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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seven Strategies to Bridge the Communication Style Gap

While at the Northeast Shingo Prize Conference in Springfield, MA at the beginning of October I had the opportunity to meet Meryl Runion. Meryl gave a presentation on powerful communication. She calls herself the Kata Qween of Communication. The key she says is continuous communication improvement. Katas are practices to make that improvement a way of life.

I am happy to share Meryl's strategies on dealing with different communication styles.

Research pertaining to communication style uncovers four different communication styles that are determined by two factors – pace and people-orientation. “Visionaries” are fast-paced, people-oriented communicators. “Achievers” are fast-paced task-oriented communicators. “Reflectives” are slower-paced, task-oriented communicators. “Likeables” are slower-paced, people-oriented communicators. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. And like oil and vinegar, they don’t blend perfectly, but they do complement each other.

Communication skill training is never complete without analyzing communication styles and learning how to communicate effectively with different personality tendencies. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you bridge the communication style gap.

1. Ask the question, what’s my communication style?
Take a simple communication test to find out.
Don’t: assume everyone has the same style you do, or that your style is better than others.
Why not? What seems normal to you may seem picky, illogical or undecipherable to someone else.
Do: Know thyself. Get conscious of your own communication style, communication strengths, and communication flaws.
Why? The better you understand how you communicate, the more likely you will be to adapt to different communication styles.

2. Invite important people in your life to take the communication style quiz
Once you understand your own style, enlist the interest of others.
Don’t: imply they need to take the test remedially.
Why not? Any implication there is something wrong with their style will create resistance.
Do: let them know you’d like for them to take the test so you can better understand how they communicate.
Why? It presents a benefit to them that is likely to interest them.
PowerPhrase / What to 
say: “I’m studying communication styles because I’d like to improve my communication skills. Would you take a quiz communication style quiz to help me understand how you communicate?” 
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "You need to take this test."

3. Initiate a conversation about conversations with people of other communication styles.
Don’t: continue a conversation that isn’t working when you need a conversation about how you communicate.
Why not? If you are speaking different languages, speaking longer or louder won’t help.
Do: take a step back and discuss how you can bridge the communication barrier.
Why? It’s like rebooting your computer. It gives you a fresh start.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “We seem to be speaking different languages. I’d like to discuss our communication styles and find ways for us to adapt to each other’s style.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "You’re not making sense."

Tips for communicating with each of the four different communication styles

4. When you talk to a “Visionary”, make it fun.
Don’t: overload Visionaries with details and don’t expect them to meet your standards for detail.
Why not? Their eyes glaze over from details and you lose them. You set them…and yourself…up for failure when you expect them to embrace a high level of detail.
Do: provide details on a need-to-know basis, and let them know why they need to know it.
Why? Since they don’t love details for detail’s sake, they need to understand how the details fit into their big picture in order to tolerate them.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “Here’s what you need to know to make this happen.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "I’m telling you everything because if it isn’t perfect it isn’t right." (Now there’s a formula for overload!)

5. When you talk to an “Achiever”, make it fast.
Don’t: share information they don’t need or initiate a personal discussion in a business conversation.
Why not? They have little patience for anything off purpose.
Do: provide information on a need-to-know basis.
Why? That’s all they want to hear.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I have two points to make and I need three minutes of your time. Number one…”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "Hi! Let me tell you about my weekend!"

6. When you talk to a “Reflective”, make it logical and accurate.
Don’t: approximate or go off on tangents.
Why not? In a Reflective’s world, if it’s not exact, it’s not right. Reflectives expect conversations to go from A to B to C to D and are not good at following tangents.
Do: be as logical, detailed and systematic as you can. When you estimate, let them know it’s an estimate. Before going on a tangent or changing the subject, warn your listener.
Why? When you let them know you are estimating, they won’t assume exactness. When you warn them of a tangent, they know to shift gears and are better able to follow your track.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I estimate I’ll be there at 2:00. It could be fifteen minutes either side of 2:00.” or, “This point is off topic…”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: " I’ll be there at 2:00." (When you are actually estimating.)

7. When you talk to a “Likeable”, make it personal.
Don’t: just relay facts.
Why not? Likeables will think something is wrong.
Do: add small-talk, even if it’s only a few words.
Why? Even a few personal words inspire and motivate Likeables.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I missed you at the meeting. Here’s what you need to know.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "Here’s what you missed at the meeting."

Analyzing communication styles and learning how to interact with different communication styles is a vital part of communication skill training. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be bridging the communication gap in no time.

About the author:
Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at www.speakstrong.com.
Meryl is the author of six books on communication that have sold over a quarter million copies worldwide, including Speak Strong, PowerPhrases!How to Use PowerPhrases,Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews. You can reach her at 719-684-2633, or by email: E-mail Meryl.
You can also follow Meryl on Twitter: http://twitter.com/merylrunion.
Meryl’s free online communication inventory is available at her website.http://www.speakstrong.com/inventory

She provides keynotes, workshops and seminars on how to communicate with different communication styles. Learn more about them at:www.speakstrong.com/hire_meryl/workshops.html

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this important information, Meryl and Tim. Because we all communicate all the time, many of us aren't aware of the impact of our different styles. This includes communication professionals too! I use HRDQ's "What's my communication style" assessment with my Strategic Action Group members, who are all professional communicators. (In this assessment, the profiles are direct, spirited, systematic and considerate.) The insights they glean help them get make stronger connections with their leaders, team members and others. And the more they learn to flex their style to serve the customer they're communicating with, the more successful they generally are.