The Million Dollar Pause: How to Adapt Your Communication Style to the Different Personalities in Your Life17 February 2021 / By Rob Toomey Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on February 17, 2021
Truity is pleased to share this guest post from Rob Toomey, President of TypeCoach.
When you think about your very best interactions with others, there is a good chance one of two things was going on:
1. You were talking to someone with a similar personality type – you didn’t have to make any big adjustments because the other person naturally understood what you were saying;
2. You took a second before opening your mouth and asked yourself one simple question: “What’s the best way for me to get my message across to this person right now?”
We call the split-second it takes you to ask that question the Million Dollar Pause. It can happen at work, at home, with family, friends or colleagues. And the difference it makes is huge.
People who know how to use this pause effectively have a much easier time navigating the relationships in their lives than those who don’t. They find it easy to get others to hear where they’re coming from and manage to avoid a lot of the common communication land-mines that others may be running into unknowingly.
- It’s the doctor who considers her patient before launching into a diagnostic
- It’s the salesperson who genuinely listens and flexes to their prospect’s needs
- It’s the manager who is present and uses different styles with the people on the team to bring out their best
- It’s the lawyer who delivers information to their clients in different ways based on what will work best for each person
- It’s the spouse who adjusts their message to their partner’s style
- It’s the employee who knows how to stay on their boss’s good side
- It’s the parent who considers who their child is before deciding how to respond
- It’s the friend who offers support and empathy (instead of the solution that immediately jumped to mind)
This article shares three of my favorite techniques that will allow you to start using the Million Dollar Pause to your own advantage. My team and I have been teaching a full version of this system for the last 16 years to tens of thousands of people all over the world and we hope you find these highlights helpful.
#1. Don’t Use the “R” Word
This technique has probably been the most useful to me in my own marriage. For me, the natural response when I see someone else getting a little stressed out is to help them see things in the bigger picture and get them to see that it’s not really that big a deal. Well, I’m here to tell you that about 60% of the population we call Judgers aren’t really “eager” to have you step in and get them to calm down.
And, the one word I can guarantee that will actually get you into trouble is this: “RELAX.”
When Judgers start to feel a little stressed, they are actually looking around them for people who can step up and offer to take something off their plate. Or, at the very least, to see that people understand this is a serious situation and to give them some space. So, the impulse to use the “R” word is really wrong because it is basically signaling to them that you don’t understand how serious the situation is for the other person. And, by saying it, you are doing anything but getting them closer to actually being relaxed!
Our advice is to use your Million Dollar Pause to consider how you might signal an appreciation for their intensity, and make an offer of help. For me, this comes out something like “I get it. It’s important. I’m on it!” This is a far cry from the “R” word and has spared me from many near -disasters over the years.
How do I spot Judgers? Judgers are naturally decisive and closure oriented. They are most comfortable once a plan has been put in place, and they like to stick with that plan if they can. You’ll notice that when things get a bit hectic, a Judger will get more serious and intense. This is your signal to be careful with the offhand “relax” usage.
#2. Relationship Before Task
About 50% of the population (60% of women and 40% of men) go to work to help people they care about and generally approach life with a heightened focus on their relationships. In the language of personality type, we call them Feelers. What they are looking for in their interactions with others is a personal connection – you want to be one of the people they care about and are seeking to help.
The easiest way you can mess up communication with a Feeler is by focusing too much on what needs to get done (at work or around the house, it’s the same thing), and not on your relationship. In other words, the thing you should be thinking about before you open your mouth to speak is how to make the personal connection -- before getting into the work at hand. Sure, it won’t be something you’re always able to do. But you will notice a HUGE impact on a Feeler’s motivation to help you out if, instead of getting into task-mode, you first start with some time on the relationship.
This means finding out how the other person is doing, what they’ve been up to, and so on before introducing whatever it is you are looking to do with them at that moment. While this is true for most people, it is especially important for Feelers.
How do I spot Feelers? Feelers are the people in your life who spend a lot of time paying attention to how those around them are doing. They tend to naturally gravitate towards the Million Dollar Pause because they have an easy time putting themselves into other people’s shoes. You will hear them speak with passion about things important to them (using words like “I love that!” or “I hate that”). They can be a bit more susceptible to taking things personally and may avoid conflict.
#3. Beware the Intuitive Leap
When I’m listening to someone else, part of my brain is making connections to other things the topic at hand reminds me of. This is a classic trait of Intuitive types. I need to be careful that I don’t jump from what we are talking about to the thing I’ve just been reminded of because about two-thirds of the population aren’t going to go with me on the journey. These people generally type as Sensors.
Instead, my first step is to directly acknowledge what was just said. Only after I’ve indicated that I’ve heard and understood what they said is it fair game for me to say “Oh, and you also reminded me of something else we should discuss.” This one happens all the time and it really throws the conversation out of whack for both people, because suddenly you both are talking about different topics altogether (i.e. you’re no longer communicating).
How do I spot Sensors/Intuitives?
This one is a bit trickier to explain because it is less obvious in people’s behaviors. We notice that Sensors tend to be more naturally focused on grounded, practical and real topics that relate to the current situation and are relevant in the short-term. Intuitives tend to be thinking about the links and connection between different topics (thus the problem here). They also tend to think about how things will play out in the future.
This one is also tougher to spot because everyone has to use both the Sensing and Intuitive parts of their brain all the time.
It Only Applies to Everyone
The techniques I’ve described above are selections from a program called the TypeCoach Influence Course. In the last week, I’ve delivered our full Influence Course to two really different organizations. One is a world leader in human genomics research based in the UK – their work is to map the human genome and accelerate the creation of therapies that will cure a wide range of diseases. As you might imagine, they have a high concentration of scientists and PHDs. A few days later, I was able to deliver the same course program to one of the world’s largest pizza companies – they make more than $1B delivering pizzas. The contrast between these two groups made me smile, mostly because they both faced the exact same challenges – getting their people to communicate with others more effectively.
In both cases, the challenges are the same… how do we get people to take that moment before opening their mouth to ask themselves what approach would work best. No matter who is in the audience, we talk about spouses, kids, bosses, direct reports and friends. It’s always the same thing – if people can use the Million Dollar Pause to make these minor adjustments, communication gets better and easier for everyone involved. I hope you will find a chance to use some of these techniques in your own interactions with the different personalities you’re likely to encounter.
If you would like to learn more about our full Influence Course – which has dozens of additional techniques – please click on the link below. We’ve had great success delivering the course via monthly webinars, have had thousands of participants from all corners of the globe, and would love to have you join us in helping the world communicate better.
We look forward to seeing you in an upcoming session!
Sharon Lovoy (not verified) says...
The word, "Relax," is code for "You are overreacting and I have the gold standard for reaction and further more, I want to be dismissive of your concerns." Thank you for calling attention to this poor technique that is commonly used--or should I say--abused.
In my opinion: The advice to "pause"should be tattooed on our foreheads, embedded as the screensaver on our phones, and should be a pop up on our computers.
Thank you for this valuable contribution!