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Communication in the Workplace

What Kind of Communicator are You?

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What Kind of a Communicator Are You?

Most of us benefit from reviewing our communication skills from time to time as it is a lifelong process to become a master communicator. Let us move beyond intellectualizing the ideas presented in this article and actually choose one person in our life with whom to practice improving our communication skills. Once you have that person in mind read the outline below that is full of quick reminders about building and maintaining sound communication. Then we will discuss the four basic personality types to help you understand your style of communication, as well as, the person you chose with whom to improve your skills.

Building Sound Communication

Introduction: Approximately 10% of communication is the words spoken, 40% the tone of voice, and 50% the body language. Good communication is like a circle where one sends and another receives a message. It fails if the message is not received. Communication takes place on two levels; the content level, which focuses on the words spoken and the feeling level where the real messages hide. Responding only to the words spoken ignores the deeper, underlying meaning in a conversation. Many breakdowns stem from a failure to appreciate the feeling level.

I. More blocks that cause poor communication:

A. Sender: tone of voice is critical, abrasive, sarcastic, or angry, poor timing, beingtoo direct too soon, having a blaming posture (pointing a finger or squinting the eyes), being aggressive rather than assertive, sending unclear double messages(say one thing and mean another), being biased, having unrealistic expectations.

B. Receiver: being defensive, having a short fuse where emotions are easily triggered by past hurts. Not being open to change, self-inquiry, healing, or intimacy.

II. Active listening opens communication by hearing between the lines and payingattention to the feeling messages when the other person reacts emotionally. When another is angry, domineering, or trying to control, it is not the time to share your point of view, feelings, or to problem-solve. Instead practice silence. Listen to crack the code of what the other person is meaning with their words. To help another who is too wordy ask, "What is important about what you just said?" Repeat in your words what you think s/he just said. Redo this reflecting until youget it right. It opens communication to be heard. When the tension lifts ask, "Whatdo you need from me right now?" You may or may not be able to give what isbeing asked. Now it is your turn to express your point of view, feelings, andreactions to begin resolving the conflict. Time-out is helpful when there is an impasse.

III. Fair Fighting Rules

1. Listen: when the other person is talking, rather than focusing on what you will say next; do not give advice, problem-solve, interpret, finish sentences, or assume anything.

2. Speak: without being judgmental (no blaming, shaming, "you should" messages); use I-messages (I get angry when… rather than, You make meangry).

3. Be empathic: put yourself in the other's shoes and imagine how they feel.

4. Stick to the subject: when another switches topics steer it back; get to thattopic later.

5. Stay in the here and now: talk about what is bothering you today, even if it took place in the past; express what you think or feel right now about yesterday's event.

6. Deal with feelings first: use active-listening to crack the code of the real message.

7. Problem-solve: attack the problem not the person, negotiate workable solutionsand compromises. Sometimes all that can be done is to accept what cannot be changed.

Conclusion: Practice only one or two ideas at a time to slowly make improvements. Take time to clarify your feelings and thoughts. Journal writing is helpful.



What Kind of a Communicator are You?

Directions: Which of the following basic personality types fits you? We all have some of each, however, one is usually our predominant type, with a second one that also fits. Write about challenges you have or have had in the past communicating with others. How might you do things differently to match your style of communication with another's personality type to get better results? 

1. The Dominant Type: Are you active, confident, decisive, independent, a problem-solver, organized, and punctual? Do you plan your day and the future and work well under pressure? Are you task/bottom-line oriented, usually in a hurry, and do you get impatient when another goes into too much detail and takes too much of your time? Are you a straight-shooter, a little too blunt and critical at times? Do you love freedom and get bored with routine? Do you see the forest rather than the trees and are you self-motivating? Dominant types go from point A to point B in a straight line and warm colors, such as red, describe their active personalities.

For others to match your style of communication they need to cut the chit chat, be specific, direct, not expect too much of your time, and speak in short sentences -- "I need help," or "I disagree," or "Please tell me your schedule for next week."


2. The People-Person Type: Do you need people and relationships and like to communicate, relate, and share? Are you optimistic, warm and friendly, emotional, and almost always available to others, sometimes to the point of loosing track of time and not finishing tasks? Do you answer the phone as you are rushing out the door for an appointment? Do you smile and talk to strangers? Are you overly trusting and find it easy to open-up and become vulnerable, too quickly at times? Are you an easy-mark, a people-pleaser, and motivated by praise? People-persons go from point A to point B by jumping to many short side-trips or points on the way. Light, warm colors, such as yellow describe their social butterfly personalities.

For others to match your style of communication they need to chit chat before getting down to business, share a story, listen to you, allow for emotional reactions, direct the conversation back to the main point, and give you attention, support, and recognition.


3. The Dependable Type: Are you respectful of others, usually in a pleasant mood, loyal, cautious, patient, stabile, slow-paced, and a good listener? Are you a great support person with a lot of stamina for completing things, giving a lot of hard work to a project (at work, home, family, or volunteer group)? Do you like to know what is expected of you ahead of time? Do you dislike change and prefer the status quo? Are you possessive at times? Do you have current pictures of the family? Do you like tangible motivators--cards if someone cares about you or a pay raise if your company is happy with your work? Dependable types go from point A to point B in a curved or wavy line, like a wave. Blue is a good color to describe their calming, slow, gentle personalities.

For others to match your style of communication they need to slow down, give you plenty of time to think, give you one project or idea at a time to complete or digest and be clear on priorities. They need to encourage you to speak up, give you tangible, concrete tasks and information, give reassurance, and show appreciation.

4. The Detail Type: Are you serious, analytical, accurate, task-oriented, and like freedom to work at your own pace? Do you need a lot of time to make a change, like to observe a situation before jumping in, only take calculated risks, work well alone and need encouragement to be part of the team? Do you dislike being emotional or vulnerable and need time to open up to another? Are you tactful, slow to respond because you like to think things through first, and a perfectionist who likes things orderly? Are you intuitive, overly sensitive at times, and prone to worry? Do like details, seeing each tree instead of the forest? Are you suspicious of compliments unless they are very sincere? Calculated-risk types like to sit on point A for a while and decide whether or not to go to point B. Cool colors such as violet describes this steady-as-a-rock type personality.

For others to match your style of communication they need to slow down; give you attention and sincere appreciation; notice details; not criticize your work (as you associate what you do with who you are); clarify priorities, allowing you time to understand and repeat things; and give you time to think before responding.


Now for the practical part, pushing through your communication barriers. Choose someone you wish to improve communication with and ponder or write about the dance between the two of you, especially your part in it. Notice patterns that have become old habits, words that emotionally trigger either one of you, and unproductive behaviors, such as blaming, isolating and not sharing, or projecting onto the other your half of the equation. What do you avoid talking about or find fearful (hint: fear of being misunderstood, criticized, or being the target of another's anger)? When did you begin these patterns? Where did you stop being honest with yourself or with the other person? Were they learned as a defense to adults in your childhood? Keep pondering.

We all have a wise inner self that can guide us. This information is intuitive and greater than your conditioning. Let's practice now. Ask your wise self, "What are one or two things you might do to improve communication. Write them down so you will remember when your stumble and fall back into old patterns. Close your eyes, see and feel intensely yourself following your own advice and getting better results. Go into your day with the intention to put one or two of your ideas into practice.

This is a quick introduction into pushing past your communication barriers. If the information in the outline is new, start with one or two ideas at a time to improve one of your relationships. Those of you ready to do deeper inner work, the exercise will take you further on your journey.

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