Simple to Understand, Simple to Apply!

Over the last decade or so, I’ve heard dozens of pitches on how the latest, greatest thing will change my life! Watch any info-mmercial and you’re likely to feel like you’re losing money if you don’t buy in the 10 minutes - even if that fancy contraption has no place at all in your life… Along the lines of the example I used in the last post about how my plain old hammer drives nails far better than the most amazing cordless circular saw on the market, great features don’t matter much when they have nothing to do with the task we need to accomplish!

When it comes to effective communication skills, there are just about as many magic pills being pitched to solve that issue as there are info-mmercials! An internet search of the term effective communication skills yields all kinds of solutions - at a cost of course… You’ll see things like “Top 10 Skills to Learn...” or “5 Hacks to Develop…” and so on. 

Interestingly enough, nearly every article I clicked on as I was researching for this message referenced the importance of becoming a good listener. We’ll circle back to that in the next message. For now though, let’s stick with the other thing I saw promoted in almost every article; some sort of new and improved tool or methodology for solving all your problems! All you need to do is pay this fee, answer their questions, then receive a pretty report with graphs, charts, diagrams, and keywords telling you all about you! 

The most immediate concern that came to my mind after seeing all those was that I only represent half of the effective communication equation, best case scenario, and that’s assuming the tools being promoted was actually designed to help with communication AND it provides scientifically verifiable results. I realize I sound cynical here, but several of the most popular tools being promoted today as being just what the doctor ordered for addressing workplace communication issues were developed specifically for helping individuals understand themselves and their own strengths better. While it MAY be possible to wiggle the results those provide into something resembling support for effective communication, doing that tends to look a lot like driving a nail with that new cordless circular saw. I suppose it’s possible, but it sure wasn’t what the designer had in mind!

Compounding that initial issue is the fact that most of those tools being promoted as the best thing since sliced bread are extremely complicated and offer minimal framework to apply them in a practical situation. In twenty years of studying human behavior in real world scenarios and digging into everything I could find to help me learn to communicate more effectively, the one tool I’ve found that most resembles my plain old hammer has been the science most commonly referred to as the DISC Model of Human Behavior. The work William Marston did putting that together nearly a century ago provides a remarkably simple framework for quickly recognizing and understanding different communication styles in another person AND adapting our own to be more effective with the message we’re communicating to that person. Since then, 60 or so companies have developed their own “DISC assessment” that they can sell; some being extremely reliable and some being complete crap. There have just as many companies that have placed their own spin on Marston’s work, then call it something completely different. Heck, one even got a copyright on a typo and claims to be the only game in town. (Although that company’s statement is grammatically accurate, it’s also intentionally deceiving…)

All that aside, and I won’t even go into to the ones that were designed for something else but still pay big bucks in advertising to tell how they’re the best thing for developing effective communication skills, I’ve never seen any type of assessment tool that can solve a single problem until we have a foundational understanding of how to use the information it provides. Cindy and I have spoken with hundreds of folks who sell assessments but can’t hold a five minute conversation on what to do with the assessment results. When someone develops a firm understanding of how they can use the framework Marston developed as the DISC Model of Human Behavior, they’re able to begin building more effective communication skills whether they’ve ever completed an assessment or not! And learning how to recognize communication styles in the people we interact with helps us listen more effectively too… We’ll look at that next!

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