Listening with Meta Programmes – the key to successful communications

Listening with Meta Programmes – the key to successful communications

How many times do you, or those around you, complain that people just don’t listen or that they ignore requests and instructions? It seems to be a common source of stress and conflict in the workplace and at home, and a problem in public places where signage about use and safety are needed. So often, messages just don’t get through to the intended recipient.

Most of the time, the blame for the miscommunication is placed on the ithe listener (or reader) and so little thought is given to the original communication itself. However, very often the problem would be resolved if the wording of that communication were changed. If the focus moved from wishful thinking about the audience suddenly changing their response, to ways in which the communicator could change their messaging so that it would be heard by more people, then perhaps success would be more likely. It is also an important thing to consider when producing marketing materials for anything from business services to health advice.

One way to do this is to review the communication for the Meta Programmes that are behind it and then consider versions which come from other Meta Programmes. Here are some examples that come to mind:

  • Please put your refuse in the correct recycling bins”. This comes from a Matching Meta Programme, so risks not being acknowledged by those with a strong Mis-matching thinking pattern. Simply adding something like : “Putting materials in the wrong bin prevents proper recycling” might address this.

 

  • If possible, avoid calling between 1 and 2 pm as this is our busiest time”. This will be heard more by those with an Away From thinking pattern than a Towards. Therefore adding “To receive a faster response, please call before 1pm or after 2pm” might reach more callers.

 

  • Contact us now to book your holiday” is very Proactive. Using the phrase “Call us to discuss how we can find the ideal holiday for you” will attract the Reactive thinkers.

 

  • Similarly “Call us now for information” might appeal more to those with an Internal Locus of Control, whereas “Call us now for advice” might attract those with a more External Locus of Control.

 

There are, of course, many other examples, and this exercise can be done with any communication. The more that is known about the audience for a communication, the more it can be refined. Understanding the Meta Programmes of the audience can make communications so much more effective.

I commonly came across these sorts of mis-communication when managing complex projects, particularly between the policy people (General, Activity) and the mathematicians (Specific, Information). Often it was as if these two groups spoke entirely different languages, so common were the mis-understandings.

This doesn’t mean that every sign and communication has to be written in a lengthy and multi-optional way, just that consideration of the audience is vital, particularly when miscommunication is occurring frequently.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this problem, or have observed it in your environment. I’d love to hear of examples and possible solutions – so let me know in the comments box please.

About the Author

Ann Finnemore

Coach and Therapist, living in the UK. Previously a teacher, a medical researcher and then a senior manager in the public sector. After re-training, Ann entered private practice as a coach and therapist in 2008, co- founding the business Getting You There with her husband, a physical therapist. Her first book “Life in the Driving Seat”, 2016 (Goldcrest books) and is available from Amazon.

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