What’s Your Communication Style?

July 1, 2011

If you’re a fan of Myers-Briggs, then you’ll get a kick out of this, too.

I attended WWPR‘s brown bag lunch a couple weeks ago. The speaker was Carol Vernon, Certified Executive Coach and Managing Principal of Communication Matters.

She has developed four designations for communicators. Perhaps you like the bottom line, or love to get lost in facts and figures. Maybe you’re a storyteller, or you believe compassion is the way to go. Whatever your preferred style, Vernon says you can use it to your advantage, in both your professional and personal relationships.

We all know people we consider good communicators. What traits do they possess? They’re usually friendly, interested, knowledgeable and good listeners. But after hearing Vernon speak, I realize there’s more to it than that. Just like with Myers-Briggs, when you meet YOUR type, it’s such a relief. You feel like you’re with your pals and you can relax. The same holds true when you meet others who communicate the way you do. Perhaps this makes a difference in how you perceive a good or not-so-good communicator?

Here are the fours styles Vernon has spelled out. She does say that no particular style leads to greater success or effectiveness. I believe successful communicators are more likely to morph their styles to fit a particular situation.

  1. Direct – decisive and pragmatic. Tends to speak quickly and formally, with direct eye contact and a firm handshake. Focus is on WHAT needs to be done.
  2. Systematic – analytical and logical. Prefers details like charts and graphs, and looks at processes. Uses precise language. Focus is on HOW to get the job done.
  3. Spirited big picture – storyteller. Excited about ideas and innovation. Very expressive and persuasive. Focus is on WHY the project is necessary.
  4. Considerate – supportive listener. Speaks slowly using soft tones. Values relationships and is more comfortable with workplace closeness. Focus is on WHO is involved.

Why style are you? I identified with all the styles to a certain extent. When I spoke with Vernon about this, she said that some people are able to blend or flex their styles naturally when they interact with people of different styles.

We didn’t take a test to determine which category best suited us. Instead, Vernon asked us to self-identify and then split into groups.

About half of us self-identified as Direct Communicators. Vernon says this is unusual. I wonder if direct-style individuals are drawn to the communications profession? Again, according to Vernon, you will find a certain type of person more drawn to a certain profession, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other types.

Only two of our group put themselves in the Systematic category. Again, Vernon says this is unusual. The styles are usually a bit more spread out. About 25 percent fell into the Spirited category, with the remaining 25 percent as Considerate.

So how can it help to know your style? When you recognize your style and your bosses or colleagues’ styles, you can consciously make an effort to blend or flex your style to better communicate.

For example, when dealing with Direct Communicators, get to the point and answer the question asked. For Systematic Communicators, provide facts and figures. Spirited Communicators need recognition of their contributions. Focus and really listen to the Considerate Communicators.

Interesting, isn’t it? Since I attended this session, I’ve been thinking about the people with whom I interact, and trying to determine which category they fit. With some people it’s easy; with others, it’s not so easy. But it certainly does explain why I feel some people are easier to get along with than others.

Let me know what you think about this. Also, check out Carol Vernon’s web site; she has much more information.


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