When you want to have influence with somebody, it pays to speak their language.

The communication style that’s most natural for you might not resonate with them at all. So smart speakers, sales people and professionals adapt. We need to talk—and write—in a way that’s easy for the other person to take in if we want to persuade them.

But how are you supposed to know what that way is?

Maybe you read about the popular personality theory known as the Big Five. It helps to know yourself.

And, we can’t exactly set up a sales conversation and ask the other person to take a personality assessment, can we? (Although it would certainly make life easier if we could.)

Instead, we rely on the cues we pick up. Some of us are better at reading them than others.

  • A short, to-the-point email from a prospect suggests my reply should be equally quick and direct.
  • An attachment with tons of data makes my head swim. But it tells me the other person needs detail; I’d better provide it if I hope to persuade them of anything.
  • A chatty, sociable voicemail message is a hint that I should put on my Friendly Face before I return the call.

You might talk to a mutual acquaintance. Get some insight based on their experience with the person. Then you know you’re connecting with someone who wants to get it done yesterday. Or who can’t make a decision to save her soul. Or who needs to be flattered and admired. Tailor your communication accordingly and success is more likely.

What if you don’t know anybody who knows them?

Let me introduce you to Crystal. Crystal claims to be the world’s largest personality platform.

To flesh that out: “Our proprietary personality detection technology analyzes public data to tell you how you can expect any given person to behave, how he or she wants to be spoken to, and what you can expect your relationship to be like.”

Crystal uses the DISC construct to describe people. But of course most people haven’t gone to their website and taken the assessment.

So … they look at public information and come up with an analysis.

“This data comes from social media, articles, blogs, and other public resources and our analysis is performed by our personality detection engine (for the nerds out there, we specifically use machine learning techniques like bayesian statistical analysis and supervised neural networks to analyze writing style and other attributes).” 

You’re dying to know what that personality detection engine says about you, aren’t you?

Here’s what they tell you about me. “Catherine is a gifted communicator, prioritizes relationships, and sometimes makes decisions based solely on instinct.”

Want to communicate with me? “Catherine is naturally transparent, open, and friendly. Adopt the same attitude when working with her and you’ll immediately earn her trust.”

And if you write me an email, “Use emotionally expressive language. Appeal to my feelings to drive me to action. Use an emoticon :)”

I wouldn’t argue with any of that. But Crystal does get it wrong sometimes. The personality detection engine goofed about me in two big ways.

It actually gives people this advice: “When speaking to Catherine…Tell a few jokes.”

Aaaaarghh. Anyone who’s been out with my husband and me knows I hate jokes. (They laugh as much at my eye-rolling reaction as at the jokes themselves.) And I always say if he’d been joke-telling before we got married, it would have been a deal breaker.

So please, when speaking to me, DON’T tell a few jokes, no matter what Crystal says.

Even worse is the very first line of my profile: “consultant at Chicago Hypnosis Center.”

Seriously? Look, I’m a speaker and a communication coach and an author. Yes, you could call me a consultant. But hypnosis? That’s way in the rearview mirror. Chicago Hypnosis Center closed in 2011! I’d much prefer to be known for what I’ve been doing since then.

That doesn’t say much for the accuracy of Crystal’s profiles does it?

You can check yours at www.crystalknows.com.

Or plug in someone else’s name and Crystal will tell you how to get on their wavelength. Then come back here and post a comment and let us know how it adds up.

I can’t decide if this is a fabulous boon for business…or a creepy invasion of personal privacy.

And I’m a little concerned that Crystal is reading this and getting offended that I called her-it-them “creepy.” I don’t think I want Crystal mad at me.