Connect to a Listener's World: Your Communication Kit

We need our senses to feed information to us about the world. We use a constant supply of information to tell us where we are, what’s happening, what might happen and what people think. Remember the film “Short Circuit?” When the robot, Number Five, becomes human after a lightning strike he needs constant “input.” 

Noise can overwhelm a listener child. photo dreamstimefree_8577967

Our five main sources of "input" are sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, although we also talk about others, like our sense of direction or of time. We use all our senses at different times, and often together, but some people have a strong preference for one.

John often says, “I hear what you’re saying,” or “that rings a bell.” He likes the TV turned down low.
Jane says, “I see what you mean,” and “watch what you’re doing.”  She likes her bedroom to be pitch black at night.

John is a musician. You can tell by his preference for metaphors, (comparing one thing with another) that use hearing as their base. References to bells, ears, ticking clocks, being “in tune” with others and traffic noise can indicate that a person is very aware of sound. John likes to use his “auditory channel.”

Jane, on the other hand, likes to see things. I’ll talk a bit more about visual people in the next post.

Depending heavily on one sense can have a downside. Sometimes people, especially some children, are so sensitive to one kind of input that they find it distracts them from using their other senses. Many musicians and others with an “auditory preference” find it impossible to concentrate when they hear any noise at all, especially loud music. 

Children who are sensitive to sound can quickly become tired and unhappy in a noisy classroom.

Seven ways to connect with people who use sound metaphors and rely heavily on their hearing:

  • Speak calmly. Your tone is an important way of communicating and “listeners” will be sensitive to how you sound. Speak too loud and you can come over as aggressive.
  •  Make sure your voice is smooth. Hoarseness, a too-deep, gravelly tone or a high-pitched squeak will infuriate a keen listener.
  • Practice breathing from your diaphragm. This is the best way to overcome any problems with voice quality. Your voice will become firmer and you will need to raise it less often to get yourself heard.       

  • Offer spoken instructions alongside pictures or the written word where possible, especially when explaining to children. People who prefer the hearing channel are likely to remember things they hear more easily than things they see and touch.    
  • Turn the music down. Yes, I mean you, restaurant managers and shop owners. Above a very low level, many people with high sensitivity to sound simply cannot bear to hear the noise. It hurts and distracts. They will leave and never return.
  • Try gentle, quiet music as a way to calm an over-excited auditory child, cutting out visual clutter such as a heap of toys. Keep your voice soft and speak slowly.        
  • Check emails from your boss and colleagues. If they uses expressions that suggest they’re “listeners,” use similar metaphors to make your words resonate with them.

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