Communication styles tell us something about ourselves and tell us something about each other. They reveal the way we think and act. They reveal the way we prefer to learn and process information. They reveal our personality, our values and our character.
This communication style depicts how we engage with others. It is formulated by two dyadic components that evolved from two separate, yet intertwined physiological entities. One is from Nature, or the natural DNA component or traits we are born with and the other is from Nuture, or the way we learn to respond to the environment we grow up in.
According to Dr. Susan Pilgrim, a philosophical motivator for teams, individuals and organizations, there are a variety of factors that determine a person’s ability to receive and send messages. These include their:
- Emotional state
- Preferred style of behaving
- Frame of reference
We can’t always read the emotional state of another person, and we don’t always know their frame of reference, but we can train ourselves to identify the preferred communication style of those with whom we live and work. When we are able to decipher the communication styles of the people around us, we can attune our own style to align better with their communication style.
The value of this skill is clear. It goes a long way in everyday business with co-workers whom you find difficult to understand – the broader your ability to reach a variety of people, the more effective you will be for business. By distinguishing between different modes of communication, you can better understand each of your customers, your co-workers and even the boss.
But what exactly is a communication style? Quite simply, it is the way people prefer to communicate, and there are three basic modes:
People use all of these modes to some degree or another, but most show a strong preference for one of the three. Statistically, visual communicators are most common, followed by kinesthetic or tactile communicators. Least common are the auditory communicators.
Here are a few rules of thumb to help you identify the communication style of those around you, and even of yourself.
Visual communicators are visually oriented, and their language reflects that. They might say something like, “See what I’m saying?” or “Looks good to me.” The verbs they use tend to be visual cues such as: look, see, picture and imagine.
They also give physical hints like blinking, as if to clear their mental window, or squarely looking at a person when answering a question. Granted, it will take time to identify these subtleties, but they can be telling features.
Auditory communicators have their own set of pet verbs and turn of phrases. Verb words like hear, listen, debate and talk are frequently used in their mode of communication. They might say something like, “Doesn’t sound that way to me.” or even “Hollar if you hear me.”
Tougher to read their expressions, they can appear more stoic in meetings, and have a deeper connection than most people to discussion. They prefer listening to recorded information like a documentary or audio book and they also show a strong connection to music.
The kinesthetic/tactile mode of communication has to do with the other senses, such as smell, but mostly feel or touch. This type of communicator might say things like “I can’t grasp the idea.” or “I feel this is the best solution.” Their verbs of choice are along the lines of feel, touch, run, hold, and move.
So now you know that you might just be a kinesthetic or tactile communicator. But most importantly, you know that by sharpening the skill to identify different communication styles, you can make inroads into better understanding those around you.
Leaders need to be aware that when communicating to their people, they should incorporate a degree of all three of these learning modes. As individuals, we embrace all three of these modes, however we tend to show a learning preference that is stronger in one of the three and weaker in the others.
So have fun with this. Become curious as to which style your friends and family tend to lean towards.