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Are You Speaking My Language?

A friend of mine, Marie, a no-nonsense type, couldn’t figure out where she was going wrong. She was smart, articulate and direct, yet many of her customers found her abrasive and arrogant and this was not conducive to closing sales. What was it about her that rubbed people up the wrong way and more importantly, how could she fix it?

Marie’s fast/direct personality style was partially to blame. She was a quintessential Director-type; to the point, straight down to business, no chit-chat and let’s get the job done with a minimum of fuss. The rest of the blame lay in the personality styles of her customers.

Unfortunately, Marie couldn’t change their personalities; her only option was to modify her own. But how could she do that without sacrificing her own sense of identity?

Each one of us possesses traits in varying degrees of the four basic personality or behavioural styles in our make-up. Director-type Marie might have only a trace of the slow-paced, people oriented Relater-type, but she has enough of it to tap into it and use it to her advantage.

If you think of behavioural styles as different languages, it becomes somewhat easier to grasp.

Socialiser-types speak quickly, use their hands expressively and are very people-oriented, so let’s say they’re the Italians of the behavioural style spectrum.

Thinker-types are slow, methodical, focussed on the task at hand and revel in details. With their love of perfection and order, we’ll call them the Germans.

Relater-types are people-oriented; slow to make decisions and are fearful of making mistakes that could hurt other people. I think they’d be ideal peace-making Belgians.

Then of course, we have types like my friend Marie, fast-paced and direct, their focus is on the job at hand and they don’t suffer fools gladly. They like things to be done their way because they 'always' know best. We’ll call them the Americans.

Now imagine that the Belgian-speaking Relater is your customer and you’re the American. The Relater only speaks Belgian so how do you communicate? Fortunately, you’ve spent some time around other Belgians, so you know a smattering of the language. You know enough to speak slowly, to show your warm empathic side, to gently reassure the Belgian that they’re making the right decision and that everyone concerned will benefit from the choice they have made. But of course, you can only do that if you know your customer is Belgian.

How about if you’re the cool, methodical German and your customer is a hot-blooded Italian, all hand gestures and emotion? How can you possibly speak their language? You don’t have to be fluent, you just have to know key words and gestures that will make the Italian feel that you understand them and are just like them. You’ll speed up your pace, become more animated and talk about the things Italians like to discuss.

In modifying your own behaviour, you’re seeking to speak your customer’s language and they’ll be far more amenable to receiving your message if they can actually understand it in their own native “tongue”.

Do a little work identifying your own behavioural style and then learn how your style relates with the other three main behavioural types. This work will pay huge dividends. Because you'll be able to speak with many more clients in their own language, they will feel more of a bond or affinity with you, making it easier for them to receive your message.

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