Not everyone thinks the same way. Here’s how to repurpose a three-decade-old management theory to tailor your message to just about anybody.
The VP of finance for a major multinational company recently came to me with a problem. “I’ve been trying to start a conversation with the VP of marketing, and he won’t talk to me,” he said. “Whenever I try to ask him what he thinks about my ideas, he doesn’t respond.”
I asked him to describe the marketing VP to me. As he talked about his personality, I thought of a potential solution: “Don’t ask him what he thinks about your ideas,” I said. “Ask him what’s wrong with them.”
A few weeks later, I heard back from my client. “Your advice was amazing!” he said. “We spent two hours discussing issues, and he wants to meet with me every week now!”
Why did I give him that advice? Because as he described the marketing VP to me, I realized what type of speaking approach would most likely resonate: one that appealed to his colleague’s problem-solving personality.
While psychological research has progressed quite a bit since Edward de Bono released his influential book Six Thinking Hats in 1985, I find framework still offers a handy set of metaphors for adjusting your speaking style to fit listeners’ thinking styles and personalities (though I typically prefer sticking to just five). Here are five ways to frame your message, riffing on de Bono’s 33-year-old idea, according to the people or person you’re communicating with.