Within an organization, we all want to gain insights on how people are put together, how they can become motivated, how to lead better and how to cooperate. The two methodologies for supporting this and for personal growth that we all know are DISC and Enneagram. Recently, another model has become increasingly popular, namely Life Languages – or communication intelligence, with seven communication styles that people use.
In the book Communication Intelligence (affiliate), communication is defined as:
The process of transferring information from one person to another or to a group, with the aim of creating a shared understanding and feeling. The term communication comes from the Latin word ‘communicare’, which means ’to make common’.
Communication does not necessarily mean that people agree with each other.
In an effort to understand each other, Fred and Anna Kendall, the founders of communication intelligence, started with three categories:
They then defined the three intelligences, namely:
- Kinetic/action oriented
Last, they placed the seven languages, or communication styles, within those categories. For the Kendalls, communication means words and actions.
Seven communication styles
People often have two to three of the seven languages that they use easily, without overthinking – their preferred languages. The usage of other languages requires more energy. Any combination with the various languages can be effective within organizations if done consciously. According to the authors, every language is a form of communication intelligence.
Understanding how we and others communicate leads to stronger relationships and better collaboration (among other things). Please note that everyone has the seven communication styles within themselves, and that someone uses a communication style and is not a communication style. That someone can have all styles within themselves, as I have noticed myself – more on that later.
In any case, your Life Languages profile provides insights on the strength and energy with which you communicate in each language. Moreover, the languages show your strengths, passions, energizers, stressors, and things that take effort.
Furthermore, the profile shows people’s communication indicators. This includes matters such self-acceptance (how we look at ourselves), interactive style (whether we like being alone or in a group), self-control (whether we are disciplined or impulsive), frustration tolerance (how we deal with interruptions and distractions) and sensitivity to influence (how important the perception/opinion of others is to us).
Elaboration per language
Decisive for every language is the filter question that you unconsciously ask and that the other person has to answer. But also the need that the other person has to meet, the passion for which someone lives and the strongest character trait for which someone wants to be validated. Each language is summarized in a Life Languages icon and further explained through positive character traits, a symbol from nature, color, quality to be developed, habit to be learned, stress signals, leadership styles, professions, tips, and examples.
Of course, in this article, I can only give an extremely compact summary of the seven languages. The book goes through a number of short and striking cases to indicate how understanding the different languages can bring out the best in everyone within the organization.
The mover has a banner on a stand as an icon because he or she is often a standard-bearer, with high standards in terms of behavior and performance. Acting quickly, innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, guts, and honesty are all matters that the mover can identify with.
Red is the color of energy, determination, warmth, and action. Movers are straightforward in their communication and expect words and deeds to match. Movers are drivers of change and have great perseverance. Completing a project is sometimes a difficult task for the mover.
The doer has a hammer as an icon because he or she continues tirelessly until the job is done. Doers often deploy to-do lists and complete tasks with diligence and accuracy. The doer is attentive and sees what needs to be done. Doers are often self-employed professionals.
Orange is the color of blazing fire, the sun, growth, expansion, perseverance, and iron. Doers expect everyone to do their part and work orderly. They finish what they start and they are reliable. Delegating and looking ahead can sometimes be a difficult task.
The influencer has two hands that hold each other as an icon because he or she is relationship-oriented. The influencer celebrates life and relationships, is creative, kind, and tactful. Influencers love fun and conviviality and are a star in persuasion. The influencer is good at encouraging someone to get the best out of themselves. Influencers find logical solutions to challenges and accept others as they are.
Yellow is the color of bright light, cheerful optimism, enthusiasm, intuition, playfulness, quick intelligence and spirituality. The influencer affirms and encourages others. Being honest, keeping promises and finding the balance between listening and speaking can sometimes be a difficult task.
The responder has an outstretched hand holding a heart as an icon, as he or she has care and compassion for others. Responders can feel deeply for others and want to protect others. Emotions run deep. They may be sensitive, but they are also brave and heroic.
