How to Communicate with a Brick Wall

Talking to a brick wall

‘Communication works for those who work at it.’
-John Powell

Have you ever left a meeting with a headache? Did it feel something like beating your head up against a brick wall? And that brick wall was the person across the table from you? ‘What happened?’ You mumble as you leave the room and shake your head as if shaking your head would make the pain fly out and away. You prepared for the meeting, carefully listed your main points. Prepared an impressive presentation complete with research data supporting your position. You walked into the meeting with with confidence. Then, about 5 minutes into the conversation (if you were lucky) you felt as if you were talking to a brick wall. And you might as well have been! Chances are the person on the other side of the table tuned out after your first detailed slide.   When you made your decision that this proposal was the correct approach, you spent hours reviewing the research data. You verified and validated the assumptions. You know this is the right thing to do! Guess what? The person on the other side of the table didn’t care about the research data. They wanted to know the bottom line. They wanted to know what the next action would be. Do you know what your problem is? Same as many people. Often we take the golden rule literally.  I’m not arguing against the golden rule. I’m here to tell you that your interpretation of the rule needs to be updated.  Don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I challenge you to consider to do unto others keeping their preferences in mind. With communication that means learning their language.

How to Break Down the Brick Wall

There are three simple steps to breaking down a communication brick wall. It’s not easy, it will take work, but it is possible and it is simple to remember:

1. Confirm your own style.  What I am referring to here is a self assessment of your communication style, your work style and what values lie beneath.  This is a critical step in understanding communication.  First you must know yourself, and then you can understand and know others.  I recommend a powerful tool called LIFO® Method.  It can be instrumental in improving communications, productivity, learning, leadership, and many other aspects of your life and business.  The full survey will provide you with a personalized report with an assessment of your preferred styles and strategies to improve communications among other things.  For now, I want to provide you with a small taste of the Method.

LIFO Mini Tool

From the following list, select the 7 words that best describe you in your approach to work. There are no right or wrong answers so do your best to be authentic and true to yourself.

Idealistic Loyal Seeks excellence Modest
Competitive Risk-taking Quick to act Directing
Detail-oriented Analytical Practical Steadfast
Enthusiastic Flexible Socially adept Negotiating

Now add up the number of words you selected in each row. The row with the highest number is your preferred style.  What does this mean? Of course you can not make an accurate assessment from just this mini exercise, but to give you an idea of your preferred styles, take a look at the following:

____Row 1:  Style – Supporting.  Keyword – Excellence.  Goals – prove worth, be helpful.

____Row 2:  Style – Controlling. Keyword – Action. Goals – be competent, get results.

____Row 3:  Style – Conserving. Keyword – Reasoning. Goals – go slow, be sure.

____Row 4:  Style – Adapting. Keyword – Harmony. Goals – know people, get along

2. Recognize the other person’s style. How do you do this? By listening and observing. Using the same LIFO Mini Tool in step 1, identify the key words that you think best describe the other person.  Do this by listening to and observing:  What they say; what they do; what they write; and what they ask.  It may take several interactions before you can recognize their style, but once you do it will help you to translate your message to a style that the other person will understand. And that is our next step.

3. Break through the brick wall.  Break down the wall by using their style to communicate your message. In preparing for an important meeting, and as you practice this skill, it is important to go through the following thought process.  First identify the message you want to communicate. Write it down as you would normally say or write it (in your own style). Then, consider the other person. Consider especially what questions they ask.  Now rewrite the same message using their preferred language and style, making sure to answer their key questions in the style they prefer.

The LIFO Method is a powerful tool with strategies that can be used in many situations beyond communication. For more information on the LIFO Method and to order your own assessment and personal report, please contact me.

*Note this is not an official LIFO assessment and is being presented here for demonstration purposes only.

Originally posted July 2010 by Linda DeLuca