Is Your Communication Style Getting The Job Done?
The way in which you communicate is as personal as your thumbprint. Unlike a thumbprint, however, it also affects how you interact with others. And at work, it’s especially important to make sure that your communication style isn’t holding you back.
Some communication styles are more compatible than others. Two people with very different communication styles may perceive one another negatively. Perhaps one is too abrupt, or the other is too wishy-washy, or maybe a ‘venter’ is seen as aggressive while they regard an appeaser as disingenuous.
The trick is to understand your own communication style and to be able to identify those around you. Once you realise why other people are communicating as they do, it’s easier to adjust for those differences and work together for a more harmonious work environment.
Here are four common communication types, and how to adjust them to work better with others.
1. The ‘venter’
Venters like to blow off steam. They might raise their voice and they’re likely to cover a range of topics in one communication, making it difficult to identify the most important part.
The danger for venters is that people can dismiss what they’re trying to say as just another outburst, when in fact there is a legitimate point that’s getting lost in the bluster. If you’re a venter, it’s a good idea to stop before you start, ask yourself what you’re hoping the other person will hear, and try and focus on that. If necessary, do some breathing exercises to make sure you’re calm and your voice doesn’t get too loud.
If you work with a venter, especially if they’re your boss, the important thing is to make sure they feel heard. Sometimes, expressions of anger can be an attempt to get people to take notice when you’re not sure they will pay attention to you otherwise. Maintain eye contact, and when they’re finished, acknowledge what they’ve said. “I hear that you’re frustrated about this,” is a good initial script. Follow up with, “So can I check that the most critical thing is that we [action],” to redirect the conversation to a tangible outcome.
2. The ‘justifier’
Justifiers like to explain their reasoning as they go, often adding in tangents and background information. To a non-justifier, it can be frustrating to listen to because it seems as if the justifier will never get to the point. To the justifier themselves, however, they’re providing all the information necessary to back themselves up so that their listener will be more persuaded that the approach is correct.
The justifier and the venter are similar in that neither are confident that they’ll be listened to and respected without the extra ‘help’. If that’s you, consider what’s driving that belief and how you can change it. Communication that is backed by self-belief will always be more powerful, and leadership at any level depends on conveying authority with your words.
If you’re working with or for a justifier, mirroring back what they’ve said is a powerful tool to mitigate the behaviour. And like the venter, asking them to then pinpoint the most important takeaway from their conversation gives you a way to move forward.
3. The ‘get it done’
The ‘get it done’ communicator neither vents nor justifies, but gets straight to the point. That might sound like a relief, but sometimes getting straight to the point can go too far. For most people, some softening is necessary around message delivery or it can be received as extremely abrupt. ‘Get it done’ communicators are often so focused on the message itself that they forget to consider the recipient.
If your boss asks you to do something, and you lack the context or background for the request, it’s trickier to fulfil it properly. Likewise, if you’re a manager and asking an employee for a status on their project, you’re usually looking for something more than “it’s fine”.
If you tend towards the ‘get-it-done’ model, the good news is that it’s easier to modify this style than some others. Pay attention to your tone and leave space for the listener to ask clarifying questions.
4. The ‘hinter’
In direct contrast to the get-it-done stands the hinter. In this scenario, one may never know what they’re trying to convey at all! Hinters are usually seeking to employ communication techniques that persuade others to think something is their own idea. Done well, this can be very persuasive, as almost all of us are more likely to engage with a concept that we feel we’ve helped develop.
Not handled well, though, the hinter runs the risk of not being understood at all. That, in turn, leads to frustration for the other party, who is stuck trying to guess what’s required of them.
If you’re a hinter and your goal is to engage the other person, try being clearer about it. Say “We need to achieve this goal – what do you think would help?”
Do you identify with one of these communication styles? Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but being self-aware as to your style and what you can do to refine it is the first step to being a more effective communicator.
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Kate Nasser, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Atlassian.