The strength in understanding your communication style
We are all well aware of the vital role that non-verbal communication plays in our social interactions. How then does the ‘new normal’ of being physically further away, impact the effectiveness of our communication with our colleagues and friends? How do we adjust our body language and awareness of ourselves and others when speaking?
Understanding different communication styles can be a big help. What style resonates with you? Are you a Legs, Kylie, Opal or Bart?
I don’t know about you, but for me, an hour on a video conference feels like two hours of normal time! And it’s tricky to negotiate social dynamics, like knowing when to speak or voice an opinion.
Of course, it’s to be expected that new platforms for communication present fresh challenges, but I’ve found it interesting to think further about what it is that can leave me feeling so drained.
As this article from the BBC says, one reason we get tired in video calls is we have to work harder to read facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language in order to maintain effective communication.
The importance of body language is common knowledge. Now-famous research by Albert Mehrabian claimed 93% of human communication is non-verbal. Yet, because people are so obsessed with speaking (and on the whole terrible at listening) we might not even be aware of some of the ways we really do communicate with others. The increased use of online communication technology is highlighting this fact but also perhaps giving us a push towards being more cognizant of how to effectively communicate with others.
So, as we try to adapt to communicating remotely, I’ve decided to spend the next three weeks running a series around different communication styles:
- Understanding your own communication style and using this awareness to improve our interactions with others
- Recognising the communication styles of others in order to be more empathetic and work better together
- Combining 1 and 2 to lead with confidence, consciousness and compassion
Understanding your communication style
So, what do I mean when I say communication style?
As mentioned in a previous blog, we use the MiRo communication style assessment in our leadership programmes. We have found it a really useful tool as it helps us understand that each and every one of us has our own innate style. It explains why we each respond differently to life’s challenges and why we have no place judging others.
According to the MiRo assessment, there are four main communication styles; driver, energiser, organiser and analyser. While an effective leader has the flexibility to draw from all styles as needed, we generally have one or two that dominate. Learning to recognise these styles in ourselves helps us to interact and better negotiate the social dynamics of our team – both in face-to-face and remote working situations.
Which communicator are you?
I thought it would be fun use the MiRo model to profile some of our horses. See if you can pick one or two that you think are your most dominant communication types and help you work better with others:
- Legs is a real driver. He just wants to get the job done and will happily take the lead. However, he’ll also be led when he feels there’s a strong manager.
If you identify with Legs, then your strengths are that you take action, are results-orientated, a self-starter and a risk-taker. However, you may have to work on an impulse to push against authority, take on too much and become bored with routine!
- Kylie is the energiser of the group. This beautiful, empathetic team member wants everyone else to feel included. However, it’s important to remember she needs to feel valued herself.
If you feel you resonate with Kylie, then you’re likely to be a creative problem-solver, great at encouraging and motivating others and a peacemaker. Remember on the other hand you may have a tendency to prefer popularity over tangible results, lack focus on details and be a selective listener.
- Opal is the organiser. She maintains an excellent overall view of everyone’s roles and makes sure they are all clear on what they need to do and where they need to be.
If you’re a bit Opal, then your teammates probably like you for being reliable, dependable and loyal, as well as being patient, a good listener and great at handling conflicts. Just watch out for potential growth areas like needing time to adjust to change, being sensitive and holding grudges, and finding it difficult to establish priorities.
- Bart is the analyser. He needs to know all the facts in order for him to feel comfortable. Don’t try and get anything past this guy – you can’t fool him!
The great thing about having some Bart in your communication style is that you’re likely to be thorough, conscientious and grounded in reality. You are excellent at gathering and testing information. Just be aware that this means you can become overwhelmed by detail and can prefer not to verbalise your feelings.
So…how does the MiRo assessment relate to working with horses for professional development, you may well be wondering? Our clients tell us that it is one thing to read a report and another to experience firsthand what this really means – and this is where the horses come in.
Horses are the ultimate barometer by which to measure your communication style. They provide immediate and totally honest and unbiased responses to each individual they come in contact with – they do not know whether you are the CEO or an intern – they only know how you make them feel. If they do or don’t feel comfortable, they let you know. They literally bring your communication style to life and show how it is received by others.
During one of our women’s leadership workshops, an investment bank executive, Nicki, was working with our horse, Bart. When Bart planted his feet and refused to move, she was perplexed as she, “had always done things the same way.” Not being able to pull rank on Bart – you can’t budge an unwilling 500 kg teammate – she had to change the way she was asking him to work with her. Nicki was able to relate this experience back to her workplace and why she doesn’t always get the best from her team. It was a lightbulb moment for her. Experiencing an immediate positive change in such a short timeframe closes that learning loop with real and lasting impact.
Which communicator are you? Let me know in the poll below! And stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to use this knowledge of communication styles to better work with others.
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