themselves, or how they would like to be. Using the same (internal) language is a step closer to gaining that rapport.
Warren Shute MSc. CFP Is a Chartered Wealth Manager and NLP Master practitioner and trainer specialising with professional advisers.