Learn to Read Your Audience

Have you ever walked out of a meeting feeling like you presented yourself terribly? How about the feeling like no matter what you say to the person sitting across from you they’re still going to despise you?

Often when we get these impressions from people we are ultimately projecting our own feelings onto them. They may just be having a stressful day, or something may be bothering them in their personal lives. It’s easy to forget that the person we are talking to has a life outside of their daily interaction with us; and feel like if they are upset, it must be because of something we did or said. To be fair, some people are genuinely abrasive, and I don’t advise backing down to these people. Never be afraid to speak your mind and stand up for yourself. There is a balance between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Never allow yourself to get angry. Once you get angry you have allowed the situation to dictate your feelings. We should never allow the environment to dictate our emotional state; that’s how animals live their lives. When things get tense or heated; I find that the best method is to detach myself from the situation and reassess all the variables. Detachment has been a great tactic in understanding my audience. By taking yourself out of the equation you can look at it from a practical perspective. There may be factors at play that you failed to consider when you were emotionally invested in the conversation.

A mentor once said to me, “no matter how old you get don’t forget that we’re all still kids in a playground.” How right he was. Our playground becomes the places we work; and playground rules will always apply. If you let the school bully knock you down once you’re doomed to be his punching bag for the rest of the time you’re there. As a disclaimer, I DO NOT condone violence. I believe you can say anything you want to anyone you want but delivery is key. You must put yourself in the minds of your audience. What will this person respond to? What are their life principles? Knowing a little about your audience will serve you well when communicating with them. You can relate to them more. People want you to understand them as much as you want to be understood. A great book I read on communication was Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson. As a coach you must become a master at reading people because your job ultimately depends on your ability to simultaneously communicate with a wide variety of personalities. Can you imagine what it might have been like to coach Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman? It’s no different for any of us on any day of the week.

You must learn to communicate effectively with whoever you are talking to; whether it’s the CEO or the maintenance person. We are all very different, but we are all really the same. We all want to be valued and respected; if we suspect that either of those things are in jeopardy we’ll defend them tooth and nail. So, spend time learning how to read a person. Be genuine, people can immediately sense when you are coming across as phony. A simple lunch will pay dividends when it comes to building relationships. What’s more universal than eating? Take an interest in the people you work with. Everyone has an amazing story to tell, if only someone would take the time to listen.

If you’re interested in reading Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, check out the link below. I personally loved this book and found Phil’s insights highly applicable to both my personal and professional life.

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