3/16/09 - communication

In today's excerpt - the six different communication styles—or just because someone is being terse doesn't mean that they are evasive:

"Communication expert Linda McCallister ... has identified six different communication styles. People can be Reflectives, Nobles, Socratics, Magistrates, Candidates or Senators. Although no one fits completely into any one category, all of us have a tendency to use one particular style more than the others. Recognizing that [can] help you understand them better.

"At one end of the spectrum are Nobles. These people believe communication serves one purpose and one purpose only: to exchange information. That's what they do when they come into your office, and that's what they hope you do when you come into theirs. Nobles seek to discuss relevant data with as few words as possible. ... Even if you have been working together for years, all a Noble will ask you on Monday morning is the time and location of the next meeting.

"On the other end of the spectrum are Reflectives—the 'touchy-feely' people. To them, communication is all about building relationships. Despite how busy these people may be, the first thing they want to know when they walk into your office on Monday morning is how your son did in his hockey tournament or how your daughter's dance recital went. And they can't wait to tell you what they did over the weekend. ... A Noble, as you might imagine, makes a beeline to her office to get right to work, while a Reflective makes the rounds—greeting and socializing with everyone else, before finally settling in at his desk. Problems arise, as you can imagine, when a Noble works with a Reflective. The Noble may read the Reflective as inefficient, spacey and distracted, while the Reflective may think the Noble is rude.

"For a Socratic, the purpose of communication is to talk. Many of the lawyers I work with are Socratics. They love discussion and debate. These people may seem like they are running at the mouth or being unresponsive, when in reality, they just like to talk things out and exchange ideas.

"Magistrates display some of the characteristics of Socratics, and some of Nobles, and as such these people are often opinionated, argumentative, and difficult to deal with. Their goal is to explain to you why they are right and you are wrong. You will likely read these people very negatively, even if you don't realize it, because you can sense that they are not listening to you; they are merely selling themselves. At first they may seem to enjoy the exchange of ideas, but as the conversation progresses you will notice that they don't seem to care what you have to say.

"Candidates don't want to upset anyone, so they seek to communicate along a path of least resistance. They are people-pleasers whose goal is to avoid conflict. They may sometimes seem evasive, but if you recognize this communication style you will understand they are not being to be dishonest; they just don't want to displease anyone.

"A Senator chooses whatever communication style works in the situation. Senators go out of their way to respond warmly to Reflectives, respect the austerity of Nobles. They apply whatever communication style works under the circumstances. If a Reflective walks into a Senator's office, he will ask about the Reflective's weekend, and tell the Reflective about his. If a Noble comes in and asks 'What time is the meeting and where?' his response win be, 'Two o'clock conference room.'

"Knowledge of these different communication styles is critical to accurately reading people. Just because someone answers a question with a short and terse response, it doesn't necessarily mean she dislikes you or is being evasive or dishonest."


Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Ph.D. and Wendy Patrick Mazzarella


Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior—Anytime, Anyplace


Ballantine Books


Copyright to the revised edition 2008 by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Wendy Patrick Mazzarella


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