Communication is the key to success, right? I know I’ve read that somewhere. But I would submit to you that how effectively we communicate quite often can determine our level of success. And, effective communication can be boiled down quite succinctly: know yourself and know your audience.
Unless you live (and parent) in a vacuum, you are communicating constantly – with family and friends, with workmates, with your children and their teachers. Each exchange is unique, each audience different, and perhaps the tone and attitude with which you express yourself matches the goals you want to accomplish.
But, what if it doesn’t? What if, in this ninety mile an hour life most of us lead, we don’t always stop to assess our “audience” and consider that the way we communicate with them may not be the most effective option? Whether by telephone, email or face to face, how we project our ideas can unquestionably lay the groundwork for how they will be received. The same sentence – said with different inflection, body language or punctuation – can be interpreted in a completely different way than it may have been intended. When that sentence is conveyed to a child vs. an adult, who naturally differ in communication styles themselves…the path for ineffective communication can be paved.
So, how do we determine Communication Style for ourselves and recognize it in others? In a paper published by the University of Southern Illinois , three specific types are cited. While the following are by no means a comprehensive description of each…I’ve paraphrased the gist:
1. Non-assertive or Passive (No Influence): Apologetic words. Veiled meanings. Hedging; failure to come to the point. Hoping someone will guess what you want. Copious use of phrases like ’I mean’ and ‘you know’. Harried.
2. Assertive (Positive Influence): Clear statement of wants; candid statement of feelings. Use of objective words. “I” statements rather than “they”. Attentive listener conveying assured, caring demeanor. Relaxed.
3. Aggressive (Negative Influence): Uses loaded, imperious and superior words. “You” statements that blame or label; accusatory, descriptive and subjective terms. Flippant air of superiority. Sarcastic.
If you’re like me, you’ve identified the root problem of at least one challenging exchange while you read those descriptions. I recognized that I have been entirely too Passive in how I convey my concerns to my son’s Pre-School teacher. I’ve realized that sometimes unwittingly, I’ve been too Aggressive in how I explain things to my tender three year old. (And don’t even get me started on how I’m mis-communicating to my poor husband!)
When I was in the corporate business world, I was praised continually for my ability to communicate directly, to disseminate information effectively and to manage successfully. But now that I’m a Work at Home Mom, I see that new environmental conditions have skewed my perceptions of how I express myself and how I may be received. Effective communication has never been more important to me than it is now, with the ones I love the most. I see I’ve got work to do!
What do you think – should we implement “Communication Style Awareness Week”? I’ll get started on that ribbon design…
- What is the ideal communication between parents and educators?
- Balancing Parent Teacher Communication
- Parent Teacher Communication: A Teacher’s Perspective
Tags: communication skills, communication styles, effective communication