Watch your Language - 4 key approaches to get your message across.


Eugene Fernandez

I recently completed a series of coaching sessions with General Managers using a personality-based instrument to help them gain further insight into people’s strengths and preferences.

I was encouraging Rob one of the GM’s to utilise LinkedIn as a means to grow his network and as an opportunity to spreadhis influence.  Rob is quietly spoken, thoughtful, logical and extremely analytical - his response was that it was a waste of time. He stated  ‘the times when I log on I am bombarded with articles usually about 7 ways to do things followed by a few paragraphs of general waffle’. He went on to say that ‘my time is better used on more constructive activities’.

In contrast Toni who works as a colleague of Rob’s, uses LinkedIn as a means to stay in touch with her network, reads the articles, interacts within a number of forums and has received useful suggestions to some of the issues she was seeking help on. She stated that ‘I have picked up excellent ideas to try back at work and have made a number of contacts, whom I have since connected with face to face. I even connected with key staff from other divisions within our global business’. Toni is gregarious, open, strategic, communicative and interested in people and ideas.

 Having only just started writing articles on LinkedIn, I thought that my recent conversations with Rob, Toni and the other managers offered useful insights into better ways to communicate to people who clearly have different preferences and needs. 

 I focus on 4 approaches to language, which will assist you to better target your communication both on LinkedIn and within the workplace. 

 The four approaches to Language are clustered under: Head, Heart, Sky and Ground.

 I’ll start with People who prefer Sky language, because I am one of them.

Language of the Sky

The language of the Sky employs some or all of the following - big picture focus, imaginative, abstract, strategic, theoretical, models and frameworks. Futures frameworks, strategic thinking and vision are also located here.

 If I were using this approach, I would say something like:

This article expands on the strategic benefits you will gain by adopting the 4 approaches to language. The 4 approaches draw on frameworks associated with MBTI, HBDI, NLP …

 People who have a preference for Sky language may be attracted to LinkedIn because of the opportunity to access different ideas and strategies.

 Note that Sky language is unlikely to appeal to Rob and attract his attention. It may appeal to Toni who is interested in the strategic dimension, though Sky language is likely to be her secondary preference.

 Marshall Goldsmiths article ‘The Secret to Becoming the Person You Want to Be’ is a good example of Sky Language as he provides a conceptual framework of the wheel of change - To date he has over 20 thousand people viewing his article on LinkedIn.

Language of the Heart  

The Language of the heart is my secondary preference and possibly Toni’s first.  Heart language employs stories and narratives about people. Associated words and concepts include: empathetic, tender, accepting, feelings, journey, values, beliefs, relationships, I, me, you, and us.

This language also appeals to the senses, i.e. smell, taste, texture, sight etc.   The first few paragraphs of this article are an example of Heart language as I attempt to communicate via a story with characters and emotion.

Real stories about overcoming personal adversity, beating the odds, striving for success and becoming the local hero appeal to most people but it resonates deeply with people who prefer the language of the heart. 

Organisational Strategy and Change which is usually the domain of the ‘Sky and Head’ is infused with meaning, purpose and values when it connects with the heart. This is where story, metaphor and conjoint exploration (our journeying together) acts as a multiplier and unifier.

Read 'The power of failure by Shawn Callahan’

Grounded Language

This is possibly one of Rob’s preferences.  

Grounded language is: Concrete, realistic, practical, traditional, sequential and data intensive. People are interested in the relevant detail without too much embellishment and dare I say it the warm and fuzzy stuff. They are interested in gaining practical benefit and may also want proof of its implementation and whether it worked or not.  

The 7-step article I earlier alluded to needs to get into more detail with practical examples to keep Rob’s complete attention.  

Grounded language is unlikely to appeal to Toni, as it rarely includes emotions or relationships.

This is where strategy translates to real action, where the rubber meets the road, where you get down in the trenches and dig for those nuggets. Operational/ Work unit plans and action strategies are the foundational stones that support the lofty vision. 

See the article on the changing nature of the worker as an example of Grounded language. 

Language of the Head

This is definitely Rob’s preference.  

Words associated with the language of the Head include: Logical, analytical, principle based, critical, focused, goal oriented, striving for objectivity, detached, tough, if this then that, third person and very rarely first person.  

Business oriented case studies would appeal with examples of decisive leadership and rational decision-making.  

Focus on: strategies employed, outcomes achieved and impact on business or industry. Back this up with figures and graphs but not too much detail. 

Values and Vision now drive the language of 'Mission’ and Broad objectives. Many senior executives leave it here, however for real potency it needs to connect to the language of the Heart.

An example of Head language is: The Great Customer Experience Scam by Rick Conlow. 

And Why Businesses Need To Think More Like Buffett by Sir Martin Sorrell 


In my experience people have a mixture of preferences, for example my preference is certainly the Sky and Heart, though I have learned to appreciate and employ the other approaches - To survive in a business environment you need to demonstrate that you can employ the ‘Head’.  

When communicating be aware of the approach you prefer and consciously employ the other approaches, this will ensure that you connect with a broader audience.  

The 4 approaches to language and this article are copyright to Eugene Fernandez. You are free to use it as long as you acknowledge the author and source.