Understanding others, how they process information, how they like to receive information, how they like to interact, allows us to build a good working relationship which is critical to persuasion. It is important to note that building a good working relationship is an ongoing process. It means you continue to understand each other so you can communicate well.
Behavioral science has shed new light on what makes us who we are, and why we do things the way we do. Our reality is a matter of perception, and each person perceives things in their own unique way.
There are four basic areas of our personality that determines who we are and what we do. These areas are how we:
- Store and use our personal energy (Outgoing or Reserved)
- Collect information (Detail-oriented or Concept-oriented)
- Make choices (Thought-based or Feeling-based)
- Complete tasks (Plan-driven or Option-driven)
When you recognize some of the basic traits in others, you can make small adjustments to the way you communicate with them to make communication and persuasion more successful. It’s important to remember that these traits are not simply “either/or” in people. The four basic personality areas should be thought of as a continuum. Though some people may be at the extreme ends of the continuum, such as very detail-oriented or very big picture-oriented, most people seem to be somewhere in the middle. Look for the personality traits of each to begin to understand that person.
It's important to remember it’s not “better” to be one or the other for each pair of traits. Once you understand more about personalities, persuasion becomes easier. A welcome side effect is that relationships can become more comfortable when we recognize that other people are not actually trying to annoy us--they just see and process things differently.
Let’s look at the four personality areas and at least one example of each trait.
- How People Use Energy--The outgoing person may get impatient with long processes or projects. On the other end of the continuum, the reserved person does not mind working on one project, uninterruptedly, for a long time.
- How People Collect Information—The detail-oriented person likes step-by-step, linear processes. The concept-oriented person is comfortable with theory and new ideas.
- How People Make Decisions—The thought-based person is analytical and values logic, whereas the feeling-based person wants to be compassionate and focus on the human element.
- How People Take Action—The plan-driven person needs deadlines and exact parameters and may only be able to focus on one thing at a time. The option-driven person is comfortable with approximate end dates and moveable parameters. Additionally, they may start too many things and have trouble finishing them.
When you understand the basic traits of the person you want to persuade, you can then adjust what you do and what you say based on what you know about that person. You’ll be able to position information in a way that fits the other person.
To be able to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective, you must listen actively and play back what you hear to ensure that misunderstandings do not occur. This will build trust by showing that you are truly trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint.
For more information on understanding others from their perspective check out our courses on Persuasive Dialogue.