It is not what you say

It is how you say it. Here are six distinct styles of communication which work in different situations.

People do not respond to what is said, but to the manner in which the words are used. For example, close the door close the door and CLOSE THE DOOR all convey different meanings, even though the words are the same.

If you can control communication style, you can control the outcome of most interactions. But remember that each person expects the other to communicate exactly as he does. When these expectations are not met, conflict exists.

There are six styles of communication – Noble, Socratic, Reflective, Magistrate, Candidate, and Senator. You can learn to use all of the styles or a combination of them to talk your way out of trouble and into success.

The Noble is a tell-it-like-it-is communicator like the character played by Clint Eastwood. He typically says what other people only think. He believes that each person should say exactly what he feels and that to do less is dishonorable. He tends to be unconcerned with the feelings of others.

Nobles talk to produce a result, but they often forget that building a relationship at the beginning of a conversation will have an impact on the outcome. A Noble will walk in, sit down, and say, Okay let’s get to work. There’s no chitchat. You may have blood dripping from your nose, but the Noble sits down and says, Okay let’s get to work, it’s business a usual.

Nobles are bottom line communicators who want to go from A to Z in a straight line and not be bothered with the details in between. They do not need detail to grasp the main idea. Hey skip the descriptive prose when reading a novel. They read the words in quotation marks because that is where the action is.

Dealing with Nobles is easy because they are predictable, uncomplicated communications who do not get hurt easily. In talking with them, be direct. Start your conversation be stating your purpose or conclusion first. Identify your main points and ask if they would like additional information. Do not be intimidated by Nobles. Learn to ignore some of their statements. They do not mean to offend you; they just do not filter their thoughts before they speak. If you want them to do something, give alternatives from which to choose.

In the Socratic, Bill Cosby of communication, a series of questions leads the answer to a logical conclusion. Socratics are persuasive communicators who enjoy discussion, debate, and negotiation. They can look at the total picture and sort through the grey areas in a situation. This can be a valuable asset in the workplace, particularly when resolving conflicts. However, this ability is often overshadowed by the Socratic tendency to be directive.

Socratics talk in foot notes. They begin telling you something then drop down the footnote to provide information about the topic, then go back to the topic, then drop back down to the footnote, and so on.

Those who do not think in footnotes get lost in the maze.

Do not expect any interaction with a Socratic to be brief. Do not be offended when he begins to lecture you. This is part of his style and it does not have anything to do with how he feels about you. Nothing is ever complete enough for the Socratic, and if you expect him to accept your project or proposal on the first try, you will be frustrated. You probably do several rewrites and get irritated when the Socratic requests further changes on your final product. Instead of bringing his a final product, let him see it in various stages. At each stage, ask the Socratic for input.

The Reflective Woody Allen type is concerned with the interpersonal aspects of the interaction. Accurate transmission of information, expression of opinions, and tangible results play secondary roles because Reflectives believe that maintaining the personal relationship assumes precedence.

Reflectives will say nothing if, expressing an honest opinion will cause the other person to become angry or displeased. They will tell you what you want to hear rather than what they feel, to avoid conflict.

Reflectives are reluctant to express strong opinions but do engage in self-disclosure. They will share their inner most feelings and allow the other person to do the same. People tell their problems to the Reflective because he listens. Reflectives are good at getting people to open up, a positive management skills.

Credibility is a problem for Reflectives because of their reluctance to be directive or assertive. Their ideas are often ignored in meetings, because they do not speak with confidence. Strong willed individuals take advantage of the courteous Reflective by talking over or interrupting him.

The Magistrate believes that honest exchange of opinions and information and analysis of detail are the primary reasons for communicating. He is like Muhammad Ali – direct, straight and forward. At first glance, this combination of characteristics appears ideal for one who aspires to lead. The Magistrate can be an illuminating leader, but people tend to think of him as a would be dictator.

Magistrates are intense and often over bearing. They don’t feel the need to be honest all the time. If they think you can take it they will tell you like it is. Otherwise, they will soften the way they tell you, you are wrong.

The Magistrate is concerned with the bottom line and details. As a result Magistrates produce a polished product without the help of others. But this characteristic turns out to be a double- edged sword. The Magistrate’s self contained abilities lead people to think of him as a know it all.

Magistrates are persuasive in the public arena, but totally inept in interpersonal encounters. As eloquent orators, Magistrates can persuade audiences of thousands to move mountains. But one-in-one they can be dismal failures.

Magistrates tend to have difficulty dealing with people at work. They are often argumentative and get into trouble because talking without listening is part of their style.

The Candidates is like James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – pleasant and patient, and believes that problems can be solved by talking. He is a communicator who is warm, supportive, analytical, and verbose. Candidates are soft spoken story tellers who want people to like them. A candidate will attempt to establish a personal relationship by making self disclosure statements and narrowing in on the personal aspects of others.

Candidates know a lot of words. When they are on the losing end of an argument, they will dig deep into their inner dictionary and pull out words to baffle their opponents. The other person will back off, rather than admit he doesn’t understand what the Candidate is saying.

When attempting to persuade the Candidate, be patient and willing to listen. If you cut the conversation short or become overbearing, he will withdraw into his shell. He will say nothing or say what you want to hear. Once you have accepted that you must listen to this chatty communicator, the key to persuasion rests on personal experience. Allow yourself to be included in the Candidate‘s world of personal experiences and vice-versa.

George Bush is a typical Senator. Probably the most clever type, the Senator views communication as a strategy for success. He makes a conscious effort to control the environment. Before they speak, Senators think about the situation, whom they are speaking with, and the style they think will work best.

The Senator listens as a Reflective, but speaks as Noble. Because people think Senators are harmless. Reflectives, they divulge information. Once they have the information advantage, Senators strike.

Senators are experts at the hooded eye technique of not letting others know how you really feel. They use it to sabotage they don’t favor and get even.

But the senator has one unique problem: unpredictability. He may even be perceived as fickle by those who observe him in more than one situation.

To control the Senator, observe him in more than one setting. Watch for the shift from Reflective to Noble, which shows an attempt to gain the information advantage. It is a challenge to be able to persuade a Senator. You have to be on your toes every minute. When you are good at doing this, you can draw him into responding in a style you’re most comfortable with.