We cannot "not" communicate. Our non-verbal behavior speaks volumes whether we realize it or not. We've heard it before: "Know who you're talking to and adapt your communication style to your listeners' style." As many times as I've been told this is the key for creating and managing relationships, I observe the opposite to be true. Whether I'm observing a speaker or sales representative, or having a one-to-one conversation with a client, it's obvious their messages are about them. They're oblivious to reading their listeners' non-verbal and verbal cues. This is not that difficult to do. Imagine where you could take your relationships with others if you took the time to listen to what works for them.
We have preferences-certain skills and behaviors that make us who we are. Recognizing styles in yourself and others can help you influence and build relationships and become a better communicator.
There are a variety of instruments that identify individual communication styles. For the purpose of this article, I've chosen the four communication styles by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. This instrument is easy to follow and apply. These styles are based on tendencies to be task-oriented vs. people-oriented and easygoing vs. take-charge. While these are simplifications, tendencies of the four styles are:
- Controllers. Take-charge and want control of themselves, others and situations. Task-oriented, drivers and are only focused on the end goal.
- Collaborators. Easy-going, relationship-oriented, and enjoy working with people to work towards a consensus.
- Analyzers. Detail-oriented, logical thinkers who analyze others and situations. Work best alone to come up with solutions, and therefore may take more time to make a decision and take action.
- Socializers. Outgoing, thrive on change and enjoy meeting people. They get their energy from others and therefore work best when brainstorming with others to make a decision and take action.
By being aware of your communication preference, you'll have a better understanding of how others perceive you. The ability to recognize and adapt to your listeners' communication styles will make them feel like you've taken the time to listen and focus on their needs. This results in a positive experience and strengthens the relationship.
You cannot be 100-percent sure what people mean through their non-verbal behavior. You can look for consistencies in their gestures, eye movement, tone of voice and facial expressions.
- Controllers. Direct, prefer to be in control, sense of urgency, louder volume and express limited to no emotion.
- Collaborators. Appear relaxed, ask a lot of questions, have a win-win attitude, hesitant to make decisions and highly emotional with an expressive tone.
- Analyzers. Cautious, logical thinkers, soft-spoken, monotone voice, limited eye contact and facial expressions.
- Socializers. Outspoken, quick to make a decision, assertive, fast talker, express how they're feeling through gestures, facial expressions and tone.
When communicating with a:
- Controller. Get to the point, state what's in it for them and ask straightforward questions. Communicate confidently with a clear and concise message. Avoid the clutter and fluff.
- Collaborator. Show an interest in them, listen patiently and give them a good "feel" about your message or what you're asking them to do.
- Analyzer. Avoid small talk, present facts and data, provide details and the process you'll follow to service them.
- Socializer. Show interest in them, be upbeat, tie their personal experiences to your message.
What does your communication style communicate to others? Does your serious expression communicate you don't want to be there? Does the lack of eye contact communicate you're disinterested? Does your quick rate of speech communicate you're in a hurry and don't have time for them?
- Ask for feedback from your peers
- Audiotape yourself to hear what others hear
- Take time to observe the behaviors of people you admire and follow their lead.
Five characteristics for being flexible and open to others' styles:
- Good listener. Ask questions to learn more, listen to non-verbal behavior.
- Open to change. Be willing to change your mind, look for alternatives and work with others to resolve conflict.
- Learners. Be willing to learn new behaviors and what makes others tick, ask for feedback.
- Positive. Learn from your mistakes and move on, be proactive and take responsibility.
- Respectful and sensitive. Accept differences and show appreciation for others, and change your behavior to match your listener.
If your listeners' facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice or gestures concern you, check it out.
- Ask if they have questions.
- Ask for their opinions, thoughts and what's important to them.
- Ask if they need clarification.
Take this five-minute challenge: During your next conversation listen to the other person's non-verbal behavior. Pay attention to your reaction: Are you willing to adjust your style? Are you willing to adapt your message to grab their attention? Is your message for you or them?
You can develop most of the above skills that don't come naturally to you. They're worth taking the time to develop because of the positive results you will receive.
- Influence your listener to take action.
- Avoid misinterpretation.
- Build a stronger relationship.
"Minds are like parachutes; they work best when open."
--Lord Thomas Dewar
Stacey Hanke, a graduate of University of Wisconsin, started her career in radio, where she did voiceovers for commercials. Inspired to help professionals to maximize verbal skills, Hanke founded her own professional speaking company, 1st Impressions Consulting, Inc, in August 2003. She has coached over 10,000 individuals and delivered over 500 presentations to national and international business groups. iBi