The Six People in Every Conversation.

rawpixel-659498-unsplashSuccessful communication comes from a blend of art and science and experience (that comes from practice) and luck (that comes from experience). Even then it can lead to unexpected results and, when it does, this model can help you to figure out what went wrong and what you might do differently next time.

People are multi-faceted: they have short term targets, long term goals, preferences, cognitive biases, memories (happy and sad), aspirations…in fact, too many to list here. And while you try to address the aspects that you are aware of, the conversation will be affected by those which you are not.

Six PeopleThe six people are (1) you (2) the other person (3) your mental model of them (4) their mental model of you (5) your observation of your own performance and (6) their observation of their performance. Each of these has to be satisfied in order for the conversation to contribute to a good relationship. In conversations in which one of the persons is dissatisfied (such as if the other person didn’t feel that you listened to them), the relationship will be damaged.

You can download a copy of the infographic by clicking here.

In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge explains how you can use the left-hand margin method to analyse what actually took place in a conversation after it happened and this is particularly useful to see where things went wrong. In short, you write down what was said and, in the left hand margin, you note what you thought or felt when the other person spoke. Of course, this model can be applied to any communication.

Two final points: Firstly, while it is natural that you will want to use this model to help to plan important conversations, I would suggest that you apply it to ordinary conversations. Not only is it good practice, but it helps you to build good relationships. Secondly, this model may give you insights that may help you improve your communication skills. If it does, great! But remember: it is a simplification of a complex process. It isn’t a mechanistic process, so stay humble and keep learning!

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