Four Styles of Communication Every Leader Should Master

Posted on September 22, 2021 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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A friend recently sent me this Dear Abby column. The writer “Misunderstood” complains that his wife asks him a lot of questions and the tone of her inquiries comes off to him as second-guessing and distrust. Misunderstood wonders if he’s too sensitive, or if he should assert his desire for a different style of communication.

Abby’s advice; seek help from a licensed therapist.

My advice; wait on the therapist. This is more likely a case of miscommunication based on personality differences.

In my first leadership role, I supervised a very creative and spontaneous clinician who was also deeply committed to his work. I would frequently ask him questions about what he was doing. He often got defensive and interpreted my approach as me not trusting him. This wasn’t my intention at all. Once I learned the The Process Communication Model I realized that neither of us was wrong; we had very different preferred styles of communicating.

Four Styles of Communication

PCM identifies four primary styles of communication. Each person’s preference is based on their personality structure.

Asking

These people are constantly asking questions to understand a situation, and love being asked questions about their thoughts and opinions.

Caring

These people prefer caring exchanges aimed at nurturing others. They offer words of affirmation, support, and empathy. They like to talk about relationships and feelings. They often interpret Asking as lack of care or validation for their feelings.

Playing

These people prefer lively, upbeat and fun exchanges. Banter, jokes, and casual language are their favorite ways of engaging. They often interpret Asking as interrogation and uncomfortable accountability.

Telling

These people prefer direct and explicit commands. They don’t take offense to being told what to do because they are activated by non-threatening directives. They often interpret Asking as indirect, confusing and a waste of effort.

Here’s how Telling got me in trouble with my wife and daughter.

Dear Misunderstood (and every other person in a relationship, or working on a team, or leading others)

There’s no right or wrong style. Miscommunication occurs when we attempt to use a style that another person can’t relate to or understand.

You aren’t overly sensitive. Although we are all capable of using all four styles of communication, it’s very difficult to energize other styles when we aren’t getting enough of our own.

Empathy starts with recognizing another person’s preferred style and appreciating how they might experience other styles, including yours.

The best communicators adapt their communication to match the preferred style of the person or people with whom they are communicating.

It’s OK to let others know your preferred style and coach them on how best to communicate with you, as long as you don’t become entitled and expect everyone to use your favorite style all the time.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, 2021

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