THE BLOG
06/10/2014 05:58 EDT | Updated 08/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Do You Use All Three Forms of Communication?

Tim Hudak didn't win last week's debate because of his policy; he won because he was able to communicate his message so that the majority of the audience understood him. Whether he knew what he was doing, Mr. Hudak used all three forms of communication -- visual, auditory and kinesthetic -- to ensure that people listened to him. He influenced a wider audience than his Liberal and NDP opponents, who only relied on one style to convey their message.

But don't blame Premier Wynne or the NDP's Horwath, they likely didn't know that all of us are hardwired in terms of how we hear and learn. Each of us is equipped with three learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic, one of which is our primary preference for receiving information. These preferences were defined in VAK System developed in the late 60's early 70's.

If you are primarily an auditory communicator, for example, auditory people learn in lectures or love talk radio. When we are presented with information that aligns with our primary preference this allows us to align our thoughts with the speaker or better understand what the speaker is saying. It may sound obvious, but you build trust if people understand and align with what you are saying.

If you don't align with your listener, you will cause them distress, and they won't trust you. If people don't trust you they won't vote for you, nor will want you as their leader. In our work, we develop systems that build trust between generations by aligning culture in the workplace. We teach people how to communicate with each other so that people will listen.

Each of us provides clues to people who are speaking to us that indicate our learning style.

Visual people tend to look up and either to the right or the left when they are speaking. Auditory learners tend to move their head from side to side, while kinesthetic folks look down and often seem to be nodding off. Although we each have a primary preference, each of us can learn to use other preferences that our environment demands. For example a reporter must learn how to process information that is spoken, this of course sharpens their auditory preferences.

If you can master this skill our research demonstrates that you can increase trust in leadership by 9 per cent in as little as 13 weeks. What does this mean to business higher productivity? Less churn. What does the mean to politicians, the difference between losing and winning, especially in a horse race election like Ontario's.

In our work with generations in the workplace we have found some interesting anecdotal trends emerging in personal preference.

These are by no means definitive, just interesting.

Boomers prefer an auditory style, Gen X prefer a visual style and Millennials prefer a kinesthetic style of communication. It goes back to the way each received information when we were younger (think Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message). These generational preferences, based on nurture not nature are causing the generation gap to grow wider in the workplace and could explain the reason for voter apathy. People simply aren't aligning with the messages of the candidates.

Boomers received information verbally when they were younger. They listened to the news and entertainment on the radio. Major events occurred, they were talked about on the radio and at the dinner table. Think - Auditory was the talk of the town.

With Gen-X television became very much a daily part of our lives. People actually sat in front of the television to learn with Sesame Street. Families moved from the dinner table to destination TV for a night with Walt Disney. Think - everything is picture perfect.

Gen-Y, known as Millennials, grew up with computers and smart phones. Computers are a very tactile way of receiving information. You type, you receive. It's about you and your feelings. Millennials are very physical in how they speak with each other and how they relate to each other. You see them hugging when greeting one another. The idea of connecting with each other through the Internet is demonstrated in their physicality when they finally put down their phones to acknowledge each other. Think -Everyone connects through social media.

Ms. Wynne, a Boomer, is the most auditory of all the candidates. She apologized numerous times, used "I" too many times, and used 40 sentences when 15 would do. Each apology sounded the same and each "zinger" she wanted to land didn't resonate because of too many words. She was a traditional boomer, focusing only on ensuring people were hearing her message. At one time she even ignored her opponents and focused on the camera, rather than engaging with the other candidates. Her message didn't resonate with visual and kinesthetic people.

Ms. Horwath, a Gen X or tailend Boomer depending on your viewpoint, is an incredibly visual communicator. Her quotes, including "bad medicine" and "corruption running deep" and "rearing its head" immediately brought many memories both good and bad. She planted a picture in the minds of people who were visual, but she failed to use her words to align with boomers, and connect with Gen X.

Mr. Hudak, a Gen Xer, and the winner of the debate, based on media assessment, was the only candidate to alternate between all three communication modes. For example "... why didn't you just say so... I'll step down... You're acting like someone who won the lottery when you're bankrupt." Unbelievably he was able to connect with all three generations. If you review social media you see, and understand the feelings of Gen X and Millennials, while the voice of the Boomers was heard in the online reviews of his debate.

In the Kennedy and Nixon debate, Kennedy won with TV viewers while Nixon was declared the winner among radio listeners. Perhaps those who chose to listen to, and not watch the debate, thought Ms. Wynne was the victor.

Today business leaders and politicians will win if they understand how to speak so that people can listen enabling them to build trust by allowing audiences to align and relate to their message.

To learn more about how people process information sign up for our Webinars. The next one is on June 30. Email info@thedms.org. This month's topic is Millennials, and understanding them in the workplace.

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