Break the wall: how to improve communication

January 30, 2019


In the previous article we were talking about the attitudes, which can help people to keep their jobs. A few crucial points on the assessment list were related to the quality of communication with colleagues and management. I imagine that some readers might have thought:


“This all is very well, indeed. I do my best trying to be friendly, polite and helpful at my work. And my efforts turn out well with some colleagues but not with others. How is it possible?” Or “I am focused on getting things done. But when I speak to ______ (put the name of the person) I feel disregarded and offended.”


Indeed, sometimes we feel as if we understand another person even without words, whereas with someone else we have an impression talking different languages. Afterwards, we endlessly question ourselves: “How is it possible? Have I said something wrong? Why they don’t hear and understand me!” or something similar. Such an experience can be very frustrating, particularly if you have to communicate with a person on a regular basis, such as with your colleagues, bosses or spouses.


But not everything is so bad. The good news is that it is not your fault and many challenges can be easily helped!



Diversity of Communication Styles


The reason for such contrasting experiences is because we all belong to different communication types. You may belong to the same or compatible type with some of your colleagues but not with others. Communication between the people of opposing types is prone to potential conflicts and misunderstandings. If this happens, it’s not because someone is bad and wants to hurt another person. Each communication type has its specific features, values, ‘goes’ and ‘no goes’. Once we know and understand them, we can make our communication with nearly any person effective and pleasant.


There are several important notions that can help you to determine your own communication type and that of your colleagues. First all, a person can be people- or goal-oriented (informal or formal). People-oriented communicators turn to focus on relationships with others, while goal-oriented communicators focus on the work to be done, effectiveness, results and benefits. Secondly, a person can be active in communication or passive. Those who are active and lead prefer a one-way communication, which they dominate and navigate. Those who follow are good listeners and team workers. They don’t want to dominate discussions but are eager to reach consensus or completely withdraw from the process of decision making.



Four Groups of Communication Styles


To visualize these four orientations, you can draw a grid or an intersection of two axes: people vs goals; active vs passive communication styles. In this way you get four broad groups: people-oriented active style; goal-oriented active style; people-oriented passive style and goal-oriented passive communication style.


Each of the axes is a continuum, meaning that you can place a person closer to the ends or closer to the middle. Those placed on the ends will have more pronounced features of their type, whereas those closer to the middle will have less pronounced features or features mixed with other types.


Let’s now look at each of these groups in some details. We can call the first group - people-oriented active style of communication - promoters; the second group - goal-oriented active style - controllers; the third group - people-oriented passive style - supporters, and the fourth group - goal-oriented passive style - analysers.





Promoters generate new ideas and enjoy when others realise and acknowledge their contribution. They are full of energy and inspirations but would benefit from a structure to channel their ideas and energy. Promoters are highly competitive. They seek support and praise but have difficulties accepting criticism. You won’t gain a lot by criticising their ideas or approaches. They’ll answer back or will simply shut themselves down and will try to avoid any contact with you in the future.





Controllers like to feel being in control of all decisions and to offer the best possible solution. They are ambitious and confident. They are motivated by their own rightness. They like to feel important, influential and in charge. Controllers bring structure and order into various situations. You can seriously damage your relationship with controllers if their leading role in decision making is not properly acknowledged.





Supporters are invaluable team players. They may be not so good in structuring goals but they are the guardians of the team spirit. The words ‘we’ and ‘us’ are full of the meaning for supporters. They are ready to help and share. Supporters may be seen by goal-oriented styles as not very ambitious but are full of compassion, attention and understanding. Because they value human relationships above anything else, you may hurt them if you overlook human and social aspect of a certain task or decision.





Analysers are, in a way, an opposition of supporters. They want to know their task. They will listen as long as you supply them with information relevant to a given task. If you switch to a different - unrelated - topic, you lose their attention. Analysers value structure and clarity; they are non-aggressive but don’t feel comfortable when asked to express their opinion or feelings. They take their time to collect enough facts before making up their mind. Analysers don’t like to be in the spotlight. They will try to avoid you if you are keen having a chat or a small talk with them.



How to Identify Communication Types?


While only one type is predominantly active when we are born, throughout our lives we develop different qualities and can adjust to different environments. What type of communication is more natural for you? And to which other type you think you are able to adapt within your family, your organisation or  among your friends? A successful communicator learns to adapt and feel confident with representatives of any communication style as this is the only way to excel in the modern day communication environment. It is important to stress here that a successful communicator is not a manipulator but a genuine master who is able to bring a message across, in a manner understandable for another person; reaching through their filters.


What is your own communication type? Can you easily put a finger on it? If not, think what is closer for you: to get along with your colleagues (people-oriented) or to get job done (goal-oriented)? To make sure that you are involved into decision making (active) or it’s enough to simply know what and when to do (passive)?


Now think about your colleagues and managers. I guess you won’t have any difficulty to find someone with clearly pronounced features. In each larger organization there is at least one ‘great’ representative of a particular style. And you, probably, know who they are in your own team. It might be more challenging to place some people who do not exhibit these features so clearly. But give it some time, observe them and at some point it will become habitual to ask yourself about each person you meet whether this person is more people or goal-oriented, active or passive in communication style.


Once you can identify the type your colleagues belong to, it will be easier to understand their behaviour and their priorities as well as to find a way to communicate with each of them. Also, once you can determine your own type, you know how your colleagues perceive you. Do you like it or do you want to change something? Also, it’s up to you to choose how exactly you communicate with each type.  




Would you like to discover more about how to approach different types, start a conversation, ask for the help of giving recognition? Was this article helpful. Press like and I’ll elaborate on it in one of the next articles. Let’s reach 50 likes to get to the next level.


What type of communication are you? Please share your thoughts.

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players…”

(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)


We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!   


With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.

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