Many people are intrigued by why we communicate the way we do. What makes one person jump at the chance to do a public presentation and another eager to avoid it? What makes one person focus on facts and another on broad impressions? Basic questions such as these have been a constant source of debate around what drives people’s communication behaviors and preferences.
Some believe that personality determines behavior, while others support a view that our behaviors are determined by the situation. Those on the personality side of the debate have argued that personality traits are stable, consistent predispositions to act in a certain way (Wheeless & Lashbrook, 1987). For example, they suggest that an outgoing person would probably enjoy and excel at public speaking. Those on the situation side have argued that people are inconsistent. For example, they note that a person can be open and intimate with friends but closed and professional at work. Situational theorists believe that predictions of behavior are more accurate when based on the situation than on personality (Mischel, 1968).
Although the debate on what drives behavior continues, it is clear to us that, when alternatives are open to individuals, their own natural communication styles come to the forefront. We define communication style as the way people act and communicate when they are able to do things their own way. Does this mean that people act the same way all the time? Certainly not. Even the most boisterous individual would not be loud and jovial at a funeral. But most people are consistent enough that they and others can predict their behavior. Everyone acts friendly sometimes, but when a person acts friendly more often than not, others start to think of him or her as friendly; people come to expect friendly behavior from that person most or all of the time.
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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