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Coaches Diary: Talking The Same Language


The latest casebook notes from coach Olivia Stefanino.

Playing with a strand of her hair, Suzanne confided to me that she was sick of not being taken seriously – particularly by her peer group at work.

Having worked with her company for more than five years and received promotion on two occasions - Suzanne knew that she was doing a good job. However, she felt that her colleagues ignored her suggestions in meetings – although they were quite happy to pick her brains in one-to-one sessions.

“It is as though I am not being heard, which is becoming increasingly frustrating,” she told me. And, even more annoyingly, I can come up with a great idea which everyone ignores and then, half an hour later, someone else will say exactly the same thing and everyone tells them how clever they are!”

I had watched Suzanne carefully for the preceding half an hour and it was obvious to me that she was a highly visual person, who was good at seeing the “bigger picture”.

The science of Neuro Linguistic Programming reveals that generally in the western world, 60% of people process their thinking in a visual way. However, Suzanne was working for a company which built music systems where the staff, unusually, were more biased to thinking in an audio manner.

Already, Suzanne began to see that she was probably speaking a different language to many of her colleagues. I explained further: “For example, while you may see the point that’s being made, your colleagues may feel that the argument sounds right!” Just by altering her language, Suzanne would be able to make her colleagues feel more comfortable with her suggestions.

But there was more Suzanne could do to help herself. “Blue sky thinkers,” I explained, “tend to make connections quickly and see the solution very clearly. However, they generally don’t explain their rationale mistakenly believing that it must be obvious to everyone listening which often leaves the audience feeling both overwhelmed and bewildered.

She also smiled in recognition when I told her that females are able to focus on several things at once, while men find it easier to concentrate on one subject at a time.

Highly visual people together with many women - are “multi-track” thinkers, a fact that is reflected in their speech delivery. This group has no problem following different trains of thought delivered simultaneously. However, most men and non-visual thinkers will tend to switch off from communication that is not clearly delivered in a linear fashion, which explains the process each step of the way.

Interestingly, most of Suzanne’s colleagues were male and auditory processors. For Suzanne to be heard, she would need to explain her “workings out” – preferably in language peppered with audio references so that her audience would be able to understand the point she was making.

As she left my office, Suzanne was clearly looking forward to putting her new found knowledge to the test and, smiling, she promised to report back on her success!
Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. To find out more and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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