Susan George: What is your communication style?
Recently I attended a meeting that caused me to feel uneasy and wary of the outcome.
While I was not uncomfortable with the content of the discussion, I was reluctant to commit to the direction being proposed. The next day I realized it was not the message, but the delivery of the message that was off-putting and derailed consensus. The experience prompted me to reflect on my own communication style and the importance of being aware that the manner in which ideas are delivered can have a significant impact on the outcome of any discussion.
I asked myself how I could better understand my own communication strengths and weaknesses and improve my skills. My first step was to take a self-assessment exercise to determine my communication style. I learned that there are basically four styles of communication: analytical, intuitive, functional and personal. Another assessment test called them styles: dominant, influencer, conscientious and steady. Each type, though they may be termed differently by different assessment tests, share some universal characteristics, such as decisive and efficient, outgoing and enthusiastic, systematic and logical, and cooperative and relaxed.
Understanding that people and situations are unique is key. The behavioral traits and interests of a target audience provide insight into how they will respond to a message. Are they direct? Analytical? Sociable? Business-like? Adjust your approach based on the information gathered about the target audience and adapt your communication style to that of the listener. Your messaging will become more effective and misunderstandings can be avoided.
At the same time, nonverbal communication cannot be ignored. Actions and gestures that accompany words catch the attention of an audience and have a substantial influence on how a message is received. Nonverbal gestures include facial expressions, use of hand motions, body posture and eye movements. Whether intended or unintended, nonverbal communication can reinforce or color the words of a speaker, expose emotions, and define relationships. Learn to manage your own nonverbal behavior to help ensure your message is clear and concise. In turn, it is important to recognize what audience nonverbal behavior can tell you. Have you talked long enough? Does someone else want to speak? What is the mood of the audience?
The ability to communicate effectively with various types is a valuable tool. Listen and ask questions. Get to know your audience and craft your message accordingly. Ask for honest feedback. Encourage discussion and learn to manage nonverbal communication. Take some time to evaluate and hone your communication skills. The process is enlightening and fun. Understanding and adapting to the style of the person you are communicating with can transform your message from simply being delivered to one that builds connections and strengthens relationships.
Susan George is a co-founder of The Nevada County Regional Chambers of Commerce. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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