Harmonizing Your Team’s Communication Styles
By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Have you ever sat in a meeting listening to someone drone on and wished they would just get to the point? Or perhaps you like to break the ice by having a nice personal chat with a new client, but notice that after a few minutes they are starting to squirm and look at their watch. Just as we all have different learning and working styles, so we all have different styles of communicating and listening. And, of course, we are more responsive to people who communicate the way we do because we find them easier to listen to and understand. That can cause friction among team members with different communication styles.
Do a quick Internet search and you’ll find there are many different methods and labels devised to categorize communication styles. Essentially, though, they either favor how the speaker expresses their thoughts (e.g., analytical vs. emotional) or how they interact with the audience (e.g., assertive vs. passive). Just as with Myers-Briggs or other forms of personality typing, you can find tools or quizzes online to help you and your team members identify your own communication preferences. Once you’ve done that, you can use the information to create a communication map that will help you and your team to direct your communication more effectively.
Your goal is not to change your or your team members’ communication styles but to determine how to best convey information to each other. You might find, for example, that the designers on your team use a style that is more intuitive and social, whereas your business manager uses a style that is more analytical and assertive. Adjust your approach and message accordingly. When communicating with your designers, engage their imaginative and visual thinking; present them with concrete, specific issues to be addressed or problems to be solved; allow for a creative and fluid process; encourage interpersonal interaction. On the other hand, your business manager will probably prefer bullet points, clear deadlines and deliverables, and one-on-one interaction.
Recognizing and responding to each other’s communication styles can help you and your team to increase your overall effectiveness as well as improve interpersonal relationships. The same holds true when communicating with clients, vendors and suppliers. Once you recognize the signs of their preferred communication style, adjust your delivery and you’ll find you’re communicating more clearly and thus reducing the likelihood of error or misunderstandings.