You may think you are making yourself clear, but you run the risk of being misunderstood unless you make a conscious effort to speak in a way that appeals to the way the other person thinks.
The first step to make effective communication is to know what type of communicator you are dealing with. It is important to recognize how someone communicates and to be aware of your own style.
I will be sharing a situation faced by my friend Nisha to talk more about these communication styles. In her workplace, she gives clear instructions to her team members, but they seem unhappy with her, she can’t see what she has done to offend them.
Nisha’s problem seems to be related to different communication styles. Sometimes the problem isn’t what you’re communicating but the way you’re doing it. People have different communication styles. And it might be that yours doesn’t match with your colleague’s.
I decided to solve Nisha’s problem. I took help from the research work done by communication specialist Mark Murphy who breaks down communication into four fundamental styles – Functional, Analytical, Intuitive, and Personal.
I created a questionnaire to identify these 4 communication styles and then tried to map these styles with Nisha and her team members:
The First set of questions are
1. Do you value processes and procedures
2. Do you like to work with timelines and milestones
3. Do you have lot of questions
Nisha jumped up, “Oh, this is Praveen, my database manager” he behaves exactly like this.
So, Praveen has functional communication style
Functional communicator is someone who likes to get deep into the details. Someone who likes to understand how everything works.
How to tailor your communication with a functional communicator? Practice active listening. Be prepared for them to point out something you missed and allow them time to triple-check details. Give specific timelines and milestones for projects.
Nisha admitted her mistake in communicating with Praveen. She was taking Praveen’s criticism and feedback too strongly and thought that he is unnecessarily asking questions and wasting the team’s time. Whereas all this while he was trying to help himself by getting more details about the project.
Next set of questions:
4. Do you often use numbers to support your ideas
5. Do u get frustrated when conversations go off-topic
6. Do u need time to think about decisions
This time Nisha didn’t jump but was smiling mischievously - this one is you Anju
Alright point taken, I have Analytical communication style
Analytical Communicators like direct conversation. They have little patience for emotional words and feelings when communicating. When you tell them sales are down, they want to know how much, as in a specific percentage.
How to tailor your communication with analytical thinker? Get straight to the point. Make your expectations clear. Give them time to think of the pros and cons of a possible choice.
Don’t get offended when they don’t want to spend time chatting about what they did on the weekend during the work meetings
So, Nisha, let’s not waste time and straightway move to the Next set of questions:
7. Do new ideas and innovation excites you
8. Do you dislike getting into lot of details
9. Do you prefer to use visuals when communicating
Nisha was nodding her head vigorously and taking name “Shruti, my tech lead”
So, Shruti had Intuitive communication style
Intuitive communicators prefer a more casual, big-picture approach to convey their points. Details aren’t as important to them and they prefer out-of-the-box thinking.
How to work with an intuitive communicator? Stay on topic; keep the discussions brief and to the point, Use visual aids if possible. Focus on the end result of the task at hand and leave out any unnecessary details.
Nisha added she was trying to give all the details to Shruti to help her with the tasks, but she observed that Shruti lose interest and focus. And now she understands why this was happening.
Last set of questions:
10. Are you a good listener
11. Do you tend to play a role of mediator in any conflict
12. Do you prioritize people’s feeling when making a decision
We both spoke together, and this is Nisha. She has personal communication style
Personal communicator is a people person. Their goal is to connect with people and understand how they’re feeling – they’re the ones who are always smoothing over workplace disagreements.
How to Work with a personal communicator: Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t feel too pressured to get to the point. Keep your tone casual and authentic—professional, but not overly formal.
Don’t provide too much of detailed numbers to back up your point. Let them express their emotion and ideas even if they are non-work related
So now we have a good understanding of each of these communication styles as well as how to adapt our communication according to each style.
Murphy says “No one communication style is inherently better than another. But picking the wrong style for a particular audience, shuts down listening and can spell trouble. Learning to build flexibility around your preferred style allows others to more successfully hear the important things you need to communicate."
This tailored communication with her team members has helped Nisha immensely in setting up a harmonious workplace.
Understanding different communication styles and paying attention to which styles our teammates gravitate toward, can improve our interpersonal skills, build trust, and help us get more done with less frustration.
Remember the first rule of effective communication: The success of the communication is the responsibility of the communicator. And for that you need to Know Thyself and others.