Have you had to deal with people who just seem unable to make up their mind— those who need to have as much information as possible before they are able to make a decision? There is a descriptor that is often used for those individuals: they have “paralysis by analysis”. In the most extreme cases these individuals are unable to make a decision because they are afraid of making a mistake. On the opposite spectrum are individuals who have a tendency to jump the gun, they move ahead on decisions before they have all the facts. Their actions are often described are as “ready, fire, aim”. Individuals like this get emotionally tangled in the decision making process, often letting emotions get the upper hand, causing them to jump the gun. Such individuals often subscribe to the maxim that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. They go ahead and do what they think is needed. If it’s not right, they just apologize and move on.
What I have just described are two of the four basic styles that we can generalize when looking at how people behave. Providing a framework for how people behave is helpful in many ways, especially in helping us to understand how to communicate with them. If we have a general understanding of how people prefer to be communicated with, then we can minimize misunderstanding and stress. In the workplace, that can lead to improved productivity. For the individuals who have these behaviour patterns they can learn how to grow by, first being aware of how they behave and then modifying that behaviour. This is the key to good communications: first, know yourself.
When facilitating a workshop on SOCIAL STYLE™, the first thing we do after we have looked at the model is to determine our own behaviour style. Where are we the most comfortable in communicating, and behaving around and with others? Recognizing our own style and understanding why we behave/communicate in a certain way becomes the foundation to being able to recognize where others are coming from, identifying their communications style, where they are the most comfortable. It is interesting to note that research shows (and my experience backs this up) that 50% of us initially disagree with what the assessment (we use) says is their personal STYLE. It’s not until they start looking deeper into the behaviours of their STYLE and the impacts they have on others, that they then start to recognize themselves in their identified STYLE. Once they are comfortable with their own STYLE, they can then look for the clues that can help identify what others’ STYLES might be.
Let’s return to the two STYLES described at the beginning of this post. If you can recognize that the person you are dealing with needs detailed information in order to make a decision, then simply do your best to give him all the data you can, then give him sufficient time and space to reach a decision. If you are this person’s manager, then you can work with him by minimizing the risks of making a decision. In your communication with him, provide a lot of information about what is happening and how something works. Be as detailed as possible and avoid over use of broad umbrella questions. If you are dealing with the second STYLE of person described above, then talk to her in terms of the “big picture” and avoid the use of short, fact-oriented, specific questions. Use “curiosity” questions to direct the discussion and then let her elaborate. Make sure you listen to and laugh with her – have fun.
By first understanding and accepting our own STYLE as a part of our nature, and then recognizing others’ STYLE, we can begin to model communication that reduces frustration and stress, and ultimately creates a better environment whether at work, home, or leisure.
Image: The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself, is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek periegetic (travelogue) writer Pausanias (Wikipedia) Morguefile.