Blog & Insight

Are your assumptions correct?

I remember very clearly a series of conversations with clients and colleagues where I had been told that the strategy they were suggesting we use was what the client/ stakeholder/ team member needed - ie it was tailored to suit the other person's preferences.

The interesting thing, to me anyway, was that often different people were suggesting a different strategy for the same client or stakeholder - me included.

How can that be - if we're really putting ourselves into the shoes of the other person shouldn't our solution be the same? (see link to fabulous technique I use to do this in coaching and training sessions).

There's a few things going on, and I would love to hear your suggestions for other things I may have missed - because today my filters are set on the 4th of these suggestions and therefore I can't see other options. 


It's quite apparent that in a number of instances the goal for the communication strategy differs between individuals, and therefore it's no surprise the actual strategy is different too. For example:

  • Choosing to answer someone's stated request vs providing additional information to help them do what they're doing (ie "I know you only asked for x but here's what additional information I'd also need in this situation").
  • Choosing to provide high level information to not frighten people away vs providing them with everything so they can look at it at their leisure and have everything they need to know about the subject for later.
  • And of course the obvious short vs long term goals, and personal vs organisational goals.

If you're disagreeing on strategy it's always useful therefore to check you've both got the same objective.

Personal style

To influence person A I might need to use a different style than my colleague.

That's just how 'chemistry' works - whether between two people or two elements. If you want the same outcome but are both starting with different elements the methodology you use will have to be different to get there.

Certainly something to remember for face to face conversations & even training.

So if you're disagreeing on strategy you might just want to check who will be implementing it and see if the strategy matches the chemistry involved.

Not understanding the other person

There's so much information we need to know about someone in order to truly understand their preferences, needs and wants etc.

If we've only just met someone we're in danger, therefore, of falling back on stereotypes and own own default (see below). It's only with time and effort that we can truly understand another.

If you're disagreeing on strategy you may just want to check what evidence you have about what works for the person/people you're wishing to influence.

Our own default position

When developing a communication strategy it's really easy to use our own filters and preferences to decide the direction of travel for example: 

  • The specific thinker hears the detailed questions and believes the other person wants detail (just what they want too)
  • The big picture thinker hears only global questions and assumes a desire to avoid detail (just what they want to avoid too)
  • The perfectionist observes the critique and challenges and sees that as a clue that getting it right is important (just like it's important to them too)
  • The activist hears 'Just do it' and so thinks perfection and detail would be seen as OTT (just what they were thinking too)
  • The theorist sees enthusiasm for logic and best practice models and concludes that's what they need more of (just what they wanted to do too)
  • The reflector observes people need time to make a decision and not to be put on the spot (just like they do too) 
  • The options person hears they don't want to be given just one solutions and gives them 10 solutions (just like they would want too)
  • The auditory thinker observes the desire for chatting through the information, without reference to any slides (just like they would too)
  • The visual thinker notices a preference for graphics and colour (just like they do too)
  • The achiever hears they want results, and certainly not failure, and assumes they're motivated towards success and achievement (just like they are too)
  • The affiliator hears different words about collaboration, autonomy and winning hearts and minds and assumes they're motivated by affiliation (just like they are too) 
  • The influencer hears words about power and influence and assumes they're motivated by the desire to not be controlled by others (just like they are too)
  • I could go on - perhaps I did already 🙂 !!
  • Late example from friend - the lady with 2 crutches being the only person in a room of 35 people to help my friend, with a crutch and a sling, to take his coat off! 

The key is being able to put our own preferences to one side long enough to observe all the words being used by the other person. It's why in the standing in the shoes exercise you're invited to physically move from one perspective to the other rather than just do it in your head.

There's so much information available we therefore have to filter it - ie reduce it - but by doing that we generalise, distort and delete - using our own preferences as filters to do just that. Thereby missing all the other information that might just suggest a different conclusion to the one we're making (ie that they're just like us).

Someone recently asked me "have you written a blog on everything" 🙂 - obviously the answer to that is no. However, more often than not I do notice tweets that are about subjects I have written a blog on, and therefore can often be found tweeting 'I wrote a blog on that'.

My filters don't, however, often notice tweets on sport, motor cross or history as they're of very little interest to me - so my conscious just lets them slip by unnoticed.

Just like we're often doing when we meet other people - we notice the similarities between us and filter out the things that are different. Next time you catch yourself thinking the other person is just like you, and therefore concluding that they can be communicated with in a way that makes most sense to you, stop and just check how much you're filtering out - and look again to see what you might be missing. 

Let me know how you get on - comments and feedback always welcome - after all you thinking "I really enjoyed that" or "I look forward to reading Alison's blogs" isn't something I know unless you tell me. I know some of you don't need to be told you're doing a good job - I do love a little encouragement now and again ........ ok often :-).

If you're interested in a journey of self awareness and discovery do get in touch. Coaching sessions from 15 minutes to a 2 day retreat are available. Team awareness sessions are also available on many aspects of communication, influencing, mindset and self awareness. Call +44(0)7770 538159 or email


© Alison Smith
VAT Registration: 224 5001 58
Registered in Scotland, Registration Number: SC457105
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