How Does Your Communication Style Affect Others?

Have you ever been around folks who just blurt out whatever comes to mind, regardless of how it might affect those around them? Maybe you’ve even tried to talk to them about being a bit more considerate, only to hear them say, “That’s just me. People gotta deal with it.”

Contrary to what many believe, the way we communicate isn’t just about our personality. It’s influenced by what we’ve learned from others, the trials and errors we’ve gone through, the influence of our parents, and all sorts of life experiences. Our communication style isn’t set in stone; it’s a choice. We decide which words to use, how loud to speak, when to talk, and how to get our point across. These choices can either help people understand us or distract them from what we’re trying to say. When we mess up in how we communicate, people tend to think:

  1. “Why’s this person acting like that?”
  2. “Why are they treating me this way?”

When our communication style becomes the focus instead of our message, our point gets lost.

Sometimes, though, we’re not even aware of the choices we’re making. Our emotions can take over, or we’re so focused on what we want to say that we forget how we’re saying it. Ever been in a conversation where you didn’t realise what your face was saying? Most of the time, we’re not even thinking about how we’re coming off; we’re just talking without much thought. That’s where knowing about the four communication styles and how they affect others is crucial. Each style has its good and bad sides, depending on how and when you use it.

For instance, being open with others is usually great, but there are times when you need to keep things to yourself, like if you’re told something in confidence. If you blabbed that secret, you’d ruin trust.

And trust is huge when it comes to how we communicate. Think about someone you don’t trust. Your talks with them are probably guarded and suspicious. Trust changes everything in how we relate to each other. That’s why making smart choices in how we communicate matters so much. If people are too focused on feeling mistreated during a chat, they won’t pay attention to what’s being said, even if it could solve all the world’s problems!

Open communicators think about trust when they talk. They ask themselves, “Will what I’m about to say make things better or keep trust intact?” If the answer’s yes, they’re probably communicating in a way that’s clear, respectful, and impactful. But in stressful moments, we might forget to think about this and blurt out whatever’s on our minds, using lack of time as an excuse.

Open communicators also get that the listener’s just as important as the speaker. They consider everyone’s point of view, clarify things, and keep the conversation on track. They share info relevantly and tactfully say no when needed. They’re not afraid to share what they know, either, without worrying about looking good.

But there are times when it’s better to be more closed off. Ever left a meeting wishing you hadn’t said everything you did? Sometimes, it’s better to listen first, think things over, and then respond. But being too closed off can frustrate people. Taking too long to answer or giving way too much detail can bore people or overwhelm them. Yet, being detail-oriented can be a strength, too. Just ask my dad, who’s celebrating his 101st birthday today! He’s super detailed in how he explains things, but not everyone’s into that. We’ve got to learn to focus on the important stuff to be heard and understood.

In a crisis, being brief is key. We’ve got to be clear, calm, and ready to act. Anything that distracts from that could be disastrous. But some folks think a crisis justifies any behaviour, even intimidating others. They’ve got a clear idea of how things should be and don’t see the need to explain it clearly. They’ll publicly criticise others without listening to different views. But being blunt isn’t the same as being open, and it can damage trust in the long run.

When we’re not sure how to respond in tough situations, we might hide how we really feel. Like when someone asks if they look fat in their jeans. We’ll probably think about our relationship with them before answering, right? That’s normal. But sometimes, we hide too much. Maybe to avoid disappointing someone or being seen as the bad guy. Either way, it can mess with trust.

Being mindful of how we communicate isn’t easy. Sometimes, we’re just too tired to try. But it affects how people see us. If we stick with the “This-is-me-deal-with-it” attitude, we’re basically saying we’re not willing to make an effort to connect with others. Is that really the message we want to send?