By Rick Smith, originally published July 2014 by PondTrade Magazine, view the article on

The Roundtable

It is in the first five minutes of a conversation that we have to establish rapport and trust. Understanding what influences good communication and being able to quickly adjust naturally to each personality type will greatly contribute to a mutually positive outcome — and, in the case of a sales call, greatly increase our rate of success.

If asked, most of us would say that effective communications would depend largely on the words we speak. But studies show that is simply not true. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we have become trained to respond more to tonality and to pick up on every subtle movement of body language. In fact, tonality and body language together contribute a whopping 93 percent of how we communicate with each other.

Seven Percent Spoken

The words we speak account for only seven percent of what we communicate. But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. For the most effective communication, the words we use should change to mirror the personality type of the person we want to communicate with. For example: the vocabulary and communication style used by a business executive who thinks in terms of detailed business plans would be very different from those of an artist who is focused on how best to express feelings and emotions. It is extremely important to be able to “mirror” the style and vocabulary of those with whom you are communicating — i.e., a driver personality, an analytical personality, an amiable personality or an expressive personality.

How we speak those words, or tonality, accounts for 38 percent of what we communicate. How many times have we heard the adage, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? Each personality type connects with your message best when the tone, inflection and pace of communication match up with their communication style as well. For example: a driver personality will want to get to the point quickly in a very business- like manner and may have rapid-fire questions, expecting quick, business-like answers in order to come to a decision. On the other hand, if you do that with an amiable or expressive personality, you will totally fail to connect.

Body language accounts for over 55 percent of what we communicate. And here’s a helpful tip: body language is always linked to one’s attitude. My mother, who was a professional banker, told me many times to “Stand straight, look ‘em in the eye, communicate with conviction and smile. Oh, and polish those shoes.” Great advice, because no matter which personality type you are communicating with, positive body language contributes to good communication.

The Eyes Have It

With good eye contact you will be able to read real-time emotions and make necessary adjustments on the fly. Watch the eyes. Is the person you’re speaking with making positive contact with you, supporting what you are saying? Or are they frowning or squinting and looking away because they are in deep thought or uncomfortable with your message? If their eyes are looking up and away, they might be trying to visualize. However, if the eyes are down and away, they are usually analyzing information and in deep thought. Are the corners of the mouth turned up in agreement and excitement? Or are they turned down, saying, “I’m not with you yet”? And if you see the jaw muscles tighten, well, just know that you’ve hit a nerve or they are becoming frustrated.

Learn a New Language

Reading a good book on body language is not only fun, but very helpful. Once you have a complete understanding of how to read body language, it’s like listening to someone speak about you in a foreign language when they don’t think you know what they are saying. How cool is that?

Understanding what influences good communications is only half of the equation. The other half, which is equally important, is to possess a working understanding of the four basic personality types. Each personality type addresses communications differently with regards to how they process information, the words they use, the level of emotion expressed, the rate of speech and what makes them reach a decision. Thus, next time we will take a look at how best to communicate with each of the four basic personality types: The Driver, the Analytical, the Expressive and the Amiable.

Wishing you the best of success.

Rick SmithRick Smith serves as Director of Sales with EasyPro Pond Products and has over 30 years of organizational leadership and sales and marketing experience in the Lawn & Garden Nursery and Water Features Industries.  Prior to coming to EasyPro, Rick served as Sales and Marketing Manager of the retail division for J. Mollema & Son (a large mid-west lawn & garden distributor supplying independent garden centers nurseries, growers, and landscapers). He also spent 12 years with The Scotts Company working with independent business owners as well as regional and national chains.  

For the past 20 years, water gardening has been one of Rick’s passions, while enjoying his own ponds and fish, Rick has had a focus on contributing to the enjoyment of other pond owners, as well as the success of business owners,  by developing customized business plans, sales support material, and numerous power point training seminars. 

Rick has appeared in various business trade publications both as an interviewee and as a contributing author. In addition, Rick has conducted seminars at trade shows, county extension services and Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park as well as retail staff training and public seminars on lawn & garden, wild birds, and water gardening topics.