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A Question of Communication Style: Seven Strategies to Bridge the Communication Style Gap

When Jodi said the headphones cost a fortune, Mike was confused. The price tag was $350 – expensive, but a fortune? Jodi speaks in superlatives, and superlatives don’t compute in Mike’s literal brain.

Rory went off on two tangents before returning to his original point. As a systematic communicator, Carlos missed Rory’s conversational detour and was so lost he missed Rory’s point.

What’s going on? What we see here is a failure to communicate due to seemingly incompatible communication styles.

Research pertaining to communication style uncovers four different communication styles that are determined by two factors – pace and people-orientation. “Visionaries” are fast-paced, people-oriented communicators. “Achievers” are fast-paced task-oriented communicators. “Analyzers” are slower-paced, task-oriented communicators. “Harmonizers” are slower-paced, people-oriented communicators. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. And like oil and vinegar, they don’t blend perfectly, but they do complement each other.

Communication skill training is never complete without analyzing communication styles and learning how to communicate effectively with different personality tendencies. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you bridge the communication style gap.

1. Ask the question, what’s my communication style? Take a simple communication test to find out.

Start your communication style development with yourself and your own conversational style.



It’s also available in my book PowerPhrases!

Don’t: assume everyone has the same style you do, or that your style is better than others. Why not? What seems normal to you may seem picky, illogical or undecipherable to someone else.
Do: Know thyself. Get conscious of your own communication style, communication strengths, and communication flaws.
Why? The better you understand how you communicate, the more likely you will be to adapt to different communication styles.

2. Invite important people in your life to take the communication style quiz
Once you understand your own style, enlist the interest of others.

Don’t: imply they need to take the test remedially.
Why not? Any implication there is something wrong with their style will create resistance.
Do: let them know you’d like for them to take the test so you can better understand how they communicate.
Why?
It presents a benefit to them that is likely to interest them.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I’m studying communication styles because I’d like to improve my communication skills. Would you take a quiz communication style quiz to help me understand how you communicate?”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "You need to take this test."

3. Initiate a conversation about conversations with people of other communication styles.

Don’t: continue a conversation that isn’t working when you need a conversation about how you communicate.
Why not? If you are speaking different languages, speaking longer or louder won’t help.
Do: take a step back and discuss how you can bridge the communication barrier.
Why? It’s like rebooting your computer. It gives you a fresh start.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “We seem to be speaking different languages. I’d like to discuss our communication styles and find ways for us to adapt to each other’s style.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "You’re not making sense."

4. When you talk to a “Visionary”, make it fun.

Don’t: overload Visionaries with details and don’t expect them to meet your standards for detail.
Why not?
Their eyes glaze over from details and you lose them. You set them…and yourself…up for failure when you expect them to embrace a high level of detail.
Do: provide details on a need-to-know basis, and let them know why they need to know it.
Why?
Since they don’t love details for detail’s sake, they need to understand how the details fit into their big picture in order to tolerate them.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “Here’s what you need to know to make this happen.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "I’m telling you everything because if it isn’t perfect it isn’t right." (Now there’s a formula for overload!)

5. When you talk to an “Achiever”, make it fast.

Don’t: share information they don’t need or initiate a personal discussion in a business conversation.
Why not? They have little patience for anything off purpose.
Do: provide information on a need-to-know basis.
Why?
That’s all they want to hear.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I have two points to make and I need three minutes of your time. Number one…”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "Hi! Let me tell you about my weekend!"

6. When you talk to an “Analyzer”, make it logical and accurate.

Don’t: approximate or go off on tangents.
Why not?
In an Analyzer’s world, if it’s not exact, it’s not right. Analyzers expect conversations to go from A to B to C to D and are not good at following tangents.
Do: be as logical, detailed and systematic as you can. When you estimate, let them know it’s an estimate. Before going on a tangent or changing the subject, warn your listener.
Why?
When you let them know you are estimating, they won’t assume exactness. When you warn them of a tangent, they know to shift gears and are better able to follow your track.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I estimate I’ll be there at 2:00. It could be fifteen minutes either side of 2:00.” or, “This point is off topic…”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "I’ll be there at 2:00." (When you are actually estimating.)

7. When you talk to a “Harmonizer”, make it personal.

Don’t: just relay facts.
Why not?
Harmonizers will think something is wrong.
Do: add small-talk, even if it’s only a few words.
Why? Even a few personal words inspire and motivate Harmonizers.
PowerPhrase / What to say: “I missed you at the meeting. Here’s what you need to know.”
Poison Phrase / What not to say: "Here’s what you missed at the meeting."


Analyzing communication styles and learning how to interact with different communication styles is a vital part of communication skill training. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be bridging the communication gap in no time.

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