Misunderstandings and conflicts are more often the results of differences in people’s communication styles than of differences in their beliefs or opinions. For example, a fast-paced, Spirited person and a slow-paced, Systematic person may have tense interactions because of the different speeds at which they make decisions.
Although each of us has a predominant communication style, a certain amount of flexibility is necessary to communicate effectively with people who have different styles. The process of understanding others’ styles and being willing and able to adjust one’s style to interact more effectively with them is called flexing.
Understanding others’ styles involves observing their behavior. Hunsaker and Alessandra (1980) describe a useful observation process in which you purposefully pay attention to a person’s behavior and note the degree of assertiveness and expressiveness you see.
It takes some willingness and effort to expand beyond your own style to interact successfully with other styles. However, flexing your style may make the difference between success and failure in an interaction.
Bridging the Communication Divide is a cooperative game played in teams. The purpose of this experiential game is to introduce individuals to four principal communication styles — Direct, Spirited, Considerate and Systematic — and to demonstrate that each style has very different communication strengths and weaknesses.
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