Even though everyone speaks English at your workplace, does it still seem like so many things are lost in translation?

As much as we probably won’t admit it (or maybe don’t realise it), most of us expect everyone around us to be like us – to see things like we see them, and to do things as we do them. When this isn’t the case, it can lead to frustration and anxiety.

It’s also common for us to speak more than we listen, oftentimes not really listening to what the other person is saying because we are already formulating what we want to say next. As much as speaking is part of communication, it should be a two-way street, taking turns to speak and to listen so there is an exchange of ideas and information.

A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit provides insights about what employees see as the biggest barriers to workplace communication, the causes of the barriers and the impact of these barriers on their work life. Respondents said that communication barriers are leading to a delay or failure to complete projects (44%), low morale (31%), missed performance goals (25%) and lost sales (18%). The cause of communication barriers mentioned most often was that of different communication styles.

So now that we know how important workplace communication is, how do we go about improving it?

  1. Inform your staff that you plan to make better communication a priority in your business.
  2. Do an anonymous survey asking your staff what communication-related issues they are facing so you can begin to address them. Involve them in the process of finding solutions for the issues identified.
  3. Provide training to educate your staff on how to communicate effectively. Help them to understand the different communication styles and have each person assess themselves to see what style they follow.
  4. Go through training yourself to ensure that you are communicating effectively and to show your commitment to the improvement process.
  5. Monitor progress by running a survey periodically to check in with your Track business and staff performance so you can see if there are improvements over time.
  6. Make adjustments as you go along and be willing to change your systems, processes and tools if need be.

Given that “different communication styles” was the most mentioned cause of communication issues, we will go into more detail about the different types and how to best communicate with each one.

We will start by explaining each communication style and then you can assess which style you follow. Once you know your own style and the styles of those around you, it will help you to adjust how you say and do things accordingly.

Leadership training expert and New York Times bestselling author Mark Murphy teaches about four communication styles: Analytical, Functional, Intuitive and Personal.

  1. Analytical Communicators
  • Unemotional and linear (prefers following a step-by-step sequence from beginning to end).
  • Description:
    • They like logical sequence and data.
  • How to communicate with them:
    • Convey expertise including hard facts and figures.
    • Don’t use vague words and back up everything you say.
    • Avoid talking about feelings and using emotional words.
  • Upside:
    • Looks at issues logically and dispassionately.
    • Seen as having a high level of expertise.
  • Downside:
    • May come across as cold or unfeeling.
  • Most challenged communicating with:
    • Personal communicators.
  1. Functional Communicators
  • Emotional and linear.
  • Description:
    • They like to have control of the process.
  • How to communicate with them:
    • Use process-oriented communications.
    • Provide detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans.
  • Upside:
    • Communicate in a step-by-step manner so nothing is missed.
    • People in a team will turn to them to be the implementer.
    • Typically asked to play devil’s advocate.
  • Downside:
    • Risk losing the attention of their audience.
  • Most challenged communicating with:
    • Intuitive communicators.
  1. Intuitive Communicators
  • Unemotional and freeform (prefers a less structured approach, sometimes skipping to the end result without looking at too much detail along the way).
  • Description:
    • They like the big picture and want bottom-line information.
  • How to communicate with them:
    • Give a broad overview.
    • Keep it short and to the point.
    • Don’t waste their time.
  • Upside:
    • Communication is quick and to the point.
    • Not delayed by needing too many details.
    • Comfortable with big ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.
    • Enjoy challenging convention.
  • Downside:
    • Lacks patience when a situation requires getting into minute detail and may risk missing important points.
  • Most challenged communicating with:
    • Functional communicators.
  1. Personal Communicators
  • Emotional and freeform.
  • Description:
    • They want to establish an interpersonal relationship.
    • They value emotional language and connection.
    • They find value in assessing not just how people think, but how they feel.
  • How to communicate with them:
    • Use an informal, friendly and warm approach.
    • Talk about factors like who else will be involved and how what you’re asking them to do will impact their feelings.
  • Upside:
    • Tend to be good listeners.
    • Diplomatic and possess the ability to smooth over conflicts.
    • Concerned with the health of their many relationships.
    • Builds deep personal relationships with others.
    • Often functions as the ‘glue’ that holds groups together.
  • Downside:
    • May be over-emotional at times.
  • Most challenged communicating with:
    • Analytical communicators.

Now that you have a broad overview of the four communication styles, click here to do an assessment to find out which style of communicator you are. Task the functional communicator to make a list of everyone’s communication styles and to circulate them. Consider having a dedicated day to focus on each style as an exercise in dealing with styles other than your own.

At the end of the day, improving communication in the workplace will have a spill over effect to all the other areas of your life, and understanding one another better is a step in the right direction. Your business and its bottom line will thank you.

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