Mind Your Audience

meetingYour MBA interviewers and college professors are not your family members.

How many times have you had to say, “I did not mean this”?Do you think what you say is also understood exactly the same way? If yes, you could be living in a myth.

It is possible that your message is interpreted differently by others. You may wonder how and why. We all come from different backgrounds, families, cultures and experiences, and therefore there is a probability that we interpret things differently.

You have to deal with several people in life. Currently, the most important ones could be the judges on your group discussion and interview panel, and the professors in college. Before we deep dive into the techniques of dealing with people (who have different personality and behavioural traits), let us understand some basics of verbal communication.

According to industry estimates, in any verbal communication, words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message, tone of voice 38% and body language 55%. So who wins? Of course body language, right? But I feel it is not only your body language that makes the communication impactful. What is more important in any communication is to judge the other person’s body language and behave accordingly.

Let us discuss some real life situations you could face and how you could emerge as a winner from those:

  • Your group discussion has the following panel members:
  • An aggressive manufacturing industry tycoon
  • A theoretical academician in philosophy
  • A lawyer

The first thing you would want to do is to enquire about the panel. The industry tycoon and the lawyer on this panel may appreciate valid, hard core facts in the discussion; the philosophical academician may expect some human aspect in your arguments. You have to build a discussion with a mix of facts and theory. Remember that you will never be able to please 100% of your audience. But try to make it at least 70-80%. However, it may happen that you are not aware of the panel members. My advice in that case is to reach out to the college and get this information. You should do this much in advance so that you have ample time to prepare. Read about the panel members’ achievements, their style of working, and their hobbies. This background check will help you behave in a manner that increases your chance of selection.

  • You have a personal interview with someone who thinks he knows everything:

This is a tricky one. When a person feels he has all the knowledge in the world, he is never happy with your answers. This person will try to bully you, add more facts to what you say andconsider your arguments as ‘not so good’. He/she will try to make you very uncomfortable in the interview. How can you  tackle this situation? The best strategy to deal with such people is to ask logical questions. Even if it is your interview, ask questions. But these questions should sound like a discussion rather than actual questions. One question should lead to another. This way, you are putting this person at parwith you. It is possible that your interviewer gets upset with this strategy, so you need to careful, polite and humble. Your interviewer should feel that you are eager to learn from him and that is why you have these questions.

Not knowing everything is better than knowing all. You have more scope to learn.

  • You are misunderstood and you know it:

When you know that people have misunderstood you in any conversation, you have already created a gap with who you are dealing with. How do you bridge this gap? If you are in a group discussion or an interview, there are chances to lose your opportunity, so you must immediately clarify what you meant and why you meant so. One of the ways you can do so is even after the discussion/interview is over, you clarify and leave. Your behaviour can sometimes play a greater role than your actual words. However, if you are misunderstood by a professor, or a fellow student, you have enough time to clear the misunderstanding. The most ideal way of dealing with such a situation is hold another separate conversation after a time gap. Remember to gather facts before you enter this separate conversation. Be polite, friendly and understanding to make better relations with this person.

Remember, you do want to prove your point, but not at the cost of your relationship.

  • You are either with people who say “yes” to everything or “no” to everything:

When you are preparing a group presentation or a case study, there are chances of encountering ‘yes’and ‘no’ behaviours. These are people who generally lack point of view. They have a single agenda —‘join the gang’ (yes people) or ‘I do not belong here’ (no people). Both these categories are not team players. ‘Yes’ people are looking for shelter, while the ‘no’ category wants todisrupt your plans without a reason. The best way to tackle such people is making them feel important and creating accountability for their decisions and actions. Once they feel empowered and accountable, they are willing to participate for a common purpose.

Reading people’s mind is the most difficult task and to do that is an art.

  • You are among the‘traditional minds’:

In your college life, you will meet people who work with traditional mindsets. They admire models that are already successful. They are most willing to replicate success, rather than trying new things or doing things differently. Sometimes, you want these people in your group for the experience they have. The best strategy to deal with such people is to have them in your group. While they continue to work with a traditional mindset, you do things differently and showcase your success to them. This gives them confidence in new ideas and new ways of doing things. And you have the best team that has both — experience and innovation.

Experience clubbed with innovation is your journey towards making a difference

What does it mean for you?

Different people, different situations, different contexts – dealing with all is tough but achievable.

You will be required to act, behave and react with different people in different situations in different contexts your entire life. Your behaviour with a family member will be different from your behaviour with a friend orcolleague in a similar situation. You need to strike the right balance between politeness, facts and logic to have a meaningful conversation. This will enable you to build better relationships for the future.

Relationships are the key to building robust teams. You can build expertise through a course, but you learn the art of dealing with relationships only through experience.

Contributed by Virag Jain ( Class of 2010, IBS MUMBAI )

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