Style can hide message

03/17/2014 9:14 PM

03/17/2014 9:16 PM

I wish he would shut up.”

“Why did she keep bringing that up?”

“Those people are like a broken record. They think everything gets back to their_____.”

All day, every day, most of us — particularly at work — are very judgmental about how others speak.

Being considered direct is usually a short jump to being marked as outspoken.

On the other hand, being reserved in your speech can create its own set of problems if you don’t speak up when necessary.

The diversity of dealing with people who speak up and out versus the people who have to be pulled into the conversation openly affects every workplace. Communication style can be a river to cross.

Some might say it is an issue of being an introvert versus an extrovert. And there is some corollary to that.

Regardless of the reason, how we view others is the real challenge. For example, if we are more reserved, we might automatically discount the input of others who are more direct, because of a bias that views that communication style as brusque or even rude. People who are more indirect in their communication tend to be viewed as passive and wishy-washy.

Here are tips we all could stand to remember when working with others who have a different communication style:

•  Listen to the message or the words without getting hung up on how they are expressed.

• In person, pay attention to body language. Tune in to see if how you assume the person feels matches what you think they are saying. For example, if someone doesn’t look angry while being direct, don’t assume the person is angry.

• Ask follow-up questions and questions of clarification if the person is more indirect — support them in being heard.

• If you are a supervisor, make sure you allow for a good balance of communication styles in meetings. Make sure you are leading a conversation where the eye is always on the ball, and how people communicte —- or clash in their communication — doesn’t obscure the subject matter.

• Regardless of your style, as you communicate, always read your audience and adjust. If you’re directness is off-putting, figure out a way to downshift without losing the import of what you are trying to say.

If your indirectness fails to keep people engaged, note that and find a way to be better heard.

• The hardest tip of all: Don’t tune particular individuals out before they open their mouth just because you already know their communication style and automatically discount it. Listen. They might make the most important point in the conversation.


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