Relationship issues at work? Maybe it’s time you figured out each other’s communication style
A close friend asked me to give her teenaged daughter a summer job. Jenny is quite shy and doesn’t say much.
“How was your weekend?” I asked when she walked into the door this morning.
“ It was good,” she answered abruptly, struggling with her bag so she could seem busy.
“No Jenny,” I said, “I really want to know, how was your weekend?”
Her eyes lit up. She was remembering a conversation I had with her the previous week where I said that there was no need to fear communicating and though we were of different age groups and had vastly different communication styles she could still open herself up to another way of interacting. Soon, we were having a discussion about Nick and Nora, a movie she had seen over the weekend.
In those precious moments Jenny and I were bridging gaps that few people (co workers, husbands and wives, sisters, mothers and daughters) even know exist much less understand how to close them. The truth is the key to any successful relationship is to understand your communication style, note how different it is from the person with whom you’re interacting and figure out how to adapt your style in order to be heard.
The talkers out there know exactly what I mean. If you’re one, and the person in the cubicle next to you isn’t, the quickest thing is to tag him/her as aloof or arrogant. The reality may be quite the opposite. Yet no one ever considers that the co-worker maybe just plain shy. Talkers like other talkers. And the quiet-types? They need mental and physical space to think. Any good book on human communication will tell you that while we all have smidgens of both tendencies in our personalities in stressful situations, a talker wants a back and forth and a quiet-type needs some space.
In my own relationship, my husband and I can’t ever discuss politics; he considers my cool analysis as disinterest, I consider his passionate outbursts as illogical. He is neither illogical nor am I disinterested but cultural differences have made us incompatible in this area. After several heated discussions we now just avoid the topic altogether and I have learned how to remain silent when some innocuous politician with an even more innocuous policy gets him going.
Silence though does not always work.
In the office, I’m the deductive type and on Monday morning an assistant would come in and want to spend 20 minutes talking about her weekend. One day after her recap went on one second longer than necessary I was forced to say” “Let’s talk strategy first, then we can catch up on our weekends?” She clued in then and we have had a much better relationship since.
Different communications style can lead to all sort of conflicts the trick is (and this is what I am teaching teenaged Jenny) to learn how to switch your communication tendencies to match the person with whom you’re trying to persuade, discuss and/or interact. You can do this in a couple of ways 1) You can read your listener i.e look for glazed over over eyes, a sudden attempt at busyness, fidgeting etc. 2) You you can simply ask the person how he/she wants you to communicate: more talk or less, emotional or logical, inductive or deductive. Believe me figuring how to bridge your communication differences is a key solution in most relationship problems.