Anne Miller is a coach and business builder who did an exceedingly entertaining presentation at the Women Advisors Forum, that Bank Investment Consultant and our sister publications held in Boston on Oct. 25.
About 200 women from the area and beyond attended and we had it was a very engaging conference.
Miller, the author of Make What You Say Pay, described four different types of communication styles and proceeded to enact them with a hapless audience member. The four types were the ideas person (Steve Jobs), who likes new things and sees the big picture; the people person (Oprah) who tends to be a great team player; the data person, who likes flow charts and lots of information; and the action person who likes bullet points and summaries—skip the details please.
An audience member was instructed to ask Miller for directions to the ballroom we were standing in as we the audience guessed which of the four styles Miller was playing. It went something like this:
Audience member: Excuse me can you direct me to the Colonnade Ballroom? I’m late and my boss is waiting for me.
Answer 1) Lateness is such a strange concept to begin with. I mean what is time really, but a human fabrication by which to measure our aging process.
Answer 2) Really you’re going to the Colonnade ballroom? I was thinking of going there. What are you going there for? Oh really? Are you new around here? So am I! Where are you from?
Answer 3) Well let’s see, if you take a left off the lobby down there, you’ll go down a corridor and if you take a right off the corridor, you’ll reach the phones and the restrooms and if you take a left off the corridor you should find two entrances to the ballroom.
Answer 4) What? You want directions? It’s that way. Just go down that hall.
You get an idea of the change of pacing in each style and will probably have no difficulty figuring out which style is enacted each time. It was a good reminder that people process and convey information in recognizably different ways, although they may have bits of two or more of these characters in them.
As an advisor, strong communication will help your business if you can understand a client’s communication style and tune into it. You might want to pick up the pace and energy for an ideas oriented person, spend some time socializing and be collaborative with a people person. They want to be friends and will often take their cues from you.
Feel free to pull out all your charts and graphs for the data person. They should enjoy your explanations of how investing and financial planning work. But you needn’t bother with all that when talking to an action person. Provide him or her with bullet points, and highlights. Cut to the chase.
If you find you are struggling to communicate with one or more of these types, you might well be able to resolve the problem by finding someone you already know who is that type and explaining the problem, Miller said. They’ll give you a different take on the problem and may help you see it the way your difficult clients does.