How to Improve Communication: Understanding These 8 Behaviors

Updated May, 21, 2020

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Precision of #communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act. ` James Thurber” quote=”“Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.” “]

This quote by James Thurber (American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, and playwright, 1894-1961) may be more fitting today, than in his time.

An individual’s personality or behavior type can impact how they receive your message

Effective communication requires understanding the behavior type of the person to whom you are speaking (It also helps to understand yours). When it comes to strangers, that can be difficult. In a leadership role, especially one in which you work with the same people (an employer – employee relationship), one of the best ways to improve conversation is to observe.

As you look at each of the next four sections, begin by thinking about a recent difficult conversation you had with someone. See if you can discover how each of you communicated and if maybe one of you missed the mark.


Communication behavior types

Openness vs. Guarded

An open person will display a significant amount of emotions and feelings. A guarded person will display calmness, control, and analysis. If you are too animated or converse with too much emotion while communicating with someone more guarded, they can be distracted or otherwise lose focus on the message. Such conversations are likely to be uncomfortable to them. With someone open, they could tune you out if your delivery is too subdued or analytical.

Use this as a guide to frame your delivery to keep the conversation engaging and communicate your message.

Direct vs. Indirect

What you’re looking for is how much control or force a person attempts to exercise over situations or others’ thoughts and emotions. Versus how submissive, compliant, and indecisive they are.

It helps you chose the right way to word sentences. Do you infer something be done or how it gets done, allowing them to direct the action or are you more direct with your message?

Fast vs. Slow

With fast versus slow, we are talking about pace. In a nutshell, this is a person’s natural rate of speed. When you look for pace or speed, you are looking for the rate of tasks being accomplished, the rate of speech and gestures, and even pace of walking. Look for patterns in their communication to help you determine where they are on the fast to slow spectrum.

Relationship Oriented vs. Task Oriented

We are determining what a person sees as most important toward accomplishing a goal. Look for a preference for relationship versus tasks. In other words, does the individual accomplish most of their work in a collaborative or people-friendly manner?

This would look like enlisting the help of others whenever possible. Or do they lean more toward accomplishing goals through their own abilities and tools available to them?

How To Discover The 8 Behaviors

When you meet someone new or are connecting with an old friend, you can always improve your communication. Start by asking this series of questions.

Understanding behavior to improve communication

  • When communicating with this person do they present themselves as guarded or open?
  • Is the person you are connecting with direct or indirect in their body language and other communications?
  • In general, is their communication pace fast or slow?
  • When this person approaches projects and work, are they more task or people oriented?

Once you’ve answered the above four questions. You can place them on the graph to the right providing a good picture of their type and what their general behaviors. This will allow you to better communicate with them.

The beauty of this tool is how simple it is to use. Once you discover the answers to the questions above, you can then connect on a deeper level. You do this by mirroring the person’s directness, openness, pace, and priority. This is done to the best of your ability in the most genuine way possible.

When you do this, people will experience a connection with you that they rarely do with others.


Give It A Try

Think about that recent conversation, especially one that didn’t go as well as it could. Run through the 8 behaviors and go through the four questions. Do you know where the person lands on the quadrants above?

What about your style, where do you land? If you’re curious, I’m an I-Style with some D-Style as well.

After you practice by reflecting on past conversations, give it a shot during a live one. See if you can begin to mirror their pace or directness. Maybe you could mirror the person’s openness.

Share your experiences!

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