The most productive teams have excellent communication in the workplace.
But—excellent communication means different things for different people.
To be effective an effective communicator, one of the best techniques is to pay attention to your colleagues’ personality types and how it affects their communication style at work.
While there are formal methods for categorizing communications styles, the basis for leveraging any technique is the ability to model the person you are talking to, also known as mirroring. People communicate differently based on personality as well as other attributes.
Mirroring can be as simple as speaking at a similar pace as someone else all the way through using similar gestures and even breathing at the same pace as someone else. That might sound creepy, but actually, it’s quite natural for most people.
You’ve probably been in a situation where you noticed your speech patterns or vocabulary started to resemble someone you spent a lot of time with—or even someone whose podcast you listen to regularly.
To effectively use mirroring in the workplace, pay attention to how people speak, gesture and move when they talk. In a text or e-mail environment, pay attention to the length of the interaction or the length of the sentences, as well as the content.
Do they give a long explanation or get right to the point? Do they ask how you are before diving into the topic at hand?
In some cultures, it’s important to go through the formalities of asking how you are before discussing work, and in some cultures, it’s fine to text short instructions.
The communication style of each person indicates how they would prefer you to speak to them, not just how they are speaking to you. The company culture as well as a person’s personality and background can affect the preferred communication style in the workplace.
When you use mirroring in the workplace, make sure that it’s not “mimicking”. Don’t precisely imitate the gestures and tone of the speaker—that gets creepy. Adjust yourself to their communication style, but be yourself. When you mirror effectively, it makes the other person comfortable with you, even in situations where you have different perspectives.
Personality types impact how people prefer to communicate in the workplace. Many different frameworks describe different personalities and how they affect communication.
The following framework can help you communicate at work by identifying people’s personalities or preferred communication styles.
Keep in mind that these aren’t labels you can just stick on and expect people to fit in one communications style. We all have elements of each style but most people have dominant preferences in their self-expression and personality.
The Merrill-Wilson framework includes four personality types that affect people’s communications styles:
The graph below shows a visualization of how these personality types react in the workplace.
In addition to considering people’s personality type, you’ll also want to take a look at our blog with 7 tips for communications in the workplace.
Being aware of personality types and using mirroring techniques have obvious applications when you are in person with people, but what about asynchronous and online communications in the workplace? The practice is similar.
Improving communications at work makes everyone’s job more fun as well as more effective, and there’s no one way to do it right. Using these personality types can help you understand why you aren’t getting through to everyone on your team. For a quick exercise, take a look at our blog on how some famous executives run meetings and ask yourself what personality type is dominant in each example.
Being hired, fired, promoted—and everything in between—often hinges on how you communicate with your co-workers.
Getting your team to open up might be easier than you think.