Everybody’s Talking At Me…

Posted on May 5, 2011 by


…and I can’t hear a word they’re saying…

Here’s why.

I believe there is a flaw in the old adage that says “Treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself”. Especially when it comes to communicating. Surely the adage should be “Treat everyone the way they would like to be treated” as that makes way more sense to me.

So how do you know how different people’s preference for communication style or approach? Well, first of all you need to know what makes them tick; their personality or main behavioural characteristics.

By understanding some “typical” personality types or behavioural styles it’s then much easier to think about how best to communicate with each type of person.

You don’t need to be an expert in psychometric testing to do this either. Let me give you an overview of some typical behavioural types that should be quite easy to spot and how you can start to tailor your communication approach to them.

The Creative – someone who is full of new ideas, innovative, a bit off the wall and often sees things things differently to the rest of us. So how would you communicate with them? Well they like ideas so communicate your thoughts through ideas where you can. Paint a picture of what you are communicating rather than providing a 40 page document detailing your thoughts. Keep it interesting and thought provoking and use visuals rather than text where you can.

The Analyst – they like to think things through, weigh up all the options before making decisions and reach the best possible conclusion. Give them all the facts, outline your thought processes and explain your reasoning. Then stand back and give them thinking time as they don’t like to rush a decision. They love seeing the proof so back what you provide with evidence.

The Chatterbox – lively, outgoing and talkative, they provide a constant stream of dialogue and there is never a lull in the conversation when they are about. Keep your communication light, verbal, rather than written whenever possible, or if in writing keep it brief. Let them stand on their soapbox and give them the space to reply to you in full. Talk about the weather, their social life, their family as well as they thrive on chit-chat.

The Go-Getter – they are fast paced, action orientated people who are very much task and results focused. So give them what they want – keep it brief, to the point and focus on the key points in summary. Quickly state your case, expect a quick answer and move on. Don’t expect to chat about the weather or what you were up to at the weekend as you will get cut short.

The Pragmatist – very practical, down to earth types who like to follow a process. Keep communication in plain language, keep on track and don’t deviate randomly from the script. Give them a clear beginning, middle and end and let them sense check what you are discussion will actually work in practice.

The Fluffy Bunny – warm and caring types who don’t like to upset people and much prefer harmony rather than friction. Keep a very open communication style, don’t tackle difficult issues head on, rather ease them in gently to the conversation or discussion. Make sure you check they are on board and take account of their feelings toward things especially with any big decisions. Be aware, they can be very stubborn if you upset them.

The Detailer – these people are red hot on the minutia, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. They are high on quality standards and don’t like it when things are half baked. Provide them with back up to any discussion in writing where possible, make sure you do your homework and not miss out any salient points. Show them statistics to back up your findings and above all else make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

This is clearly not a scientific approach and does not cover every personality type, but hopefully demonstrates the point that different people will have different communication style preferences. I believe it is much better to try to and mirror these where possible as you will get much better results if you do.

So before you have your next meeting, have a discussion, produce a report or type an email, ask this very simple question. How could I best communicate with this person to suit their preference / style? And if you can modify your own preferred approach to mirror theirs more, your communication skills will greatly improve as you will be communicating with people they way they like.

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director
The Urquhart Partnership Ltd