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Communication Skills For Service Technicians - Part 2

February 5, 2003
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Jim Johnson
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series.

In Part One of our series on “Communication Skills for Service Technicians,” I discussed communication in general and then introduced neuro linguistic programming, which is defined as a science that explains how a person’s brain uses certain language to process information.

In Part Two, we will discuss how you find out where you fit into the neuro linguistic programming profile.

Well, first you can apply some numbers. Visual people make up the largest part of the population. It’s estimated that 65 percent of people are dominantly visual. And surveys show that about 15 percent of the population is auditory, which leaves about 20 percent of the population as dominantly kinesthetic.

Now, you can consider what your speech patterns are. Not just the words you use … sight words, sound words, or feeling and touch words … but also things like the volume and pace of your speech. Visual people tend to talk at a pace faster than auditory or kinesthetic people, and they also tend to project in a higher volume. Auditory people tend more toward a monotone voice pattern and their volume is lower.

And, kinesthetic people tend to talk a lot slower than a visual person and in a much lower volume, seeming to choose their words a lot more carefully than a visual person. This is why sometimes there are communication problems between kinesthetic and visual people, because visual people sometimes get impatient and finish a kinesthetic person’s sentences for them.

Consider The Source

Another way to determine whether a person fits more into the visual, auditory, or kinesthetic area is to consider the kind of work they do. People who work in the trades or as technicians, for example, often tend toward the kinesthetic area simply because a lot of what they do involves touch. Visual people tend to be drawn into professions where they work with the public or doing presentations — teaching and the like — or maybe into visual professions such as art or photography. A musician, though, would likely be an auditory person, or they might tend toward a position in which they don’t deal a lot with the public.

Another way for you to determine where you fit as far as your dominant information processing system is to remember how you learn best. A visual person understands things best when they can get a clear picture of what’s going on. An auditory person processes information most effectively when they can listen closely. And a kinesthetic person learns best when they can actually get their hands on something.

The point, like I said, is that once you know where you’re coming from, it makes it easier for you to understand how you might have to adjust to match your customer and make them more comfortable while you’re communicating with them. And, of course, the opposite of matching with someone is mismatching, which can lead to a real problem in communication.

A Communication Example

To illustrate my point about this matching, mismatching idea, let me present an imaginary situation in which we have a mismatch between two people.

Imagine for a moment that one of those people is a 9-year-old boy, and let’s make him a dominantly auditory person, one to whom sound is most important. And, what I want you to do is imagine further that this young fellow is in a problem situation. He’s just broken a window on his house while playing with a baseball.

And now, our other person in this situation is going to be his father. Let’s make dad a little over 6-feet tall and have him weigh about 250 pounds, and what we’re going to do with dad is make him a dominantly visual person.

So, now you have the two mismatched people: one a dominantly auditory 9-year-old boy who is in trouble, and the other, his 6-foot, 250-pound, dominantly visual dad who is quite unhappy at the moment. And, we all know what’s going to be happening in this situation. Dad is not going to be silent about what’s occurred here. He’s going to be talking fast and at a loud volume, which is something that’s going to contribute to the increasing stress level of our 9-year-old, as if he didn’t already have enough stress at the moment.

Another thing dad is going to be doing is something that visual people have a tendency to do — point. Pointing directly at his son while he makes his point. And, we know that our young 9-year-old knows from experience that dad points when he gets upset about something. And he also knows what can happen after the pointing if things continue to go downhill. It can turn into an even more unpleasant experience.

So, he wants to do everything he can do to prevent that, which means that what he does is he turns his ear toward his dad. There are two reasons our young fellow takes this approach to dealing with this situation. One is that he’s dominantly auditory. The other is that he’s in a very stressful situation, and hoping to honor his father as much as possible, which may prevent that even more unpleasant experience, he turns his head slightly so he can really listen to what his father is saying.

Now, at this point, this is where the mismatch in communication takes place. Remember, we said that dad was dominantly visual. Which means that he’s not going to be happy with his son turning an ear toward him. Now, when that happens, it’s possible that one of two things could happen here.

Dad could pause here for a moment and say something like, “Now, son, I know you’re dominantly auditory, but I don’t like it when you turn your head away, so I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t do that.”

Or, it’s possible that Dad could misread his son’s actions because there is a mismatch between an auditory person and a visual person, and react with something like, “Damn it! You look at me when I’m talking to you!”

And, so those are the two possibilities — one, I think much more plausible than the other.

I want to point out here that the visual father/auditory son and discipline situation I’ve just described for you is only one way in which there can be a mismatch between two people. Sometimes, the mismatch occurs when two people are doing a lot of talking, but they aren’t speaking in the same NLP-language, so they’re not communicating.

This is exactly what can happen sometimes between a technical professional and a customer. So, like I said, if you can adapt and adjust, you can make customers feel more comfortable while you’re communicating with them, and the end result is that they’ll be more comfortable with the products and services you provide.

Now, I know that depending on your perspective regarding what I’ve been talking about in this segment, you may not think anything of the statement I just made. Or, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute, are you saying that I should try to manipulate people into being happy with the work I do for them? What about ethics? What about being a phony?”

Those are two good questions. After all, we’ve spent a lot of time on the subject of “typical salespeople” and why they shouldn’t be manipulative. So those are fair questions. Am I advocating that you be manipulative, or slick, or even downright dishonest?

No, I’m not, and I can explain what I mean in one simple sentence. Here it is:

There’s nothing wrong with doing well while you’re doing good.

What I mean by that is that it all comes down to intent. If you, as a technical professional, honestly believe that you and your organization provide the best value for the customer’s money spent, and your intent is to provide outstanding customer service — and that any additional commission or bonuses you earn, are, in fact, considered to be a byproduct of providing that service — then there’s nothing wrong with doing well while you’re doing good.

Jim Johnson is a technician, instructor, and technical writer who is nationally recognized for his development of handbooks and video-based training for the HVACR industry. His firm provides on-site workshops in both the technical and soft skills areas. For more information, call 520-625-6847 or visit www.technicaltrainingassoc.com.

Publication date: 02/10/2003

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