How to Be A Listener-Centric Communicator

The concept of adapting your content and delivery to WHO you are speaking is a worthy objective. However, being able to do it in a poignant and meaningful manner can be an advanced skill, and it will take your workplace communication to the next level.

This article will provide a quick overview of one way in which we help our clients adapt to their listeners. The concept is called Patterns of Reasoning. The normal human brain capacity allows us to function with two basic patterns of reasoning; we use these patterns as the structure for our thoughts and speech. No one is completely one or the other.


We all use both INDUCTIVE and DEDUCTIVE processes. Both are correct and powerful. Most people have a preference or default that they use predominantly. Do you present your ideas Inductively or Deductively? Effective listeners and communicators know the difference.

To be most effective, it is imperative you understand how your colleagues, customers, clients, friends, and family present their ideas? It is crucial to begin assessing how people speak and listen to information.

If you are an Inductive communicator, you would prefer to share all the details upfront. You deliver your main point after sharing the background and overview.

If you are a Deductive communicator, you prefer to start with a point and then add additional information as needed.

Now, why does this matter? Interestingly, we tend to communicate information to others the way we prefer to receive it. So, if you like to talk things through, to be collaborative, if you say, “Well, let’s discuss this. What happened last year? What are all the factors involved we should consider?” You’re going to communicate well with someone who also likes to be Inductive.

But when an Inductive and Deductive person meets, watch out! There is a high level of frustration that can occur. Suppose I am highly Deductive (I like the answer first), and an Inductive person is talking through all the details, background, and observations on a topic. In that case, I may be sitting there silently fuming. I might be thinking:

“Hurry up!”

“Spit it out!”

“Get to the point!”

Similarly, suppose a Deductive person approaches an Inductive person and starts with the point. In that case, an Inductive communicator would feel like the Deductive person is a little bossy, abrasive, inconsiderate, or rude. If I am highly Inductive (I like to share all the background first, then the main point) and a Deductive person answers my question in ten words, I may be sitting there feeling hurt or not respected. I might be thinking:

“Wait, what?”

“Hold on, how did you get to that decision?”

“I haven’t even heard the whole situation; this person is jumping to conclusions!”

Neither approach is right or wrong, but understanding the differences between these Patterns of Reasoning is essential for presentations, updates, and communication. More and more organizations have become an “Answer First Culture,” which is a polite way of saying “Spit It Out.”  Make your point fast, in under 30 seconds. If you often get interrupted or cut off while speaking at work, you may work with a group of Deductive communicators. They don’t want the whole story. They want the memo and a fast summary.

In other organizations, they want you to be Inductive. Remember, back in high school math; you had to “show your work.” In an Inductive culture, they want you to talk through your thought process. How did you get to this point? Why did you get there? How did you make this decision? What factors are in play? What are all the moving parts?

The main lesson around the concept of Inductive and Deductive communication is that if you can adapt how you communicate and present information based on who is in the room (your listeners), you will have a more positive interaction.

True success comes with knowing the difference between Inductive and Deductive communication, which will be required in a mixed group of listeners. You may need to be flexible and nimble at making strategic changes. It will be easier to persuade, convince, and create a favorable exchange when you adapt to the listener.

Think about your clients, customers, colleagues, and direct reports. Do you primarily work with Inductive people, or do you work with many Deductive people? Can you change how you communicate as needed?

You’ll notice this concept of Inductive and Deductive communication also applies to unofficial communication, such as with friends and family. For example, if your husband, wife, partner, or parents are very Inductive and you are Deductive, I would guess you spend a lot of time thinking, “Holy smokes, just get to the point, can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?”. If you are Inductive and you call your Deductive friend to catch up, you might be a bit disappointed when after ten minutes they say, “Well, I’ll let you go.”

This is a good stopping point for today, in the effort of time. During individual coaching and group training sessions, we share this concept and get into more details about leveraging and customizing this concept. We also discuss all the nuances involved that must be carefully considered.

This concept of the Patterns of Reasoning is a powerful tool. If these types of tips, tools, and techniques are interesting to you, be sure to follow The Speech Improvement Company on LinkedIn for more helpful executive communication resources, and connect with me here on LinkedIn for access to complimentary webinars and white papers.

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