During my years as a professional trainer, I have always said that people are the most complicated “subject” on earth. I would contend that, overall, even something like rocket science is easier because there at least you have formulas, programs and clear rules to follow. Once you are on the right track, answers emerge and things start to fall into place.
But when you are dealing with people, their reactions and behaviour can be so unpredictable that all the “rules” can go out the window. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to get on together and understand different personalities and points of view. But it does mean we often have to try that extra bit harder to avoid potential obstacles in our interpersonal relationships and move through this maze without causing unnecessary stress or concerns for ourselves and others.
In doing this, it helps to have some general guidelines. Nowadays, there are many tools available online that can help you to understand people, what drives them, and why they behave the way they do. These include personality tests, Myers Briggs Type Indicators and DiSC communication styles. The latter is my personal favourite because I find it can be mastered quickly and applied in a matter of minutes. As with anything, every user becomes more proficient with practice, and the results then become more accurate too. That said, though, it is still possible to get some very revealing indications even from the outset.
The key to this method is being able to communicate with other people in the manner they naturally prefer rather than in the style we ourselves would normally adopt. The starting point is to recognise four distinct styles of communication people most typically use in they day-to-day interactions with colleagues, contacts, friends and family members.
Remember, though, that these different styles are not set in stone. Everyone is likely to switch between them depending on circumstances and, more specifically, their relationship with whoever they are talking to. The basic reason for this is that all of is are able to use all four styles. It is just that we are generally most comfortable with one of them.
So, first, be aware of your own preferred style. Then, train yourself to identify which styles other people prefer to use and be ready to adapt your own approach accordingly when the situation demands.
I should say that each of the four styles of communication can be considered to have both good and bad aspects, and none should be seen as automatically better than the others. Also, no individual can be expected to fall squarely into just one box. Everyone is likely to try out a range of techniques even in a single conversation and nothing right or wrong.
The four basic styles are as follows:
In this mode, people are generally very decisive; they get straight to the point. They do not mince words, and they can come across as fairly impatient because they are always looking for the end result. Because of this, they sometimes seem too blunt, inconsiderate or too direct. Most of us know more than a few individuals like this. However, it pays to remember that all of us liable to display these “D” traits at one time or another and seeing them in others should not surprise us.
Such people are usually very bubbly. Talkative and full of energy. They have a lot of ideas, which helps them contribute in scenarios where input or feedback is required. The challenge can be to get them to focus on details and not go off at a tangent. Typically, they are optimistic and truly believe that everything is possible and all that challenges are there to be overcome. They may be too ready to trust, but being very outgoing they also easy to initiate conversations and are open to new friends and connections.
This category represents team players who are easy to get along with. They tend to be people oriented, but also like having rules to follow and, generally speaking, are content to go with the flow. Critics might say those who naturally favour this style of communication are not proactive enough and therefore end up following rather than leading. They also prefer to avoid arguments and will steer away from difficult conversations whenever possible. This can mean others may try to take advantage of them, think there will be only limited resistance.
The people found in this group like things done in a particular order, like a step-by-step approach, are very methodical, and have an eye for detail. Sometimes, this can cause to seem a bit pedantic in conversation and may make them cautious about offering suggestions or expressing opinions. However, people like this also help others to stay grounded and because any comments they make are generally well thought out and to the point.
With an understanding of these different styles, it becomes easier to communicate in all kinds of situation – and to adapt your own approach as and when necessary.