Why you need communication agility
Previously, we have zoomed in on our personal preferences from being introverted or extraverted. We’ve told you about how we deal with social environments and work schedules. Today we’re diving a little bit deeper and zoom into communication styles. If you’re interested in recognizing not only your own communication style but also from others, make sure to read on. This blogpost will assess the communication model from (Dutch) whitepaper Waarom begrijp je me niet? (translation: Why don’t you understand me?) by Brigitte Heldeweg, Gert van Grunsven and Manon Désar.
The communication style model
The communication style model consists of two axes. Axis one is how you act in conversations, axis two is about the degree you express your emotions. If the two axes are layered on top of each other, four quadrants are visible. Each quadrant represents a communication style. The styles are described as follows:
- Directive style: a combination of taking space and keeping emotions to yourself.
- Expressive style: a combination of taking space and expressing emotions.
- Cooperative style: a combination of giving space and expressing emotions.
- Considering style: a combination of giving space and keeping emotions to yourself.
As for me, I am inclined towards the expressive style. When I am a bit moody though, that turns into the directive style. Next, we’ll go into how you can determine your own communication style.
Axis 1: How are you influencing?
The way you’re influencing can be derived from how you act in conversations. Are you someone that gives space to your conversation partner, or actually take space? When you’re giving space, you’re asking questions, dropping moments of silence, showing empathy, and talking in a relaxed pace with a low volume among others. Taking space is on the other end of the axis, characterized by talking a lot, talking (loud and) enthusiastically with a high pace, and using the word “I” a lot.
Axis 2: To what degree are you expressing emotions?
The next parameter in determining your communication style is the extent to which you express what you’re experiencing, your emotions. Are you someone that likes to keep emotions bottled inside or are you someone that likes to share? When you’re someone who keeps everything to themselves, you will prefer to only mention business topics, have little facial expressions and use little physical gestures. When you’re on the other end of the axis, you will like to share and express your emotions. You will be inclined to talk about informal stuff, use a lot of hand gestures, have a lot of facial expressions (lack of poker face), and have a lot of intonation in your voice.
Agile in communication
It really doesn’t matter in what quadrant you’re in and what style you have, as each has its strengths and weaknesses. The only thing that matters is that you are aware of your communication style and what it says about your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communication. In business settings, it is very useful to recognize and adjust to your conversation partner’s or team member’s style to apply more effective communication. This is what we call being agile in communication. The four basics of creating higher communication agility are:
- Figure out what your style of communication is. Possibly ask people in your (different) environment(s) what they observe.
- Observe and determine your conversation partner’s communication style. Use the two axes you’ve learned just now.
- Empathize with your conversation partner and try to figure out what he or she would need.
- Think about how you could adjust over those two axes. Is there something you should do more of, or less?
As being expressive, the hardest for me is to communicate when my conversation partner is more inclined to the consideration style. The way I try to connect better is by dropping silences, keeping a slower pace, and asking more questions. Basically, connecting by giving more space.
What about you? What is your communication style? Have you been working on being agiler in your communication? Let us know in the comments below!