Communication is constantly and vitally important to us as human beings. It is key to successful business and personal interactions. We do this every single day on a variety of levels. What we may not do is take the time to analyse the impact that our natural way of communicating has on others. If we could understand, appreciate and accomodate these differences in communication styles, we would be able to enhance our ability to engage with one another. This will ultimately increase our effectiveness as leaders, employees, teachers, parents, trainers and coaches.
As we communicate with the people around us, it is vital to understand that they may have different preferences than we do, in the way in which they take in and trust information and respond to that information and that they may be oriented differently to the world around them.
Using the lens of personality type is an effective way to examine these differences and there are various ways of determining how different personality types communicate. When I run workshops centred around Communication, for example, i begin by identifying each person's preferred communication style, using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I then get people thinking about how they actually communicate by using an activity called Colourblind. This involves blindfolding each participant for 30 minutes while they attempt to navigate a series of plastic pieces of different shapes and colours, attempting to identify the ones which are missing from the set. Having a key sense that helps us communicate - sight - they are forced to use only their listening, speaking and tactile skills. Succeeding in this activity requires good listening skills and teams which are high performing tend to listen to each other and to allow space for everyone's opinion.
The Function Pairs Lens in communication
The MBTI preference pair i tend to use most often in workshops on communication are the 'Mental Functions' - ST, SF, NF, NT. Essentially this looks at how we take in information through our perceiving functions (S-N) and how we use that information to make decisions using our judging functions (T-F). To give you an idea of how this works, ST types tend to need all the facts and details prior to making a decision ("Tell me who, what, where, when and why.") while NT types take a systemic view of things before carrying out a decision in a logical, analytical way.
Type Dynamics and The Dominant Function
I highly recommend focusing on Type Dynamics and in particular, the Dominant and Auxiliary functions, when looking at communication styles. Understanding one's dominant function gives us insight into your core communication style. An ESTJ for example (dominant extraverted thinker) appears decisive, clear, logical, analytical and objectively critical to the outside world and to the people around them. They tend to be clear and straightforward and people know exactly where they stand. Knowing one's dominant function will enable us to persuade that individual in the most effective way....by appealing to the core of their personality. trying to persuade an ESTJ to set aside time and money to 'people' issues would involve focusing on their extraverted thinking function. You might convince her that not giving time, money and effort to people issues would ultimately lower productivity and profit!
I run the following activity when utilising the dominant function (and using the Pocket Personality Cards): Get people to focus on a particular individual - their boss, peer or direct report. You may also get them to pick a dominant function that is diametrically opposite to their own (e.g. T-F ). Ask them the following questions:
1. What would you need to do in order to persuade them to take on a new project?
2. What tasks in the project do you think they might avoid?
3. What strengths might they demonstrate on the project?
4. What would their blind spots be with regard to the project?