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Matching: A Psychological Approach to Effective Communication

Jurian de Cocq van Delwijnen
Apr 23, 2024

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. You meet up with a friend or partner, and they share an experience or complain about something that happened to them. If you’re anything like me, you might offer some advice on how to deal with a similar situation next time, only to find them frustrated. They weren’t looking for advice; they just wanted to vent. In this blog, I want to share a mental model with you called “Matching,” which can help you better align with others’ needs.

Working in the role of Scrum Master, I encounter many different types of conversations. Naturally, building trust is crucial. Once established, team members come to me for advice, coaching, teaching, collaboration, venting and much more. I’ve even had someone come to me thinking they were having a heart attack and unsure what to do. Unless it’s an emergency, you can help by asking yourself “What does the other person need right now?”. Does the other person want me to help them, hear them or hug them? These three options represent different needs:

  1. Practical – For example, someone needs help or advice.
  2. Emotional – For example, someone needs to be heard, wants to vent, or is worried.
  3. Social – For example, someone needs a (figurative) hug.

After identifying one of these three different types of needs, it’s also important to determine your own needs, especially before entering a meeting or conversation. You’ll need to match the other side of the table first; otherwise you’ll have a hard time reaching your common goals. By using the principle of matching, you can meet people where they are and remove roadblocks. Let’s illustrate this with an example; Imagine you want to discuss your finances with your partner to budget for the coming period. You start with practical topics and notice their guard going up and that they’re growing frustrated. Perhaps your partner is worried that you might not be able to go on a vacation this year due to different ideas about the budget – an emotional response. In a situation like that, pushing the practical aspects won’t get you far; you need to address the emotional side first. You could do this by acknowledging your mutual desire for a vacation and explaining that it’s essential for you too. By matching the other person’s needs, you’ll soon find alignment and unblock the conversation, possibly steering back to the practical conversation you had in mind. If you instead continue to focus solely on the practical side, you won’t make much progress, as you’ll be mismatched to their needs.

So, the next time you notice misalignment, ask yourself; does the other person want me to help them, hear them or hug them? You might be surprised where it leads you!

About the author

Jurian de Cocq van Delwijnen

Senior Improvement Coach | Netherlands
Jurian is a cheerful Scrum Master with a background in Mobile App Development. Since he’s experienced the effects of good and bad processes first hand, he knows like no other how important it is to have a properly developed way of working.

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