Winett Associates: Market Research for Results


Professional Approach

Business Research

Case Studies

Typical Projects

Selected Clients

About Us

Contact Us

Subscribe to Newsletter


Articles and Publications


Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Four Critical Communications Skills:
What To Say and What To Notice

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker


A teenager I know has an extraordinary way of engaging adults in meaningful conversations. He wants to know how things work, from the stock market to politics, and he asks probing questions that make you think. He will also ask about your life and your work and then ask incisive follow-up questions.


Some people are “supercommunicators,” according to Charles Duhigg,* and they use techniques that others can also master. Supercommunicators succeed in part by mirroring the type of conversation their companion uses. This matters as each type of conversation uses a particular section of the brain. Here are the three conversation types Duhigg** identified, followed by Winett examples:


  • “Practical (What’s this really about?)” [“Why have sales in the northeast fallen?”]
  • “Emotional (How do we feel?)” [“My forty-five minute commute took ninety minutes today!”]
  • “Social (Who are we?)” “[How will unionization affect our interactions with management?”]

A mismatch in conversational styles leaves both parties dissatisfied. When someone says, “You will never believe what happened!” (emotional), we are primed to offer solutions (practical) even though what the person wants is a sympathetic listener (emotional). The person wants to be heard. They don’t want a lecture.

Duhigg found that supercommunicatiors have four skills that others can acquire:

  • They ask, “deep questions” that encourage people to “share something authentic and potentially vulnerable.” Instead of asking “Where did you go to college?” Ask, “What were you looking for when selecting a college?” Deep follow-up questions can be personal. After asking people what work they do, Duhigg might ask,” Do you have something else that you dream of doing?”
  • Supercommunicatiors “prove [they] are listening” by “looping for understanding”-- but after their companion speaks. They repeat what they heard and ask if they “got it right.” These steps create “’psychological safety.’” Looping may even change the other person’s mind.
  • Skilled communicators “determine what [people] wan[t]” by asking them.
  • Supercommunicators “pay attention” to non-verbal expressions of feeling. This includes ”body language, vocal inflections, grimaces, sighs and laughs,” explains Duhigg. Other indicators of feeling are “tone of voice, gesture, [and] facial expressions,” according to Danel Goleman, a psychologist.

Become a supercommunicator by matching your type of conversation with others and by asking deep questions, looping for understanding, asking what people want, and noticing non-verbal indicators of feelings. One of the limitations of email is that email is a “flat” medium that cannot convey important “non-verbal signs of feeling.” Finally, notice what people neglect to say. If the omission is significant, follow up with incisive questions.

*' How to be a 'Supercommunicator,'" By C.Duhigg, The Wall Street Journal, February 17,2024

** Ad for Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection, C. Duigg, February, 2024 Publication.



Actionable Business Insights


Copyright ©3/24 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.  

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust


articles index | home | back

Winett Associates           tel: 508-877-1938           email
©2024 Winett Associates. All rights reserved.