Recently, I worked with a client who was having a problem with some of the women in her organization. The organization had just undergone major changes, which resulted in different reporting relationships for many of the women. The problem was that the women were having trouble effectively communicating with their new bosses.
Before the changes, the women were able to work with their supervisors very successfully. They and their supervisors shared similar communication styles, so they complemented each other quite well. However, when the women were reassigned, their communication styles differed dramatically from those of their new supervisors. Instead of being able to get along with their new bosses, they experienced a lot of conflict every time they spoke to them.
What happened? Why were these women who were so successful in dealing with one type of person having so much trouble dealing with a different type of person? It is because the communication styles no longer matched and when styles don’t match, problems are almost certain to develop. (One point worth mentioning – while we are talking about women in this situation, this problem occurs equally as often with men if they mismatch the people with whom they are communicating).
Many of us make a critical mistake when we interact with others. We believe that everyone perceives the world the same way we do. This assumption can lead to strained relationships, conflict, or worse. People are different and while we may find a large number of people who are like us, we will find an even greater number of people who are not like us.
People make unconscious decisions about whether or not they feel comfortable with us. If our styles of communicating are like theirs, we can usually develop rapport with them easily. However, if our styles are very different from theirs, they feel an unconsciousness sense of tension whenever we are around. Tension between people usually does not lead to successful interactions.
To be champion communicators, we need to change our approach to match the specific style of each individual we wish to influence. This is a powerful way to get people to feel comfortable with us; when people are comfortable with us, they are more willing to be open to what we have to say. There are four major communication styles. While everyone has some of each style incorporated into his or her own unique personality, each of us has a predominant style.
Amiables – Are very cooperative, they get along with others, they are self-controlled, systematic, stable, patient, perseverant, accommodating, and logical. They are motivated by feeling secure, being part of a team, and feeling appreciated. They dislike conflict, taking risks and change.
Analyticals - Are rational, detail oriented, organized, unemotional, process-oriented, logical, and cautious. They are motivated by being right, doing things themselves, and being noticed for their accuracy. They dislike aggressiveness, conflict, or being forced to make quick decisions.
Drivers - Are aggressive, impatient, and results oriented. They are motivated by being in control, being number one, having personal choices, fast actions, and change. They dislike details, long drawn out conversations, and not being in charge.
Expressives - Are friendly, talkative, emotional, optimistic, people oriented, and enthusiastic. They are motivated by being liked, having fun, being noticed, and receiving approval. They dislike conflict, details, and focusing only on the business at hand.
When you recognize someone’s predominant style (especially if it differs from your own), use that style when communicating with him or her. Going back to our example with the women who were reassigned, most of them used an amiable approach, which is somewhat slow paced. However, most of their new supervisors were drivers who wanted information quickly and succinctly. After learning about different communication styles, the women used a quicker, more results oriented approach with their bosses and they were able to work together successfully.
A champion is someone who can be successful no matter what the circumstances. By adopting a chameleon communication strategy, you can change your style to match the person you are with and then you can be a champion too.
Della Menechella is a speaker, author, and trainer who helps organizations achieve greater success by improving the performance of their people. She is a contributing author to Thriving in the Midst of Change and the author of the videotape The Twelve Commandments of Goal Setting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Subscribe to free Peak Performance Pointers e-zine - send blank e-mail to email@example.com .