Have you ever given a presentation and seen the excitement on people’s faces and bodies?

Or seen the opposite – seen how people were bored?

People with healthy minds seem to hold the concept that we need to look for people’s responses, learn from them, and adjust.

Here, red10 ‘s Hazel Howard sets out your responsibility, as a communicator, explaining one of the 16 concepts that the research of Neuro-Linguistic Programming found in the healthiest of minds:

What’s wrong with them?

When we communicate our perfectly reasonable, rational, and well considered message and the other person(s) doesn’t (don’t) ‘get it’ then we automatically make assumptions about them; not ourselves.

We tell ourself, ‘It makes perfect sense to me, so there must be something ‘wrong’ with them…’, ‘have they not been listening?’, ‘do they not have the level of intelligence I have?’, ‘are they distracted?’, ‘they are making connections and gone down the wrong direction of my meaning’.. and so the list goes on. We blame our intended recipient.

When we are abroad and someone doesn’t understand the language we are using, what do we do? We shout louder… using the same language that they haven’t understood in the first place. How effective is that? Well, not very as we know… it only results in frustrating the communicator and frustrating the ‘listener’.

It’s all down to you

What is consistent is the automatic belief that it is their fault. If we don’t alter the dimensions of our communication, we will end up not reaching the audience and being heard in the way we intend.

This NLP presupposition conveys the difference between what you communicate and the response it evokes.

If you do not get the desired response, it means you need to look at making changes to the way you are communicating. In short, it is your responsibility, as the communicator, to find different ways to help that person understand what you mean (and not by shouting louder!).

Look for the clues

When we ‘listen’ to the feedback we get – both verbal and non-verbal cues – we can determine how well the communication has landed. If we can see doubt in the other person we can question how we have delivered the message.

We all receive information in different ways; for some it is auditory, for others it’s visual, some are kinethestic (by touch/experience).


If visual (and we can pick up cues in the language the receiver may give us, for example: “I can’t see what you mean,”) then we know they may like graphs, charts, pictures to support our message, or paint a metaphor around a story to convey our message.

In short, we need to illustrate our message so that the recipient can visualise what we are saying.


If the other person is auditory and doesn’t appear engaged it may be that we are using a different language pattern to the one the recipient needs.

For example, some individuals use more ‘global’ language and discuss topics without any detail (and sometimes without any context) and the individual needs more detailed language with specific points. It may be that the communicator thinks wider and doesn’t make orderly/logical connections in what they are saying, making the recipient work to put the pieces together.

All of this creates effort for the listener, that then enhances the desire to dis-engage.

Testing Understanding

We can always test the other person’s understanding of what has been said and check the ‘take aways’ they are getting from the communication. This is especially important if the message is to be passed on further.

Who knew communication could be so complicated?

We need to understand our audience – either on a one to one, or in a group setting.

Some key considerations:

  • Where is the starting point and how much context is needed before I position my message?
  • What is the outcome you, as the communicator, are trying to achieve?
  • Build rapport with the individual or group and get to know them or their culture as you continue to engage with them
  • If you don’t know your audience in detail it is useful to use a range of techniques (as illustrated above)
  • Pick your moment depending on the outcome of the communication you are sharing so that it has the best chance of ‘landing’ with the other person, so they understand what you are saying
  • If on a one to one basis, listen for the cues the recipient is giving you and modify your communication to suit their style; as already said, it’s on you to change if you want to get your point across… not the other person
  • If presenting, finalise the key points you want the audience to leave with. If talking on a one to one basis, it is useful to ask questions to check the other person has engaged with and understands the message conveyed.

As a communicator, it’s on me, not you, to ensure you have understood what I’m saying

If you’d like to know more about the different ways we communicate and how to use some of these tools and techniques as a leader or a colleague don’t hesitate to get in touch.