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The art of human to human interaction

"I recognise that as a ‘traditional’ estate agent, we need to play to our strengths and ensure we raise the level of the customer experience. Communication skills are right at the forefront and I wonder if you can give me a few tips on how I might coach my team to higher standards in this area?”

Julian O'Dell

Communication image

JULIAN SAYS: To fend off new ‘self-service’ types of competition, traditional ‘full service’ agents must recognise that the human to human interactions are probably the most important area to focus on and communication skills are the main tool that can be employed to enhance those interactions from the customer/client perspective.

Julian O'Dell imageQuestioning, listening, body language and suchlike all play their part but another key element to add to your armoury of communication skills is knowledge of something called ‘filters.’

Filters are our preferred way in which we take information in and give information out.

As we mature and develop as children and adults we develop an individual preference for how we like to communicate. The names of some of these filters may seem odd but they are a useful insight into why we are sometimes not as successful at communication as we would wish.


The first two filters to consider are ‘chunking filters’. They refer to the amount of information we prefer to take in or give out at any one time.

Some people are ‘big chunkers’, they relate to the big picture, seek the end goal… do too much at once.

Some people have a strong ‘big chunking filter’. These people tend to relate to the big picture, to look towards the end result or goal, to spend less time on individual tasks but rather to do many tasks at once.

Invariably feel they have received enough information and have provided enough detail to the people they are communicating with. You can often see them start to nod and say phrases such as “yep yep yep” as they lose interest. They often talk in terms of generalisations rather than specifics, sometimes they can appear disorganised and people with a big chunking filter tend to be ‘visual’ in the sense they like diagrams or one page mind maps rather than lists.

Quite often they are easily bored, they will often be seen doodling at meetings as their interest diminishes… or the details they take on properties on valuation appointments may be rather sketchy and have to be revisited later.

Very often they will have information in their heads but will not format it in a way which everyone else can understand or for example complete notes on the computer system in the office.

If you have a strong big chunking filter you need to be aware of the affect it may have on customers or colleagues.


Other people could be defined as having a more influential ‘small chunking filter’. People with a bias towards a small chunking filter likes to get more information, and focus on the detail. They are the sort of customers who read your terms and conditions or agency agreement thoroughly. They want to make sure every phrase in their property details is correct.

They are the sort of applicants who ask searching, detailed questions on a viewing.

People with a strong small chunking filter like to analyse information thoroughly, because they tend to be more logical and rational. They tend to ask lots of questions. Of course this could be quite irritating to someone with a strong big chunking filter!

People with a small chunking filter also tend to make detailed lists and tick off tasks as they are completed, they also tend to spend more time on individual tasks and will be more ‘serial’, being happy to deal with no more than three tasks at once. However small chunkers can appear more organised than big chunkers… a good clue is to look at their desk… to see what state it is in!

Small chunkers tend to be more sequential in the way they view tasks and activity they tend to visualise each stage rather than simply the end result. And finally, small chunkers can be more ‘associated’ in the sense of being more concerned with the people around them and what is happening now.

Big chunkers can often be more ‘disassociated’ and concerned with their own thoughts rather than being aware of others.


These characteristics are of course are fairly wide generalisations and we will all have elements of both filters but are often stronger in one of them in our behaviour, natural style and responses.

The best salespeople recognise their own preferred style but, most importantly, realise that they must identify the preferred style of their customers and clients and subsequently adjust their own style to suit the different people they are communicating with. Failure to do so totally pulls the rug from under the service experience.

There are other communication filters beyond those discussed here and every one of us has our own unique blend that massively influences how we prefer to communicate. As Tony Robbins said, “To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

February 6, 2018