Communication styles at work
Do you ever feel like you’re not on the same wavelength as someone you work with? That you don’t see eye-to-eye? That you’re not speaking the same language?
TAG and CATHERINE GOULET
[ 2008-03-14 ]
If your answer to any of these questions is "yes," you may be experiencing challenges because of different communication styles.
"It is important that you learn to vary your presentation, to vary your pace, to vary your language based on the type of people you are speaking to," says Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., co-author with Michael J. O'Connor, Ph.D., of The Platinum Rule, a book which identifies four basic communication styles that people use in business.
While the biblical "Golden Rule" advises us to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," the Platinum Rule says that the best way to connect with people and avoid conflict in business is to "Do unto others as they’d like done unto them."
In other words, if you are communicating with someone who wants to immediately get to the point, you shouldn't spend too much time trying to "warm them up" by chatting about the weather or how your weekend went.
According to the Platinum Rule, the four communication styles are based on two elements of interpersonal communication. The first is whether someone prefers to be "closed" or "open" in their communication.
People who are more closed in their communication prefer to keep their feelings private. If you are meeting with them to discuss what to do about a situation, they prefer to focus on the facts of the matter rather than opinions.
On the other hand, people who are more open in their communication like to share their feelings. When discussing something, they want to hear others' opinions and share their own, instead of focusing strictly on facts.
The other element that determines someone's preferred communication style is whether that person prefers to be "direct" or "indirect" in their communication.
People who are direct want to get to the point. They will typically do more talking and tell others what to do. When faced with conflict, they are more likely to confront someone directly to clear the air.
This is in contrast to people who prefer to be indirect. They are more easygoing in their communication and prefer to make small talk or discuss the background of a situation before getting to the point, and are more likely to ask questions and listen. Rather than confront someone, they prefer to withdraw from conflict.
While most people adapt their communication somewhat depending on who they're speaking with -- for example, most people are likely to be more open in sharing feelings with their best friend than with their boss -- Alessandra and O'Connor say most of us have a distinct preference for one of the following styles:
Directors are "firm and forceful, confident and competitive, decisive and determined risk-takers," say the authors. In an article at his website (www.alessandra.com), Alessandra says Directors prefer higher-power positions and careers where they can take charge. So you may find them in the executive offices of a large company or as boss of their own business.
You can improve your working relationship with Directors by getting to the point in your communication and telling them the bottom line. They want to know: "How much will it cost? What will I gain? When will it be done?"
Socializers are "outgoing, optimistic, enthusiastic people who like to be at the center of things," say the authors. According to Alessandra, they prefer to work in jobs "that maximize their influence with people, and where they can socialize, mingle, and gain positive feedback." So you may find them in careers from public relations to politics to party planning.
If you're dealing with a Socializer, you may find them more willing to help you achieve the results you want if you give them the opportunity to talk about themselves and share their ideas. Use their name in conversation and celebrate their successes.
Thinkers are described by the authors as "serious analytical people" who thrive on "details and discipline." According to Alessandra, Thinkers "thrive in careers in which they can strive for perfection, creativity, and completeness." Good career choices for Thinkers include engineering, accounting, architecture, and computer programming.
Thinkers often prefer to communicate in writing. If you need to make a change to something you’ve previously communicated, tell them the reasons why the change is being made. Provide detailed information and documentation whenever possible.
These workers are "genial team players ... who care greatly about relationships with others," according to the authors. They prefer careers that offer them job security and the opportunity to be part of a team, says Alessandra. This encompasses a wide variety of careers including customer service, office assistance, teaching, social work, and financial services.
If you want a Relater to go the extra mile for you, take the time to develop a friendly relationship with them. Instead of barking out an order when you need something done quickly, ask for their help to get the job done, and remember to thank them when they come through for you.
Adapting to someone else's preferred style of communicating may take some effort, but it can pay off for you in better workplace relationships and results. You can find more information about communication styles, how to identify them, and how to work with different types of communicators in the book The Platinum Rule, by Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., Michael J. O'Connor, Ph.D.
Tag and Catherine Goulet are founders of FabJob.com, a publisher of career guides offering step-by-step advice for breaking into a variety of dream careers. Visit www.FabJob.com to subscribe to their free career newsletter.