Found this fascinating story in the New York Times — reminding us that we all have specific styles of communication and, if we’re ever going to really understand one another, it can help enormously to know what someone’s is, let alone your own, and behave accordingly.
Shayla McKnight describes her Livingston, Montana company:
When employees are hired here, they’re given a communications assessment, a commercial program that the company uses to pinpoint a person’s dominant communications style. The styles are linked to colors that identify how each employee likes to communicate.
If someone is a “red,” for example, he or she appreciates when others are direct and state the facts quickly. A person who’s a “blue” enjoys having all the details, and time to process them. A “yellow” is spontaneous and likes a personal connection.
I’m a “green.” That means I’m sensitive and like to be approached as courteously as possible; greens tend to be compassionate and supportive.
Nameplates on our desks have a color bar to identify our styles, or we can easily find them in a company database. This system lets everyone know how co-workers prefer to be approached, and it goes a long way in promoting harmony. If I don’t know someone’s style, I check before I visit his or her office or send an e-mail message.
How many times have you banged your head, or your career, against someone who literally tuned you out because you weren’t on their wavelength? It isn’t just being the only woman when the guys go on (and onandonandonandon) about the game or you’re the only man and it’s all mani/pedi’s and pregnancy predictions. If someone can’t hear you because of the style with which you’re speaking, or writing, how likely is it they have the self-awareness to even know why it’s happening? Or know how to calmly resolve those differences?
In journalism, an industry well-known for managing by sheer brutality, this sort of sensitivity would be laughed out of most newsrooms, where — working as professional communicators — you’d be forgiven for the fantasy such things matter.
I think so many workplaces blunder along with toxic levels of mis-communication, bruised feelings and seething resentments. This sort of shared knowledge, and an open-ness to communicating effectively in an individualized way, might be a really great idea.
Some people are most comfortable with facts and figures, other happier expressing (or suppressing) emotion or making snap decisions. Few of us use all these styles, or even know which our predominant style might be. I know I work best with people who are quick, direct and to the point. I hate emotion and drama. As a result, I tend to get along better with men, as this seems to be a common speaking style less favored by women for whom, it seems, direct = rude and unemotional = uncaring.
What’s your verbal style? Does your workplace care about such niceties? Has it helped?