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Communication Styles


8/22/2006 1:15:43 PM


By Sheng Wang

Whether it's your first day or your tenth anniversary on the job, communicating effectively with the people you work with is always crucial. The problem is that each person has a unique way of expressing him or herself, and figuring a person out can seem as difficult as mastering a foreign language. Fortunately, everyone from Hippocrates to Jung has worked to classify people based on their personalities and modes of self-expression. Below are the four communication styles commonly recognized among today's psychologists and business consultants, along with some tips on how to work successfully with each group.

The Relater

  • Relaters are considerate and sympathetic. They are focused on people and interpersonal relationships.
  • Relaters are wonderful team players, since they are cooperative and easy to work with.
  • Relaters are great listeners and are always willing to help others. However, their desire to keep everyone happy may sometimes interfere with getting the job done.
  • Relaters dislike conflict, and will try to mollify the people involved and smooth over the issues.
  • Change can upset relationships as well as work routine. Relaters can become upset by this, and so need awhile to adjust to change.

    How to communicate with a Relater:

  • Spend the time needed to establish rapport. Feel free to share personal experiences or common interests.
  • Avoid being aggressive or pushy.
  • When discussing issues, focus on how the changes may affect the interrelationships among the staff.
  • If you are the boss, make sure that the Relaters on your staff are not overburdened or distracted by other people's problems.

    The Socializer

  • Socializers are expressive and spirited. They value relationships, acceptance, and personal prestige.
  • These people are animated and expressive. They'll often speak quickly, use gestures, and may get easily sidetracked onto another story altogether.
  • Socializers are great motivators because of their enthusiasm.
  • Socializers usually focus on the bigger picture, and may sometimes neglect the details or the order of things. Socializers are easily bored by routine, and work best in a group setting.
  • Socializers often make decisions based on intuition.
  • Socializers are not afraid of conflict, and enjoy spirited discussions that involve a difference of opinion.
  • Socializers love change and challenges.

    How to communicate with a Socializer:

  • Be willing to keep up with their breakneck conversational pace, and be patient with digressions.
  • Focus on concepts and trends, and on what they might mean for the future.
  • If you're the boss, give the Socializers on your team tasks that require innovation, and invite them to all the office parties. If you've assigned independent or repetitive work to a Socializer, keep a closer eye on her/him.

    The Thinker

  • Thinkers are technical and systematic. They value logic, thoroughness, and precision.
  • Thinkers tend to focus on facts and technical details while communicating.
  • Thinkers have a methodical way of approaching problems and tasks, and work well independently.
  • Thinkers are detail-oriented, accurate, and always have the best PowerPoint presentations. However, they may sometimes become overwhelmed by the details and lose track of the big picture.
  • Thinkers are uncomfortable with conflict, and feel that facts should take precedence over emotion.
  • Thinkers need time to adjust to change.

    How to communicate with a Thinker:

  • Present your ideas in a logical fashion, and back them up with lots of facts and proof.
  • Try not to rush a Thinker during a conversation or in her/his work.
  • To help Thinkers cope with change, focus on the reasons that made it necessary, and the individual steps needed to achieve it.
  • If you're the boss, encourage the Thinkers on your staff to share their ideas, since they tend to be quiet and reserved during group sessions.

    The Director

  • Directors are bold and direct. They focus on the big picture, and tend to be competitive, aggressive, and ambitious.
  • Directors get right to the point, and generally use as few words as possible. Directors may come across as forceful and intimidating to others.
  • Directors are concerned with achieving tasks and goals, and often forget about the needs of the people carrying out the work.
  • Directors like to be involved in several projects at once.
  • Directors are not detail-oriented, and can under-estimate how long it would take to accomplish a task.
  • Directors are unafraid of conflict, and may seem overly stubborn in defending their ideas.
  • Directors thrive on change.

    How to communicate with a Director:

  • Get to the point right away, and communicate your ideas quickly and clearly.
  • Show how your ideas are compatible with their goals.
  • If you're the boss, ensure that the Director's curt and straightforward style of communicating isn't causing conflict with the rest of the staff. If you are the boss and a Director, remember to pay attention to the feelings of your staff, not just the end results they achieve.

    * * * * *

    Each communication style has its own strengths and drawbacks, and most workplaces rely on a mix of styles to be productive. Recognizing another person's method of communicating and adapting your own style accordingly can help get your message across, avoid conflict, and make your workplace a better environment for everyone.

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