Making sure that one is talking to an audience in a specific way is incredibly important. I think that this is one of the most underappreciated skills in the business world today. Many people have trouble with it, but it can be the difference between a positive interaction with someone and a negative interaction.
According to The Geek Leader’s Handbook, geeks have trouble changing the way they speak or act to better suit certain situations. So then, geeks would speak the same way to an elderly woman in a church the same way that they would speak to their drug dealer in a back alley. While that is an extreme example of course, the story is the same in the office. A geek will speak to a non-geek manager about technical things the same way that they might speak to another geek who works in IT. The reality is that different people have expertise in different areas, so the non-geek manager, while they may know a lot about leadership and motivation, may have no clue what the geek is talking about, while the IT person may understand. In the same way, a manager has to understand how to talk to a geek. For the manager, relying on emotions and gray areas while speaking probably will not yield positive results. So, they have to change the way that they communicate in order to better get through to the geek what they want.
This concept of changing the way you communicate to better suit certain situations is not just limited to geek to manager relations. It is all over the office. One has to be aware of generational gaps when speaking to certain people. Baby boomers and millenials often have trouble talking with each other. While baby boomers want to talk about war stories, millenials often want to talk about the newest iPhone, for example. Different people have certain personality types as well: to get your point across, you have to be able to speak in a certain way with different types of people. People from in sales one has to be able to talk to both other salespeople, along with clients in order to make the most of their time and to earn the most commission that they can. Dwight Schrute, from The Office, being the mysoginistic macho-man that he is, has little to no skills talking with women, and when he is sent by Dunder Mifflin to make a sale to one of Scranton’s biggest paper consumers, the Scranton White Pages, the rest of the office feels as though he needs a refresher course on selling to women (sorry for the poor video quality):
Talking to the boss is difficult for a lot of people. In many organizations, they are seen as people lifted high on a pedestal that cannot be reached, so people under them have to be strategic when thinking about when to talk to them. This flow chart might be helpful to better understand when you should talk to them:
The boss’s boss is even more difficult to talk to because they might not even know you, and they only have time to talk about important things.
The reality is that in all walks of life, changing how you speak to certain people can absolutely determine your relationship with them. For me, I pastor two churches, one full of farmers, and the other full of small town people (not quite city people, but also not country people either), and I have to really watch how I talk and how I act around them, because the two groups of people communicate totally differently. For example, my extended family farms, and so I have had many conversations about farm implements and grain yields with the people at the country church, while I cannot remember one conversation that had to do with farming at the other. It is better for the community, at least in a church setting, for me to change the way that I speak so that I can better relate to the parishioners.
How can we better communicate? Many people ask this question, but I think that one of the best answers to this question is to think about the way that you’re talking. This goes for all kinds of situations, not just in the office. Changing the way that you speak or act can help you better relate to those you’re talking to, and you can get much more out of a conversation.
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