Perception is the key to our interaction with others...

communications pcm Sep 15, 2017

"5 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable."

"I don't mind the time issue, it is the broken commitments that I can't stand"

A recent post on Facebook from prompted this short article explaining the need to understand others' perceptions if communication is to be improved. Significant research has shown that miscommunication leads to poor performance, increased error and reduced morale, so why does it still happen?

My response to the Facebook posts was that I too used to get distressed when I was late or others were late for a meeting, but since completing some training and learning more about perceptions and culture, my view has tempered somewhat. I also highlighted that given the two responses above, one time-based and the other value-based, that 65% of the US population may respond differently depending on their value and perception of time, and the action of being late.

It doesn't mean that I don't try to be early, or that I don't get frustrated when others are late for meetings or training sessions I deliver, it just means I recognise the likely reasons why they don't value time or respect in the same way I do. I also recognise that it is my reaction to the events which are causing the distress, not the events themselves.

So how did I change my view and not get distressed?

Last year I undertook some training with John Parr, a certified psychologist and Certifying Master Trainer in the Process Communication Model. This training led to a fundamental shift in how I communicate and interact with other people, and what I can do to help myself and others to remain in an OK:OK position when perceiving the world.

The reason it works is because the Process Communication Model (PCM) is not built on a model of pigeon-holing people into personality types, but rather each of us has the six personality types within us and we have a preferred style of interaction with the environment and others based on the arrangement of those six types. Once we learn how to communication and interact in the preferred style of the other person (the listener) then things change massively. Note, it is their preferred communication style that enables the connection and subsequent communication, not ours.

Communication between two people can be likened to talking on a radio. First we select the frequency to transmit, we send the message, and we expect to hear something back. If we get no response (completely wrong frequency) or a garbled response (close but not close enough) we can try again. When making that initial connection, we might get two more opportunities to make it work, after that, the opportunity is gone, so we have to get it right.

In PCM terms, we have 4 channels which we can use to communicate, these are aligned with the personality types. Each perception has a preferred 'way of opening' the communication and once the crisp response has been received, then we can continue with the detailed message. Whilst the following all have the same rough meaning

  • "Will you tell me what you thought of the report?"
  • "Will you tell me your opinion of the report?"
  • "Tell me what the output of the report means to you?"

They are are going to be most effective with someone who deals with facts, opinions and actions respectively. The way in which the communication is framed also makes a difference. "Will you..." is requestive and "Tell me..." is directive. The former works for those who deal with data, logic, opinions and beliefs whereas the latter works with those who deal in action. Not everyone is the same, and no-one is wrong or worse than others.

"Why are you late? I gave you detailed instructions on how to get here?" is not going to work for someone who deals with likes and dislikes and just wants to 'play'. However, it would likely work for someone who recognises a structure to their time and a detailed answer would likely be what comes back as a response.

If someone is in distress because their psychological needs are not being met, they can be invited out of distress by communicating in a manner which meets their needs. For example, someone who deals with data and logic would respond well to "I am very pleased with the report you delivered on time with all of the detailed information checked for accuracy. Will you let me know what you think we should do next?" Whereas they wouldn't necessarily respond so well with "Don't worry. I am so happy that you are part of my team, you really make it complete".

The reason is that the first encounter was focussing on data, logic and recognition of time whereas the second is focussing on the individual themselves and what they bring to the team. For effective communication to occur, we need to know who we are talking to and their perception so that we can connect.

This short video clip explains PCM in a little more detail and shows 'PCM Vision' in action.

PCM is easy to learn and easy to apply to your personal and professional lives. Once trained, you learn to pick up the clues as to others' perceptions so they don't need training. It can be applied to professional and team development, coaching and education to improve performance and reduce error. All achieved by ensuring that we are using a common perception for the communication.

 John Parr and I are working to build the Process Communication Model in the UK. PCM has been around for more than 40 years with successes in multiple domains across the world but in recent years has had limited exposure in the UK market. Examples of successes elsewhere include.

  • Next Element in the US across a number of sectors including one hospital where they saved $250 000 and improved nurse turnover by 6%.
  • MUSE schools where a whole schooling system is based around the application of PCM to learning so each student learns in a manner which is suitable for them.
  • In Australia where it has been adopted as part of the CPD for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to improve team co-operation and reduce conflict.

If you'd like to know more about how to solve the perception problem and improve your personal and team communication, just ask.

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