Effective communication isn’t just what you say. How you say it is equally important. Consider the case of Pam, Jennifer and Greg. Pam and Jennifer were valued employees about to be discarded because of a simple communication style difference.
To read the rest of this article from the Business Journal of Jacksonville, see: It’s not what you say – but how you say it – that counts,
After Jennifer researched possible solutions to a problem, she’d tell her boss, Pam, the conclusions before presenting how she’d arrived at them. Pam felt manipulated and insulted and considering firing Jennifer.
At the same time, Pam was getting great results but sensed that her boss, Greg, was upset with her. He looked bored and impatient in their meetings. She’d overheard him saying she was a fuzzy thinker who didn’t have the incisive mind necessary for promotion.
She’d tried to please him by giving him more extensive reports of potential projects, especially the process by which she’d gathered the information. She wanted to make sure he had all the details so he could make up his own mind before she presented her suggestions.
Jennifer and Greg are “bottom liners.” They present options or conclusions first so people can analyze their reasoning to see if they’d arrive at the same ones. Greg wants a conclusion up front so he can decide rapidly whether he likes it or whether he needs to hear more details. Once he reaches a decision, he doesn’t want to waste his time on extraneous information.
Pam is a “processor.” She reviews how she arrived at a conclusion before giving her favored option. That way, people can make up their own minds, without manipulation, to see if they arrive at the same one.
Miscommunication resulting from different communication styles causes escalating hostility, extra work, diminished productivity and lost profits.
Each style has benefits, but each also creates problems. How do you discover what they are? Ask someone who favors one style about its advantages and about the problems with the other style.
Take responsibility for matching preferred work styles and communication. Although it’s easy to become righteous in defending your favored style of communication, results are more important than style.
People are not their titles or functions, they’re individuals and most are trying to do their best in ways that have worked for them before - despite what you may think about them because you favor your style and can justify why it’s best.
In our time, diversity makes the problem worse.
Learn to detect other people’s preferred styles and how to communicate effectively in that style. That’s not too much for you to learn. You’re a human being, designed to learn these styles rapidly. That’s how all babies learn to please and manipulate their parents.
Whenever possible, communicate face-to-face when something might be sensitive or at the first sign of a misunderstanding or adverse emotional response. Don’t text or use e-mail. Get away from your desk and share coffee or food. Create a human interaction with two people trying to understand how to talk to each other to get the best results, not an interaction to see who is right or can beat the other person down.
I typically focus on preferred styles in about 30 different situations. A few other examples of important communication style differences are: saying things bluntly vs. talking around a subject; preferring written vs. verbal communication; brainstorming by talking vs. talking only after making a decision; focusing on the exact dictionary definition of words vs. expecting people to read between the lines; communicating in thoughtful monotones vs. passionate variations.
Are your messages going unheard or are you misunderstanding individuals and groups with different communication styles?
Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation. To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.