I used to get offended when I received short emails from my friends.
In response to my suggestion of “Let’s meet for lunch tomorrow,” I would get “Can’t” or “Sure” or “Where?”. This used to drive me crazy because I am someone who likes to provide context for my emails, as well as find out what is going on with my friends before zeroing in on the issue. I thought that they were snubbing me in their zeal to get to the bottom line.
That was before I learned about communication styles. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the human condition, we tend to fall into one of 4 communications styles, based upon the extent to which
1. We value tasks versus people and
2. We are extroverted and inclined to tell or introverted and inclined to ask.
Think of the styles like this. The last you time you went to a big meeting, you probably observed the following:
1. The person who walked into the meeting room and shook everyone’s hand before sitting down to discuss the issues at hand.
2. The person who tapped on the conference room table and said, “Okay, everyone, it’s 9:00am. We have an hour to meet and come up with a solution.”
3. The person who studiously reviewed the attachments to the agenda.
4. The person who bounded into the room and could not wait to tell you her great idea.
The first person is Aimiable. Her priority is relationships and making sure that everyone on the team is doing okay. Aimiable folks tend to be warm, caring and friendly and solicit a lot of advice from others before making decisions.
The second person is the Driver, the person who likes to take control and get to solutions. Drivers are not likely to chit-chat since they value getting the job done and being the person who makes that happen through hard work, decisiveness and delegating to others.
Person #3 is Analytic, the “data” person who values accuracy, precision and details. Analytics tend to prefer working alone, are organized, logical and tend to be cautious.
And the last person is Expressive, the idea and big-picture person who is excited about sharing ideas with everyone else. Expressives tend to be happiest when they can offload the details to someone else!
My default style is Aimiable so my emails focus initially on how my friend is doing before I get to the business at hand. And a lot of my friends are Drivers who care about results and solutions. Now I understand why their emails are one-sentence, bottom-line oriented!
Oh, and I forgot to mention Analytics, the data people. They used to drive me a little nuts too. That’s because my other default style is Expressive. I get excited about ideas and feel that I am much better at the big picture. Whenever possible, I leave the details to someone else. So the person at the meeting who is focused on the layout of the spreadsheet and what exact data points we need is not my first choice of a friend! Yet I now appreciate the importance of having a teammate who is focused on those details and in insisting on getting things done just right.
Over the years, I have learned to adapt my style. I can be a Driver with the best of them. I can also focus on details when necessary and sometimes I even enjoy doing so. I have also learned to appreciate the strengths of the other styles (yes, including the data folks!). I have also learned to adapt my approach when dealing with other people so that I can deliver information in the format that is most likely to resonate with them.
Great communication skills are at the heart of great leadership so learning these skills can help you to feel in charge of yourself and inspire those around you. So take a moment to think about your communication style. Appreciate the strengths that flow from your style. Consider any gaps that you may want close and make that your personal and professional development challenge. And pay attention to the communication styles of your friends, family and co-workers to see how you can best communicate with them. Once you have become attuned to working with communication styles, you will feel a greater sense of mastery in all aspects of your life.
PS: If you ever receive a one-sentence email from me, chances are it is from my iPhone. I still have not mastered how to peck out a long email on the touchscreen keyboard!