Relationship issues at work? Maybe it’s time you figured out each other’s communication style

Relationship issues at work? Maybe it’s time you figured out each other’s communication style

Communication | Judette Coward-Puglisi

August 18, 2010

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. 


One thought on “Relationship issues at work? Maybe it’s time you figured out each other’s communication style

  1. What a GREAT article Judette! It hits home exactly on a problem I’ve been experiencing at work….which I have pin-pointed to different communication styles. Based on that, we were both able to identify that we each had different styles and have started working on finding a middle.

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