Dealing with different communication styles in the workplace

Do you feel you are often talking at cross purposes with your colleagues?

Have you experienced your reports reacting to your input in a confrontational way when you weren’t expecting it?

Or do you find that your managers don’t seem to understand the importance of the message that you’re trying to deliver?

Executive Coach Exchange communication unsplash pixabayThe significance of different communication styles in the workplace has been extensively discussed, but is easy to overlook at an individual, in-the-moment level when you really need to get your message across.

There are several useful diagnostic tools for communication styles, including this questionnaire from TP3 and this one from The Vantage Point. These can assist you in analysing your own communication style, but the issue of how to work well with colleagues with different styles can still present a challenge.

TP3 notes that it’s important not to use your communication style as an excuse not to interact as effectively as possible with colleagues who have different styles. This can be a challenge, especially for new managers who may be prone to thinking, “This is my style and my reports need to adapt to it”.

So, how can you address this issue?

Mark Goulston wrote this useful article giving some detailed, CBT-style suggestions on how to listen to colleagues when your communication styles don’t match. He points out , “… many of us see our conversational counterparts as lecturing, belaboring, talking down to us, or even shaming us (if we are venters and they are explainers) or as invasive, out of control, and overly emotional (if we’re an explainer and they’re a venter).”

The Harvard Business Review contributed these suggestions on how to work out, and work with, a manager’s communication style. The article recommends specific, explicit communications that take account of the manager’s communication style – including whether the manager may prefer a written report to a detailed conversation – in order to communicate effectively.

For managers, it’s important to remember that effective communication can help you get the best from your team. This article by Rosalind Cardinal points out that “managers with the most flexibility in style get the best outcomes from their people”.

An executive coach can help you tailor your own communication style to your colleagues’, and also work with you to understand, rather than merely react to, your colleagues’ different communication styles. Effective communication only becomes more important as you advance in your career and need to communicate effectively with senior management and stakeholders.  In future posts, we’ll also look at this issue in the context of working with boards.

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