What your communication style says about you

You might be telling people that you are not trustworthy, decisive or willing to help others—without knowing it.


John Hollon, editor of TLNT, recently wrote that when it comes to being a good boss, “There is no such thing as over-communication.”

How true.

When ZipRecruiter analyzed 250,000 job ads across a variety of industries, it found that 51 percent mentioned communication as a desired skill. No other mention came close. (A college degree, which came in second, was mentioned 21 percent of the time.)

Clearly, communication is king.

Of course, communication is about much more than what we say or how we say it. Communication doesn’t merely transmit facts; it reveals character.

Bucky Keady, vice president of talent management at Time Inc., answers work-related questions at Real Simple magazine. Someone recently asked her: “Whom can you trust in a corporate environment when you’re starting a new job?”

Keady responded that she doesn’t trust anyone in the first six months because, “You really need to see people operate in stressful situations to learn who they are.” She adds: “Pay attention to how people communicate. That can tell you a lot.”

I started following Keady on Twitter and am gearing up for a full-blown online stalker campaign.

In “Why Emotional Intelligence Affects the Bottom Line,” Anne Loehr, author and leadership development expert, says communication has five parts:

  1. What’s said
  2. What’s not said
  3. Words
  4. Tone of voice
  5. Body language

Combining Keady and Loehr’s wisdom, here’s what a person’s communication style says about him or her:

1. “Watch out! I’m a taker.

Yes, people are complex, but ultimately you’re either a giver or taker.

Takers see how someone or something can benefit them. Givers are generous and tend to enjoy helping others, even if there’s little or no personal gain.

Takers:

  • Withhold information. This keeps them in control.
  • Are gifted at corporate speak and saying absolutely nothing in as many words as possible. This covers their backsides.
  • Aggressively solicit information without reciprocating. This makes me want to scream.

I once had a manager who repeatedly asked, “How are things going?” and, “How are you feeling?” ostensibly to show her concern for my well-being and our working relationship.

Please. She couldn’t have cared less about my well-being or our relationship. She cared about her image as a “good manager” and getting information for nefarious purposes.

If she had cared, she’d have offered useful feedback about my performance rather than try to worm information from me. She never did; she was a classic taker.

2. “I’m a wimp.”

Wimpy managers shift blame. They justify their non-management with the lie that they are progressives who prefer to collaborate and give everyone a fair say.

Uh, no.

The buck has to stop somewhere. Wishy-washy managers who are indecisive and want everyone to like everything don’t help employees or their organizations.

For example, I once interviewed for a job and got to round four before the hiring manager told me that while she was confident I could do the job, other unnamed people in the company—but not the executive director, because I met her in round two—weren’t.

What?

The manager was clearly spineless and probably clueless. I dodged a bullet.

3. “You can trust me.”

Of course, how a person communicates can divulge positive aspects of his personality, as well.

Two of my favorite clients consistently took pains to communicate clearly. They kept promises, apologized for missteps (no matter how slight) and showed genuine concern for their effect on others, even when they were stressed or distracted.

Rather than assume, they asked questions. Rather than state opinion as fact, they owned their perceptions. Rather than ask a potentially embarrassing question in public, they asked it privately (and prevented the possibility of revealing a mistake).

At the same time, they held me accountable for results and made it clear they valued good work.

What does your communication say about you?

It’s saying something—perhaps something you don’t intend or would be unhappy to learn about yourself. Ask a trusted source, and believe what you hear.

On the flip side, what have you learned about others through their communication? Please share in the comments section.

Crystal Spraggins is an HR consultant and freelance writer. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.

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