Isabel García is a communication expert and with her new book “I can also do it differently” she is declaring war on simple stereotyped thinking in communication models. We’re not just red, blue, yellow, or green types, and not just introverted or extroverted. We are more versatile, think and communicate differently in various situations. In the book, she describes her communication model for the first time, which she has been using successfully in training courses and seminars for years. In the interview, I asked Isabel what the four elementary communication types are and how managers, employees, and applicants, in particular, can use this model for their communication.
Dear Isabel, please introduce yourself.
Isabel García: I’ve been dealing with the subject of voice, communication and rhetoric since I was 14 years old. I’ve worked as a singing teacher, as a radio presenter, I’m a graduate speaker, bestselling author, communications expert and now 46 years old.
Another book on communication? There is already plenty of advice. Why was it important to you to write this book, and who should read it?
Isabel García: Just yesterday I gave a training session for my model and shining eyes looked at me and said: “That something for everyone. For pupils, for managers, for private use, simply for everyone!”
And that’s true. Why was it important to me to write a book about it? Because I wasn’t satisfied with the previous ones. Too much pigeonhole thinking and little opportunity for efficient further development. Since I know from years of experience that my model is incredibly successful, I have now finally published a book about it.
In addition to Mr. Stegmann, four superheroes play the central role in your communication model. Who are they, and what are their superpowers?
Isabel García: As a metaphor, I created the following types of communication: the earth and fire superman and the air and water superwoman. Four superheroes slumbering in each of us, just waiting to be lived out. I show their strengths and their weaknesses. And if, for example, you often leave the lead to a superhero who keeps you running into the same communicative dead ends, with my model you have the option of simply activating another superhero who will solve the problem.
I firmly believe that each of us has every type of communication within us. We just don’t live out all of them. We could, but often we don’t. And I show a way how everyone can activate every type of communication in themselves and use them in a targeted manner.
What do employees get if they know that their boss is a “fire guy”, for example?
Isabel García: Then they understand why he always wants to be right, can’t listen, has to be the center of attention and never admits a mistake. The fire goes out if you don’t add firewood. A fire guy dies if he doesn’t get attention. If he listens, then he is not the focus and dies. If he admits a mistake, he will no longer be admired, and he will die. If he moves into the second row, he dies.
Employees could see that their boss isn’t doing it because he doesn’t like them, but because he can’t help it at the moment. I’ll show you how to best deal with it so that it doesn’t burden you so much. Just like you can talk to him when he’s on fire. But since everyone has all four superheroes in them, you could also wait until your boss changes elements and only then discuss important topics with him.
How do I find out for myself whether I am more fire, air, water, or earth?
Isabel García: First: By reading the book “I can do it differently”. Second: By practicing the gestures that I present in the book and the videos accompanying the book. The book is the theory and many cannot imagine that it can be that simple. Only when you have tried it will you feel for yourself how easy it is, how simple and how effective.
You combine the 4 elements with 6 gestures. What’s that about?
Isabel García: I need the gestures for classical conditioning. The gestures are interpreting, interior space, doubt, antipathy, sympathy, and neutral. Even with the sympathy gesture, you can feel sympathy, not because but even though someone is standing in front of you whom you do not like. With antipathy, you can resolutely say no if someone tries to push your work on you again. With Neutral, you can put on a confident poker face, with interpret you to show a strong interest in others and with the interior gesture you manage to conduct a compassionate employee interview yourself as an emotionless chunk.
I break these six gestures through the four elements. As soon as you practice this, you will clearly feel the respective strengths and weaknesses of an element on your own body. And if you are a choleric (fire) and then know that you no longer argue appreciatively and objectively in conflicts, then just go into the ground. After the classical conditioning, you only need to think of a gesture and/or an element, and you will immediately have the right mood. In the body, in the voice, in the facial expressions, and the choice of words.
In videos for the book, you show how we can practice these gestures. Isn’t that something for actors on stage and anything but authentic in real life?
Isabel García: It looks the same at first glance. I am aware of that. My model is based on an acting model, but I have taught it to bone-dry executives who showed me a bird at the beginning, but after a few days and weeks no longer have an important conversation without this powerful tool. Yes, it’s silly at first, but it’s one of the most powerful rhetoric tools I know.
Many applicants are afraid of the interview. How can they use your communication model for themselves?
Isabel García: In the Elementary Communication Types I explain the strengths and weaknesses of each superhero. In job interviews, we often unconsciously use the air superwoman. It’s helpful in many aspects of life, but not in an interview. Because the air speaks without periods and commas, can be easily confused, thereby telling things that it didn’t even want to say, has an uncertain body language and a high, uncertain voice.
I would advise the earth superman. Because the earth radiates calm. Earth speaks only when there is an equal sign in front of the sentence. This makes the earth look incredibly strong, confident, and convincing. When you have practiced the gestures with the elements in earth, then you only need to think about the earth and can activate all of these strengths in you. Without acting. Because when you activate something that is already in you, it has nothing to do with acting.
I also have many executives among my readers on this blog. What are you observing in management communication today, and what should managers do differently?
Isabel García: I often see that male and female executive mainly work their way up with the supposedly strong superheroes. With the fire and earth superman. Both elements embody high status and they exude strength. High status means that you stand securely, have an upright posture, look at the person you are talking to with a steady look, the handshake is equally determined, your body language is great and your voice is powerful. You can do this with both earth and fire. But the two elements are not connecting. That means you lose touch with the grassroots. To the team. To the employees who make the company so particularly valuable.
There are many situations in which it would make sense to use the elements air and water. Because air stands for curiosity and lightness. The air is interested in other people and opinions and also likes to be in the second row. Luft is a team player and thinks less about me and more about us. The team is also important to the water because they like harmony. She is incredibly empathetic and has an open ear for everyone. You can cultivate relationships with air and water. With fire and earth, you are a sovereign pack leader, but who is out of reach on a pedestal.
I’ve seen some executives fail because they only focused on the high status (fire/earth) and completely ignored the low status (air/water). You can recognize the low status from the fact that someone likes to stand in the second row, that his opinion is not more important to him than that of the other person, that he speaks more quietly, rather lowers his head, has a restless stance and the shoulders a little forward drops. That doesn’t seem so convincing, but these people are part of the team. Therefore, both low and high status are important for a manager.
Managers could go into low status more often, step into the second row and leave the discussion to the employee with his or her opinion. You could be genuinely curious about what the employee has to say in order to come to eye level and thus into a lower status.
Finally, a look into the crystal ball: What do you think will communication look like in a professional context in 10 years? What has changed up to then?
Isabel García: I think we will have more women in management. And not because of the women’s quota, but because our society tends more and more towards relationship thinking and is increasingly saying goodbye to hierarchical thinking. We can only see this in a few companies at the moment, but I’m sure it will spread more and more.
You can easily get into a relationship thinking with the elements of water and air. With the supposedly weak elements. It’s the feminine parts in each of us: women and men. They ensure closeness, a good relationship.