Have you ever had one of those conversations where in the end you both realize you were saying the exact same thing but in entirely different ways? This happened to me and it took a third party to explain it in a way that made it clear to both of us. I feel like that happens a lot, especially when you have many different personalities working on the same project. This experience reminded me of a time when I was in Toastmasters and we had to do a speech on understanding communication styles.
Toastmasters broke down the various communication styles into four easy-to-understand groups: Initiating, Analytical, Direct and Supportive. There are infinite books and articles on communication styles that explain them differently, but this version stuck with me because the names are so self-explanatory. Also, I feel like you don’t necessarily need to take a test to realize your style.
Here are the identifying points for each one:
- Talks more than listens
- Results and goal-oriented
- Motivated by challenges
- Difficulty making decisions
- Dislikes change
- Good listener
Now, ask yourself: After reading those four styles, do any of them stand out? For instance, do you find yourself in situations where all you care about are the results and you are very decisive with the people you are talking to? Or are you always enthusiastic and want to talk talk talk in conversations? Everyone has a dominant style of communication that they naturally fall into.
Again, you can take a test online, but typically you can identify with one style just by looking at these lists. The trick is to determine what you are, identify what someone else is, and then adapt your style based on who you are communicating with.
Why is this important? Because simply put, we are communicating with people all day every day (both professionally and personally). Not only can it help build relationships and bring efficiencies to projects, but people are genuinely happier and feel more understood when you can adapt to their style. Being a project manager, I am involved with many different groups of people who all communicate very differently. If I know what style they are, I can help bridge gaps between the groups and help phrase things differently so everyone can understand the end goal or ask.
What style are you? What style are your coworkers or friends? Start to recognize them and see if you can help build your relationships by communicating differently.