By Paul Miller
A few weeks ago at a professional networking meeting, a question was asked; what is the best way to communicate with people who you interact with during the course of the day? Most people chimed in with their preferential choice of communication along with valid reasons why they favored their preferential method. One person stated that email was a coward’s way out, and to always phone. I thought to myself, everyone here is missing the mark. It’s not what way is best for you to communicate, it’s what’s they best way for their audience to receive the information.
As an attorney our job is to educate and communicate. A good educator will deliver content that can be clearly understood by the audience. As public servants we need to clearly convey our ideas to the people we work with. They need to understand the laws, processes, advice, and our viewpoints. Whether it’s clients, paralegals, secretaries, witnesses, investigators, insurance professionals, court personnel, other attorneys, the myriad of other people not mentioned above, the public in general, juries, and even judges, being an effective communicator is paramount to being an effective attorney.
Since people learn best when they can easily understand what is being presented, a strategy to employ when informing others is to match your communication style to their learning style. There are three types of learning or communication styles; visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, and almost everyone uses a combination of at least two. If you learn how to identify someone’s learning style, and use techniques or methods that facilitate the processing of information being conveyed, you will save yourself time, and provide better service to your clients.
Visual Learners/Communicators tend to be fast talkers; they can be impatient and have a tendency to interrupt. The words or phrases that they use evoke visual images. They best learn by seeing and visualizing. They’ll use phrases like, “I see what you’re saying.” They’ll choose professions that are visual such as photography and graphic design. When communicating with this type of individual use email, diagrams, drawings, pictures and PowerPoint presentations. Use imagery when communicating.
Auditory Learners and Communicators tend to speak slowly and are natural listeners. They think in a linear manner and prefer spoken directions or explanations, rather than written instructions. They learn or communicate by listening and verbalizing. They’ll use phrases like, “I hear what you’re saying.” When communicating with this type of individual use the phone, or Skype rather than email. Use timelines and explain things using a step by step process. If possible, have the person repeat the information back to you. Use something like, “I lost my train of thought….what was I just saying?”
Kinesthetic Learners and Communicators are the slowest of all talkers. They are slow decision makers as well. Since these individuals use all of their senses to learn, they best learn by doing and problem solving. They’ll use phrases like, “I feel what you’re saying.” Their preferential way to learn is through a hands-on-approach or trial and error. When communicating with a Kinesthetic Learner give them hardcopies to hold during conferences, as well as use demonstrations and case examples.
In reality, you never going to know the learning or communication style of every single individual that you come interact with during the course of your day. Nevertheless, you should make an attempt to learn the communication style of people you frequently work with, especially your clients. Ask if they prefer phone, email, or text. Find out what their hobbies or activities are, what they do for a living, and just as important what they rather do for a living. These small observations, as well as the identifiers above should give you some insight on their prefered communication style.
By matching how you communicate to your client’s learning style, you will be saving yourself a lot of time, while better serving your client. Wouldn’t it be nice to just explain things once?
Paul Miller is a sole practitioner whose firm specializes in estate planning, nonprofits and small business law. In his spare time, he enjoys skateboarding, snowboarding, playing golf and working with young people. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post originally appeared on Solo in Colo.