Leadership 101: Lesson 6 – Communication Styles

When was the last time you had a complete misunderstanding with a family member, co-worker, or your supervisor? Did you wonder how you got there and more importantly; what you could do to avoid misunderstanding in the future?

Understanding communication styles and situationally adjusting is a lifelong practice for me, personally and professionally. Misunderstandings, mistakes, and misinterpretations happen easily because of what and how something comes out of another’s mouth. Sometimes, we simply spew our own opinions, thoughts and or frustrations by speaking without considering how the person we are talking to consumes and processes information. The more I know, the more I realize I need to practice.

As a leader, your approach to conversations is especially important, and it is worth the time to understand your own communication style and to learn the styles and preferences of those with whom you work. Each of us and every person we encounter has their own unique communication style that has been shaped over time, not only by how the person is hard-wired, but by their upbringing and experiences.

How can you learn more about your own communication style and those of others?

There are many tools and assessments that can help you understand communication styles. My advice: keep it simple and just ask. When you start working with someone, it’s very easy to simply ask their preferred communication style, specifically, how they prefer to communicate and what they need from you to be successful in the working relationship. And you should feel free to share the same. It’s a two-way street, after all.

Here are three simple pointers that can help you navigate a conversation like this:

  1. How do you prefer to receive information?
    • Do you prefer it to be written? Do you prefer a phone call?
    • Do you prefer to have time to think about a topic before we schedule a meeting or do you like brainstorming on the fly?  Or can you do either as long as you’re clear about the context, e.g., Are we brainstorming? Are we making a decision today?
    • How do you like to have “hard” conversations, i.e., those in which you might hear less than positive information to you?
  2. What are your preferences in different settings of communication?
    • In a one-on-one setting, do you prefer someone to transmit information or do you prefer conversation?
    • What do you notice in meetings with multiple people that you find ineffective?
    • Is there a different way to communicate with you when you are stressed or under pressure?
  3. Be prepared to share your own preferences and what you need. Remember communication is a two way-street!

The next time you are in a situation where you question why someone reacted the way they did, ask yourself how the communication could have been better. Being actively engaged in a conversation is far more effective than just transmitting in an unproductive way.

Written by: Chris Ament, HR Director Consultant, ConnectedHR

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