Being able to communicate clearly is a skill essential to any clinician or healthcare professional. That’s no surprise. It’s imperative when transferring patients between caregivers. It’s a must for healthcare administrators when articulating strategies for system-wide enhancements. In addition, studies have long shown that high-quality communication between care team members and patients has a positive impact on patient health outcomes. However, besides following the documented protocols to ensure information is conveyed accurately, what are you doing to ensure you are communicating with others in ways that resonate with them individually?
When you try to communicate with others:
- Do they interrupt, shut down, or stop listening?
- Do they misinterpret what you say?
- Do you find yourself wondering why they behave the way they do and say the things they say?
If you answered “yes” to just one of those questions, you are not alone. And you are not alone in needing to take a step back and realize: If others are frequently shutting down when you try to engage with them, misinterpreting what you say, or responding in ways you didn’t expect, you are not reading them or interacting with them correctly. You are communicating at them. You are not strategically communicating with them. Most basically, you are not seeing them as individuals with individual communication style needs and preferences. You’re communicating to them in ways that are most comfortable and logical for you, not them.
According to a recent article, “Extensive research has shown that no matter how knowledgeable a clinician might be, if he or she is not able to open good communication with the patient, he or she may be of no help.”
When communication fails, it is often because we’re focusing more on what we want to transmit, and not on how it needs to be conveyed so others will best receive it. Differences in personalities and communication style preferences has been studied for centuries. The current, dominant personality and communication style assessments—such as DiSC, Myers & Briggs, and Dr. Tony Alessandra’s The Platinum Rule—all build upon four core attributes. The underlying insight presented by every assessment is summed up in Dr. Alessandra’s Platinum Rule credo: “Do unto others as they want done unto.” This simple mantra of communicating with others in ways that resonate with them, not you, is easy to say but not easy to do.
Though we each have aspects of all four personality and communication style preferences within us, we each have one style that is dominant. When we try to communicate with someone with a different dominant style, they may quickly shut down, misinterpret us, or react in ways we don’t expect or want. To prevent them from disengaging quickly, we need to read them—identify their dominant communication styles—and adjust our mode of communicating to one that better resonates with them.
Let’s review the four dominant styles to identify how to better read others and communicate more effectively with them:
These people are helpful team members, calm, and methodical. They don't like tension, fighting, or rushing. They listen more than they speak, and they will slow down and withdraw when they feel pressured. To communicate effectively with them, physically slow down, speak slower, be friendly, and give them time to think and ask questions. This personality type thrives on helping others, so communicate with them in ways that convey that they are a contributor, supportive, and an essential team member.
This type is energetic, creative, and full of ideas. Peacocks don't like routine or detailed work. They tend to speak more than they listen and are easily distracted. They will talk more when they feel pressure. To communicate with these individuals, show a bit of energy, smile, make strong eye contact, and give them time to share ideas. This personality type needs to be with people and thrives on the energy of and interactions with others, so let them express themselves, and then refocus their energies.
These people are methodical, logical, and linear thinkers. They enjoy data and intellectual challenges. They think before they speak or act. They will become quiet and withdraw to focus and identify how to resolve problems or conflicts. When communicating with these individuals, give them time to think and process information before pushing them to make decisions or even comment on what you’ve shared. This personality type thrives on accuracy, so give them time for processing, but clarify they need to be concise in summarizing their analysis or recommendations.
This type is quick and decisive in how they speak, move, think, and act. They tend to speak before they think things through completely. They value getting things done, marking off goals and checklists, and being fast and efficient. They become more direct, quick, and decisive when they feel pressure. To communicate with them, get to the point. This personality type thrives on getting things done, so frame conversations to help them make decisions, move things forward, and accomplish tasks and goals.
Keep in mind: Clear communication is about them—not you. Everyone has a preferred communication style. Keep your dominant style in mind and in check. Hone your communication skills by focusing on reading and mirroring others’ communication style preferences. The more you focus on them, the better your interactions will become, and the more powerful your strategic communications will be.
For a deeper dive, join me April 30 for the webcast Communicating Strategically by Reading Others Effectively.