Friday, January 7, 2011

Communication Styles Start Early

Communication Styles Start Early is an article from the Nannies from the Heartland quarterly newsletter, From the Heart. This article was written for the Fall 2007 issue. We thought you might enjoy it!

Did you know each of us has a communication personality? It’s the style that is most comfortable to us when speaking or interpreting – and it starts early. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to make your point to your employer, co-worker, friend or spouse it might be your style isn’t matching theirs. And if the children in your lives don’t seem to ever be on the same page with you, it might be that your styles don’t match.

Some of us like the details - need it in fact, while others just want the bottom line. Also, some of us are very tuned in to other’s feelings and are comfortable sharing feelings, while others naturally prefer to keep that part out of their interactions. All these are normal and natural styles – one is not better than another, just a different approach. But what if I knew you were a bottom line kind of person, and I could adjust my style to “talk your language” – wouldn’t that strengthen our communications. You bet it would!

At a Nanny Day conference (fall 2007) hosted by Twin Cities Professional Nannies we heard a dynamic speaker talk on this very subject. It was based on The Platinum Rule by Dr. Tony Alessandra which was developed as a sales tool, but has since been adapted to include general interpersonal communication. Attendees were asked to complete an assessment of their own style and then discover more about that style. We then were able to see similarities and differences that opened our eyes to the possibilities of greater clarity of communication. There are four distinct styles but many variations on those styles. Through life experience, schooling and just intuitiveness you might have learned to adjust your natural style to others or to a specific situation. Observing the children in your life you’ll probably recognize the traits in their purest forms. For identification purpose the styles are named after birds – and to some degree you can see the connection. The Dove is the peace maker, a wonderful listener, empathetic and needs to feel emotionally connected to others, usually quieter in nature. The Owl is the detail person, good listener, with perfectionist tendencies, more reserved and needs time to process information, speed isn’t their thing. The Eagle is the bottom line individual, not always the best listener, takes charge of situations, makes decisions easily, strong leadership skills, but enjoys being around others. The Peacock is interested in having fun, listens well especially if there is an emotional tie, connections with others are important, spontaneous and outgoing.

Personally I realized that if I’m trying to communicate with another style I want to adjust my how I converse with them. For instance as a nanny for teenagers who are each different in how they communicate and interpret information I’ve come to realize that one really needs me to get to the bottom line – simple logic, simple expectations is what he appreciates, and the other child really needs to hear the why behind everything – she likes those details. Their older sister appreciates when people share their thoughts and feelings – she wants to feel connected to you. Looking back over the 17 plus years with this family I can see that these styles were part of who they are from early days. Even as toddlers and preschoolers their preferences were clear – I just didn’t know the reasons behind it all. Now it makes more sense and is actually easier to get my point across.

This understanding has also been very helpful to me when speaking with my employer or other family members. I’ve come to realize how each one needs to receive information and how they usually interpret information. I know that my employer appreciates the personal direct approach, but also likes it when I write down all the details as well. This is especially important when working with multiple parent households where clear communication with everyone is essential – it often means saying the same thing to each adult in different ways to make sure everything is clear and accurate. In doing this for them I am able to model how I’d like them to communicate with me.

The Platinum Rule – “treat others as they would wish to be treated." Speaking to others in their language is such a great tool in your communication kit.

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