Overcoming Communication Challenges
all been there. You and a co-worker, boss, or client just can’t seem to
get on the same page. There are misunderstandings, frustrations,
disconnects, and even conflicts. While you seem to be speaking the same
language, something is getting lost in translation. Every encounter
becomes tentative, and sooner or later, you begin to avoid, or dread,
communicating with this person.
There are usually two major reasons for consistent communication issues:
1. The parties have completely different communication patterns
2. The parties have nearly identical communication patterns
tend to communicate along certain patterns, and don’t tend to shift
those patterns over time. Once you’ve established your pattern – and
that usually happens by the time you’re three years old – only the most
dramatic life-changes will alter your approach.
Do you recognize yourself in one of these?
The Dominant Personality
– This person needs a high degree of control over everything around
them, including people, information, physical items – you name it. They
tend to be brief to the point of being abrupt. “Cut to the chase” would
be a phrase you’d expect to hear from them. Details are for other people
to worry about. Results are the only thing that matters, people are
secondary, and only useful to the extent that they can help the Dominant
Personality achieve results.
The Intuitive Personality
– Gathering people close is like breathing to this person. Friendly,
collegial, influencing, and manipulating all represent how this person
might be viewed by others. The relationship is more important than the
result, and communication for its own sake is what this person values.
Details are also not important to the Intuitive Personality; he’s
concerned about how everybody is feeling about the issue.
The Steady Personality
– “Don’t rock the boat” is the motto and method for this person. She
likes things exactly as they are and always have been. Change of any
sort is actively avoided, even sabotaged. This person seeks to please,
if only to maintain good order. Try to change something in her
environment, and she will fight back.
The Compliance Personality
– This person follows the rules to the letter, and knows them better
than anyone. He will argue the smallest point, not just because he’s
right, but because it’s
right. He will value process over people, and will deal in minutia for
the shear joy it brings him. Results aren’t so important – how you
achieved them is what counts.
of these personality patterns is probably close to your style in its
most exaggerated form. You can probably recognize a client or co-worker
somewhere in there, too. What happens when your personality patterns are
biggest conflicts come between people on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Dominant and Compliant personalities live in two different worlds.
The Intuitive and Steady personalities drive each other crazy. Why?
Because they communicate about completely different things in completely
different ways. They literally don’t “get” what the other person is
saying, or are so frustrated with the way they express themselves that
they shut off their listening skills.
about the Dominant person who wants just the bottom line, while the
Compliant person is walking through every last step of the process they
used to get there. This is the client who wants to examine every last
project that the job candidate has worked on in his entire career before
making a decision. Impatience and shutdown quickly occur.
What about when your styles are too similar?
two intuitive people getting together. There’s infinitely more
conversation about how one or the other feels than about the substance
at hand. The conversation quickly steers to social and superficial
rather than business needs. Again, the detail goes lacking.
two steady people meet, progress is rare. Maintaining the status quo,
while not openly stated, ends up being the result because of reluctance
to move forward.
lost in the details is the likely result of two compliant personalities
getting together. No progress, few results, and probably an argument or
two over method will be the outcome.
How can we overcome these seemingly insurmountable challenges?
1. Recognize. Understand what your own communication style is so that you know how you are perceived by others.
Really listen to not just what the other party is saying, but how they
say it. Does a candidate talk most about the great relationships she has
with her current co-workers? This may be a clue that you’re working
with an Intuitive. Does the client give you only the briefest of
summaries of what he’s looking for in a new employee, and hangs up
before you can ask a question? Probably working with a Dominant type!
One of our responsibilities as communicators is to modify to meet the
needs of others. We shouldn’t expect them to do the same. That doesn’t
mean that they don’t share the responsibility, it just means that they
won’t necessarily live up to their end of the bargain.
To whatever degree is possible and practical, give them what they want
and need in communication – it will make both of your lives immensely
communication challenges is about recognizing the patterns that each of
us use, and finding ways to keep the lines open, even when you’re on
the opposite ends of the spectrum. The effort will be worthwhile, and
the needs of each party will be met when you deliver the message in a
way that will be both understood and appreciated.