Why Some Conversations Never Click: Understanding the Three Zones of Communication

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

I often wondered why it was that some people just never ‘click’, as people say; when the conversation reaches one of its inevitable and awkward moments of ineptitude and silence, we relegate potential relationships to the bin because we feel that our styles of communication just differ. Game over.

I’ve experienced this exact feeling in business circles too, where one’s language is just not computed, doesn’t resonate or land with a superior, say, a manager or boss. And I think I know why.

Listening to podcasts is something I only ever do recreationally while busy doing something else physically, but one podcast I have loved and listen to from the start multiple times is The Art of Communication by Robin Kermode, an highly-regarded communication coach.

According to Robin, there are different zones of communication, three to be exact, and the reason I – and I’m sure anyone reading this – experience insufficient clicking with someone else is because people naturally exist in those different zones: Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3.

To cut a long jargon-talk short, each zone represents a style of communication (closed, open and active, dominant), and the unawareness or desire to adapt our communication styles (our zones to another) is what leads to those dreary, awkward, or simply unpleasant chats. The middle (Zone 2) is where we should all ideally be: open, active, and engaging.

Thus, adapting one’s communication is vital. I took this upon myself to practice recognising the different zones or styles of communication there are. For example, I went into an interview once and while listening to the recruitment officer talk, they used words like ‘feel’ and ‘sense’ to describe their own opinion. I tried to mirror this in a subtle way by using the same words or at least using visual language such as, ‘What do you see in this?’ or ‘Do you see that yourself?’.

Low and behold, we clicked. Practicing recognising different styles of communication in others made me realise how easy it really was to ensure more successful talks with practically anybody. It’s not a magic trick, but it’s almost there.

In any case, I think the ‘gentleman’ circle or ‘space’ shall we call it could do with a reminder sometimes about good communication. Between you and me, I’ve been to a couple of very nice events and the lack of conversational respect people pay was almost disappointing. Aspiring to be a bit better than that with a few modern techniques you can pick up instantly is, I should think, a little milestone not too far out of our reach to hit.

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