How to Speak Everyone’s Language


Many of us live under the impression that there are certain “types of people” that we get along better with and others that we don’t get along with. In fact, we like those who are like us or those who are as we wish we were. Precisely for this reason, the objectivity of the human resources specialist who hires people is very important.

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The very idea to like types of people is counter-psychological, encouraging stereotypes and (pre)judgment. A communication and HR beginner could live with the illusion that is it O.K. to place people into categories. However, before doing so, (s)he must know HOW to set those categories and essentially understand the structure of a population beyond the socio-demographic criteria, practically the personality traits. So, if you keep putting people in “little boxes”, at least do it right, after doing some research; otherwise, you risk having your expectations and reality be two completely parallel areas.

The essence of experimenting with authentic interpersonal communication is based either on active listening or the intuition of a most infallible experience, built-in time, an experience that is also based on active listening. This intuition is what the great managers and leaders are bragging about, but which sometimes undoubtedly fools them. Surely, Edward Bernays, the parent of modern public relations, was no expert in interpersonal communication, but he was an expert in drawing important people to him through networking, in a time when it was easy to think in stereotypes.

Nowadays, however, the idea of types of people must disappear from the mind of the person communicating professionally, especially since technology and professional communication allow for a very precise segmentation. Nowadays, there are audiences with a precise amount of trends and niches that cover a clear percentage of the population.

One of the essential audiences, by the by for the human resources manager, is the potential employees. Employer branding is absolutely vital. Nowadays, a brand (any kind of brand, including the employer brand) must know how to smile, move, scream, smell nice and only wink at those they address, every step of the way.

When you address people, each will be motivated differently, so you need to customize your speech for each of them. You must be themselves! Specifically, with each person, you will communicate differently, because each one has a different motivation strategy. This is not hypocrisy. These things cannot be left to “take their own course” because they will most likely take other courses than expected.


Prime concerns

If you want to know what matters most to a person at a certain time, ask them the question: “Can you can remember a moment when you were fully motivated?If the person answers “no,” then rephrase: “If you were to think of a moment when you were motivated, how would you describe it?” When the person is clearly aware of the time referred to, you will ask them two more key questions to reveal the motivational factors (in NLP words, 1st-degree prime concerns):

What did you have then and don’t have now?


What didn’t you have then and you have now?

Although it is not advisable to insist, the more detailed these answers that it is important for you to get will be, the easier it will be for you to understand what is relevant to this person. Write the answer down, especially if it is a more detailed or complex answer.

Depending on the answers to these questions, you will know how to guide your speech and deliver it for each. There is no point in offering apples to someone who wants pears or vice versa. This is proof of common sense and respect for that person’s personal motivations. This is a different way of knowing what is important to somebody


Different people are motivated by different things!

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Moreover, the same person is motivated differently in different contexts. What constitutes motivation at home is not necessarily motivation at work. Think about it: do you have the same motivation to 1) go out with your friends and 2) finish a report on time? Now, think about what would happen if you talked to another person using the motivation that you have to go out with your friends for the fact that he/she has to finish a report on time? Obviously, there will be a disaster.

Although what I write here seems to be common sense, many managers are still looking for magical, unique formulas, miraculous and unique solutions in terms of content that would fully motivate everyone. There is no such thing. The “universally” valid suggestions that I have presented in this article are things that make a significant contribution to understanding motivation because each person reacts in their own way to certain stimuli. Different ways of reacting correspond to different experiences!


Where do all these suggestions come from?

As a technical detail, in neuro-linguistic programming, the answers to these questions represent a set of unconscious filters called prime concerns. In the chapter The principle of necessity and priority in the communication of my book, The Persuasion’s Ways to Negotiation, I have dealt with the topic of elicitation of criteria and values which are other subconscious filters, besides metaprograms, values, timeline, defense mechanisms and so on. In fact, the study of subconscious filters is an NLP component, most often quoted as having a relevant impact regarding motivation. Most often, if you hear or read about neuro-linguistic programming in the context of motivation, it is very likely about it.

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2007-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Cum să vorbeşti fiecăruia pe limba lui previously published by Marcus Victor Grant in Romanian on the 20th of March 2014 on Discerne. Originally written in 2007. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.

3 thoughts on “How to Speak Everyone’s Language

  1. cool post. I just stumbled upon your post and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog post. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!


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