Friday, September 14, 2012

Communication Styles Start Early

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

Some of us like the details - in fact we need the details, while others just want the bottom line. Also, some of us are very tuned into another's feelings and comfortable sharing feelings, while others naturally prefer to keep that part of themselves out of communication 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 person, and I could adjust my style to "talk your language" - wouldn't that strengthen our communications? You bet it would!

The Platinum Rule by Dr. Tony Alessandra was developed as a sales tool, but has since been adapted to include general interpersonal communication. I have participated in training sessions where we were asked to complete a brief assessment. Each of us discovered our own style and then explored the other styles to learn more. Once you know more it's easy to see the similarities and differences. It opened your eyes to the possibilities of greater clarity of comunnication.

There are four distinct styles but many variations on each of 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 purposes 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, is spontaneous and outgoing.

I found that if I want to communicate with another style I want to adjust my style to more closely match theirs. For instance, as a nanny to two teenagers who are obviously 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 - and the other really needs me to connect emotionally. The youngest (8) needs details and explanations, so I need to shift into that gear for him. Looking back at my previous nanny family of 20 years I can see how they developed their communication styles early. As toddlers and preschoolers it was becoming obvious they each had their own way. I just didn't know all the reasons behind these differences at that time. Now it makes more sense and is actually a great tool when connecting with children.

This understanding has also been very helpful when speaking to employers, co-workers, friends or other adults. I've come to realize how each person needs to recieve 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 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 a different way 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 an asset in your communication tool kit.

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