Communication Skills

When interacting with customers, people at work, and family members, you want to communicate with them in the style or communication language they process and understand.

But how are you supposed to know which communication approach to use to improve communication skills?

In How to Get People to Understand Your Message, we reviewed the importance of using the correct pace and priority when you communicate with others. Let’s expand on that information for effective communication.

The ability to tell which pace or priority a person prefers is what we refer to as “style adjusting” to a person, or picking up on the personal responses and behaviors that can tell you which communication method they prefer. This can be done very quickly if you know what to look for.

Being Observant of Others

Watch for The Pace of Communication

  • Faster-paced communicators talk a lot, often in a loud tone of voice. They “talk with their hands” and tend to walk around as they speak. Whatever is in their heads comes out of their mouths.
  • Slower-placed communicators listen more than they talk; their speech is often in a soft-spoken monotone, punctuated by pauses. They appear cautious and quiet. When asked a question, they reply with one-word answers. They sometimes squint at the ceiling while talking and keep their arms close to their body.

Listen to Their Communication Priority

  • Front wheel (people oriented) communicators prefer to talk about events, people, situations, family, friends, stories and experiences.
  • Back wheel (task oriented) communicators talk mostly about results, data, processes, procedures, goals and their job.

Combine Pace and Priority – Common Phrases to Listen For

  • “I want it done now.” This indicates a faster-paced back wheel communicator.
  • “Wow, this is great” is how a faster-paced, front wheel person might respond.
  • “I’d like you to review and quantify this summary and provide me with an analysis of your finding.” This is something you might hear from a slower-paced, back wheel communicator.
  • “If you could take a minute, this could really help me out” is the slower-paced, front wheel approach.

There are people that use all four languages at once. It sounds like this “I want it done now with a complete analysis which will really help me out. Great!” This is one request with four very different ways of communicating.

When observing people for their communication style, you first need to know if they’re even hearing you. If they’re not, you need to switch gears. Go to the front wheel and determine if you’re sending the message in the right way. Then you can decide if communication is the cause.

Packaging Your Communication to a Group

We’ve already established that not everyone receives messages the same way. So what can you do to reach everyone in a group, and ensure that they are all hearing what you’re saying?

We’ve had people ask many times, “What do I do if I’m sending a message and there are multiple languages present?” The answer: You have to try to connect to all of them. But one at a time, in as orderly a fashion as possible. You don’t want to leave anyone out.


As an example, let’s say that you’re giving a presentation to an audience. The first part of your message should be geared toward the faster-paced, back wheel audience members. These are the people who need to hear the purpose, process, and payoff right up front. If you start out with a slow pace and ease into the subject, you’ll lose these people who process faster.

Next, you need to speak to faster-paced, front wheel communicators. They are eager to hear about all of the benefits, the targets, and the vision of the project. Third, address your slower-paced, front wheel priority listeners. They need to hear stability statements and a plan for getting started.

In the last part of your presentation, give everyone a full picture of what needs to be done. Having already heard their own communication language upfront, they now have connected to your message with ease and eagerness.

Model of Communication

Here is an example of how to open a presentation based on this communication model.

Your opening talking points would sound something like this:

  1. Fast Paced, Back Wheel: “We’re changing our business model starting September 1st. The purpose — to provide better service to our customers. The project will take three months.”
  2. Fast Paced, Front Wheel:  “We envision great things! We anticipate that everyone is really going to like the new opportunities and many possibilities of this new venture.”
  3. Slow Paced, Front Wheel: “Everything’s okay since we have a step-by-step plan. There will be small, transparent changes to the employees in our organization.
  4. Slow Paced, Back Wheel: “Now, let’s review the details of how we’re going to implement this project and the analysis and data that support this decision.”

You can use this communication model for letters and email as well. Just start with the purpose, process, and payoff. Then move to the benefits and the vision. Use the third section to reassure and then close with all of the details.

It’s a formula that works to increase communication with a larger number of people.

Establishing a 50/50 Dialogue

Once people understand the importance of the connection step and how it prevents “people problems,” it doesn’t take long to implement it in every aspect of life.

You will find yourself no longer making the most common communication mistakes:

  • Talking too much without asking questions
  • Talking over people who take too long to answer questions
  • Waiting too long to share vital information
  • Procrastinating when it comes to setting up conversations.

The true measure of whether or not your message is connecting is nothing more than a simple, two-way conversation.

Regardless of whether it’s fast or slow, it should have a pattern. It should be a 50/50 give and take, with each person contributing value to the conversation.

Communication Tips

  • Communication is based on how a message is delivered and how it is received. Miscommunication occurs when one person doesn’t deliver information in the same pace or priority as the other person processes.
  • Your communication style is based on how rapidly you speak and whether you prefer to address front wheel or back wheel priorities.
  • There are four basic communication styles, and in order to be an effective leader, you must be able to switch back and forth between them as the situation and your team members require. This will help in accomplishing the results you need.
  • When communicating with an audience, it can be difficult to address all the different communication styles in attendance, but it’s imperative to do so if you want everyone to get onboard with the ideas you’re presenting.
  • When looking to improve communication, start with yourself. Understand the importance of connecting with others and remember that a conversation is only a success when it is a true exchange of ideas—a give and take.

How Can Groups Work on Communication Skills?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.