Understanding what people are telling you

“Clients, co-workers, partners – they aren’t always completely forthright in their communications. Despite this fact, your success ultimately depends on understanding them.”

If you work in an AEC firm as a leader or manager, it’s essential that you learn how to “read” people. Clients, co-workers, partners – they aren’t always completely forthright in their communications. Despite this fact, your success ultimately depends on understanding them.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Slow down – slow way down – on your reaction time. Fight the tendency to be thinking of your response while the other person is still talking. You give yourself a much better chance of fully and accurately processing what the other person is telling you by taking your time.
  • Mirror back what you heard. By “mirror back” I mean repeat what it is you heard, what your understanding is of what the other person is telling you. This will give you a chance to clear up any misunderstandings right away. It will also make the other person think you are a better listener. They will like you better as a result.
  • Remember that “feelings” are every bit as important as what is actually said. As a man, I have to constantly remind myself of this fact. Women seem to “get” this idea a lot better than we do. But the fact is, no matter how logical something may be – whether it’s verbal or written down – it may not reflect how they really feel and, ultimately, that is what matters.
  • Watch facial expressions and body language. It tells you a lot. Does the person look happy or unhappy? Stressed or relaxed? Angry? Uncertain? Conflicted? Defensive? Withdrawn? These may provide a much better indicator of how someone is feeling versus what they are saying on the surface.
  • Consider the person’s “history” and how that could affect them. Human beings have excellent memories. Their brains process and store everything – even if it isn’t all on a conscious level. Knowing as much as you can about someone’s past can impact your ability to understand what they are telling you. It isn’t a complete picture necessarily, but nevertheless it’s part of the puzzle. Their experience will influence their thinking.
  • Make sure you don’t let your own prejudices and pre-conceived notions influence you to the point that you aren’t paying attention to the “here and now” of what the other person is telling you. Not everyone is the same, nor do we all react the same way. It’s good to be able to generalize as a marketer selling something. You have to. But in selling/managing other people, it can really get you in trouble. 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

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Posted in Articles | October 29th, 2018 by