The six languages of connection: How to better communicate with your learnersby
Building up a good connection with your learners is critical to ensuring they are engaged, feel psychologically safe and have the potential to thrive. By understanding the six languages of connection, you can adapt your communication depending on your learner’s style to build that bond and see better learning outcomes.
Whether you're a trainer, a coach, mentor or L&D professional, I’m sure you have experienced a time when you’ve struggled to get your point across or failed to be understood by your learners. It can be frustrating, time consuming and lead to poor results and a lack of learning transfer.
But you do have the power to change this – it all comes down to speaking in a language that aligns with your learner’s prominent personality type.
Our personality structure has a strong influence on how we perceive the world, how we communicate and how we connect with others. When we ‘match’ the ‘language of connection’ with the one that our learners prefer, we get our message across, while building trustworthy connection with them. The Process Communication Model (PCM) is one tool I have successfully used for this purpose.
When we learn to recognise and use the preferred perceptual language of other people, we connect better with them and it’s easier to communicate our message.
The six personality types used in the Process Communication Model (PCM)
PCM is a behavioural model of communication and individual personality differences. It has been used and validated by NASA, a former American president and is worldwide leading. It is successfully employed for building better self-awareness, improving communication, managing stress and conflicts, strengthening relationships and team development.
According to PCM, we all have six different personality types ‘IN’ us, arranged in a preferred set order. Our base type, the foundation, is already distinguishable at birth or within the first few months of life. The remaining five types are arranged by age seven, according to developmental psychology and social influence principles.
Caption: The metaphor of a six-floor condominium is often used in teaching PCM, as it helps us visualise the composition of each unique personality structure.
The model speaks about Personality Types IN people, instead of types OF people. Personality models that speak about types OF people inherently invite separation and bias, entitlement and prejudice.
The six distinct personality types found within each of us, with their traits and character strengths are summarised in the table below:
PCM offers valuable insights into the ways these types in us influence how we think, feel and behave. Each type has its own perceptual filter, a preferred way of seeing the world. Because we have all six types in us, we all have the capacity to appreciate and connect with any other type.
The six ‘languages of connection’
When approaching communication, in PCM there are six distinct ‘languages of connection’, called Perceptual Frames of Reference or ‘perceptual languages’. Discovered by Dr Taibi Kahler, the developmental psychologist behind PCM, perceptions are the ‘language between the words’, because the process of communication often carries more information than the content transmitted.
When we learn to recognise and use the preferred perceptual language of other people, we connect better with them and it’s easier to communicate our message. It will invite them to hear more and remember more of what we are telling them. In essence, they are then more likely to connect with us.
1. Thoughts: the language of the Thinker
The Thinker seeks to make sense of the world, by organising, sorting and categorising the information they receive. They will talk about facts, data, characteristics and will ask questions about who, where, when, what and how. They appreciate others using this perceptual language with them.
Examples of how to communicate with a Thinker:
Offer them relevant time frames at the beginning of the day and respect them: ‘this is our agenda for today, these are our breaks, etc.’
Offer them data, facts, percentages and graphs, where possible, when sharing information
Be ready to answer questions – they have a natural desire to understand the details and logical connections between what you are teaching them
Use expressions such as: ‘I think’, ‘what options’, ‘does that mean’, ‘will you assist in making a plan’
2. Opinions: the language of the Persister
Giving opinions, judgements and expressing their beliefs is second-nature for the Persister. They’ll see things through the perspective of purpose, values and trust, all filtered through their own personal values, beliefs and conscience.
Examples of how to communicate with a Persister:
Ask for their opinion
Avoid contradicting their opinions. If you don’t agree with them, you can say things like ‘May I offer my perspective?’ Or ‘Thank you, I will consider your points.’
Use expressions such as: ‘in my opinion’, ‘we should’, ‘I believe’, ‘respect’, ‘values’, ‘commitment’, ‘dedication’
3. Emotions: the language of the Harmoniser
The Harmoniser perceives the world by feeling about people and situations, using their heart as their compass. They nurture their relationships and attend to the welfare of others. A comfortable atmosphere is important to them.
Examples of how to communicate with a Harmoniser:
I am happy to have you in my training today
I’d love for you to feel good and comfortable today. I’m here if you need anything
I’d love to hear what you feel about this subject
Use expressions such as: ‘I feel’, ‘I’m comfortable with’
4. Inactions: the language of the Imaginer
The Imaginer views the world by reflecting about what is happening. For them, life is an open space, perfect for imagining possibilities. While they might appear to be quiet and inactive on the outside, there is a lot going on inside. They respond very well when given clear directions.
Examples of how to communicate with an Imaginer:
Tell them clearly what you want them to do in any exercises
Give them time to visualise/imagine how they can use what you teach them
Give them clear directions, using words like: ‘imagine’, ‘reflect’, ‘visualise’
5. Reactions: the language of the Rebel
The Rebel values fun and views the world by reacting to people and situations with likes/dislikes. They are more reflexive than reflective, more responsive than responsible, more creative than analytical. They’re lively, upbeat and always ready for some fun.
Examples of how to communicate with a Rebel:
Let them have fun while learning
Have some fun games included
Play music in the breaks
Use expressions such as: ‘I like/dislike’, ‘wow!’ – fun expressions, slang, interjections
6. Actions: the language of the Promoter
The Promoter values initiative and action is how they roll. They make things happen and then you’ll hear them say ‘Let’s keep up the pressure’. For them, taking the lead and getting things done is their second-nature. They’ll find a way around obstacles, and are always adaptable and self-sufficient. They rise to a good challenge.
Examples of how to communicate with a Promoter:
Include lots of interactive exercises
Use expressions such as: ‘The bottom line’ ‘Best shot’ ‘Make it happen’ ‘Go for it’ ‘Enough talk’ ‘Let’s do it’ – include lots of verbs in your speech
Change your language to bridge connections
So the next time you are struggling to get your point across when delivering training, coaching or mentoring, remember these six languages of connection and consider which style would better suit the person on the receiving end. By adapting your word choice and how you communicate you will have a much better chance of being heard and creating a stronger bond that will inevitably lead to better results for the learner and their development.
Interested in this topic? Read 'Human connections: creating the habit for engaged learning.'
Magda is a certified trainer in the Process Communication Model ® and a Senior Practitioner in Applied Neuroscience.
Previous to this, she gained over twelve years of experience in multinational organisations in Germany, Brazil, Romania and the United Kingdom, where she now lives. She started her career working in strategy consulting and...