Purple is the color of royalty, honor, spirituality, self-esteem, creativity, imagination, passion, and affection. Responders need unconditional acceptance and trust to be understood. The responder acts with compassion. Taking responsibility, prioritizing and not making something personal can sometimes be a difficult task.
The shaper has an opened globe with chess pieces and bar charts as an icon because he or she thinks and plans strategically. The starting point for their plans and strategy is their final goal. Shapers are visionary when it comes to the end goal and naturally see where to start to reach the end goal. The shaper is often the leader of the pack and behaves like a lion: competent, patient, regal, protective and organized.
Royal blue is the color of visionary leadership, success, high ambitions, knowledge, and power. Shapers are being perceived as calm and believe in the pursuit of excellence. The shaper is usually open to disagreement. Being sensitive to the emotional needs of others and staying involved by connecting can sometimes be a daunting task.
The producer has a brain with a dollar sign in the middle of the target bullseye as an icon because he or she aims for the best quality and for the best price. Producers are good at managing their finances and resources. At the same time, they are generous and hospitable. Producers are effective, balanced, attentive to the bottom line, stable and sustainable. They have a high sense of responsibility.
Green is the color of being able to be action and feeling oriented and of stability, endurance, growth, abundance, success, prosperity, and vitality. The producer has his or her affairs in order. Empowering others through mandates and gifts without expectations or personal gain can sometimes be a daunting task.
The contemplator has a large brain as an icon because he or she is a deep thinker, and likes to be alone. Contemplators derive great satisfaction from knowledge without doing anything with their learning, for example, without impressing others with what they know. The contemplator is focused on inner peace and conflict-free interaction with others, thus pleasant and peaceful relationships. Contemplators are brilliant minds. They have an incredible number of interests.
Blue is the color of calm, peace, quietness, wisdom, spirituality, sensitivity, solitude, tranquility, loyalty and complex thinking. Connecting, validating the feelings of others and closing the gap between thinking, feeling, and acting can sometimes be a difficult task.
Well, I did not take a test myself. I only read the book – a clear and readable item indeed. I can recognize myself in all the languages, depending on what would be needed in a situation. Instinctively, I recognize most of my true nature in the contemplator. For work and entrepreneurship, I often end up in the mover mode. Then, I deploy what is needed: as a responder and so-called ‘empath’ empathizing with others, or as a doer being practical and task-oriented.
One of the coaches who works with Communication Intelligence in the Netherlands is Ron Brummans. I asked him about it and if my reaction is common:
“In practice, a Life Languages profile leads to a great ‘aha moment’, precisely because people cannot be reduced to a ‘color’. The positive approach, without framing, gives people space to be themselves.”
Keep working on your character
I think the best aspect about this method is that it allows us to develop character. Just look at the reports via the press or social media, and we can conclude how many cases there are in which integrity is lacking. Shocking. The most effective recognition is not only of achievements, but of character.
That sounds like a simple principle, but there are masses of organizations and ecosystems that have not been operational according to this principle for a long time. All of this while everyone really wants to be seen. I asked Brummans why.
“Most organizations look at people from a template/prepared job profile point-of-perspective and judge them accordingly. But people are not a job profile. Every person has all languages within him- or herself, but has developed a natural preference for some of the seven languages. This does not lock a person into a picture such as ‘you are blue’.”
About the book
The book speaks in character of: “good structural integrity and the ability to function under enormous pressure”. Under normal circumstances, this means doing the right thing time after time and for each situation, let alone in times of crisis. The starting point of Life Languages is that you keep working on your character. That you dare to look inside – from patterns from your youth to culture and mentality, and so on.
So, character is about more than just doing the right thing. It is about an inner compass and mindset which allows us, for example, to be honest with ourselves, to seek wise advice, to not look for volatility and popularity and to be transparent.
Communication intelligence is highly recommended as a methodology. I also really enjoyed researching my fellow humans.
The Dutch version of this article was published by Frankwatching, and a similar article by Boom Management. This article published by Boom Management might interest you as well. Same goes for this article on leadership published by Executive Finance.
Listen to the podcast on the Life Languages and integrity with Ron Brummans: