Over the past weeks I've worked with a small team to deliver the first examination task of my studies. In doing so, I rediscovered how much fun it can be to work in a team with very different, very smart and very interesting people.
This is the second part of a series of articles about rediscovering team work and the quirks of communication...
Different styles of communication...
It is widely recognized that there are four basic styles of communication:
The passive communication style is often used by those who want to come off as indifferent about the topic at hand. They either keep their opinions to themselves or try to make it seem as if they support every piece of input in the discussion.
Aggressive communication is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Aggressive communicators openly express their opinions without hesitation, often in a loud and controlling voice. When speaking aggressively, people may make intense eye contact, point fingers, and stand their ground.
The passive-aggressive communication style brings both of those styles together for another form of ineffective communication. This style is used when people speak as if they don’t care about something (passive), but in a way that is indirectly angry (aggressive).
Of all the communication styles, the assertive version is thought to be the most effective. Assertive communicators express their thoughts in a polite manner that is considerate of other people’s opinions. They respect all values, thoughts, and ideas, and speak in a calm voice while making non-threatening eye contact.
You can "use" these different styles of communication to reach a certain goal, but in general, everyone has a specific tendency in regards to how they express themselves. This might change slightly due to the context you find yourself in.
Four more (important) styles...
In addition to the above mentioned styles I would like to share a different cluster of characteristics that are even harder to change or manipulate. I like to call them the "Communicator Styles".
There's the analytical communicator, the intuitive communicator, the functional communicator and the personal communicator. You can easily recognize what type of communicator you encounter by the terms and phrases and even single words that a communicator of a certain type uses almost exclusively.
An analytical communicator likes data, numbers, and they tend to be suspicious of people who aren’t in command of the facts. They typically like very specific language. For example, when someone tells them ‘Sales are positive!’ they’re likely to think ‘What does positive mean? 5.2% or 8.9%? Give me a number!’ And those with an analytical communication style often have little patience for lots of feeling and emotional words in communication. The analytical communicator often uses words and phrases like "matter of fact", "detail oriented", "accuracy", "numbers, data, facts", etc...
If you have to work with an analytical communicator, try to:
Provide as much detail upfront as possible
Set clear expectations
Give them space to work independently
Turning the conversation emotional, i.e. use “I know” or “I think” rather than “I feel”
Framing feedback on their work - especially data-heavy work - as criticism
The intuitive communicator, also known as the driven communicator, likes the big picture, they avoid getting bogged down in details and cut right to the chase. They don’t need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that lets them easily skip right to the end point. For example, some people, like functional communicators, will explain things step-by-step (they start with A, then go to B, then C, then D, then E, etc.). But this can drive the intuitive communicator nuts - they'd rather jump right to Z. An intuitive communicator often uses words and phrases like "the bottom line", "the big picture", etc..
When working with an intuitive communicator, try to:
Stick to the main topic and keep it high-level
Be prepared to answer follow-up questions
Keep details to a minimum - you can always follow up with these in an email after the conversation so they can reference back later on
Too many details
Taking their approach personally - they’re just doing what feels right to them
Making too big promises - they’ll latch onto the big picture and ignore the details of how hard it might be to pull off
A functional communicator likes process, detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. They like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion so nothing gets missed - unlike the above mentioned intuitive communicator. Functional communicators typically think about all the important bits of information the intuitive person is potentially missing. You'll catch the functional communicator using words and phrases like "on time", "timeline/deadline", "one by one", "schedule/plan", etc. more often than others.
If you encounter a functional communicator, try to:
Practice “active listening” and clarify what you've heard by repeating and paraphrasing what they’ve said and ask follow-up questions
Expect them to ask for details and rough timelines even if you’re just brainstorming
Rushing them to get to the end or make a decision
Assume they support an idea 100% - their criticism or feedback will often be on the steps, not the overall strategy
The personal communicator, also called social communicator values emotional language and connection, and uses that as a mode of discovering what others are really thinking. They find value in assessing not just how people think, but how they feel. Personal communicators tend to be good listeners and diplomats. They can smooth over conflicts, and they're typically concerned with the health of their numerous relationships. A personal communicator often uses words and phrases that elicit a positive atmosphere and tries to understand how everybody around them is thinking and feeling about a certain topic.
When talking to a personal communicator, try to:
Keep conversations light and casual
Not get offended if they ask how something made you “feel” or make a strictly work conversation personal
Follow up with important details and information by email after the meeting (they probably won’t focus on it too much during your initial conversation)
Talking down to them or being overly pessimistic (they pick up on “vibes" more than others)
Try to contain the conversation to just stats and facts
Pressure them to do a deep dive into the details with you
Finding out that these styles have some very distinct characteristics, understanding and using them has helped me a great deal to engage with people that I don't know, even without seeing them, just by listening carefully to a few sentences in a professional context. This might be slightly harder in a non-professional context - but you'll figure it out...