Effective Communication

“Will’s over here using his non verbals to mess every body up…BJ’s gettin’ passive agressive with his verbals…Erin’s being assertive…and Cody’s just passively waiting to be agressive.”

Communication is how we interact with those around us. Understanding how we and others communicate creates better interaction and understanding.

“I feel like that’s my default style, the bear and wait.”

When communicating with other we need to be aware of our own emotions. This helps to be able to focus on the interaction and not be driven by our own feelings about the situation. Emotions are filters that will alter our perceptions of interactions with those around us.

Episode Breakdown

Types of Communication

08:33 Verbal

“It’s a lot harder than people think.”

Verbal communication is what most people think of when they hear the term communication. Properly articulate your thoughts and ideas. Be assertive. This is a soft skill to learn and practice.

“You forget the stuff that other people don’t have in your awareness.”

Understand your audience. Use idioms and slang carefully as they may have different meanings. Also clarify your terminology when communicating. Sometimes disagreements and misunderstandings can be from using the same word differently. You may find that you don’t disagree with someone if you are using the same terms. For example a view has a different meaning depending on if you are talking about databases or front ends.

Learn to use metaphors to explain your ideas. One of the best ways to ensure understanding of verbal communication is to repeat what has been said to you in your own words. It helps to avoid misunderstandings. It also shows that you were listening and processing the information being presented.

17:23 Non-Verbal

“We can look at each other from across the room and go, ‘yeah I know what he’s thinking'”

Non-Verbal communication can mean anything that does not use words. It is a broad category that covers everything from hand movements to facial gestures.

Body language, eye contact, and tone and inflection are some of the most common forms of non-verbal communication. When conveying information your non-verbals need to match what you are saying. If they do not match you may convey the wrong message. You could be interpreted as unsure of yourself or even to be lying.

19:05 Written

“It’s better for me to use written communication because I can write that email three times…”

Written communication is a difficult area to master. It takes the form of emails, technical specs, documentation, acceptance criteria, etc. It uses words alone without intonation, inflection, or other non-verbal cues. Be careful with what you write as it can be referenced after the initial usage.

22:46 Interpersonal

“It’s what we’ve been in.”

Interpersonal communication is between small groups usually face-to-face. Everyone is engaged in the dialog. There are typically few restrictions on the communication. Typically those involved know each other and are more open to disclosing personal information. This type of communication is used to help a group or team open up to one another.

Basic Communication Styles

23:39 Aggressive communication is about winning.

“I’ve worked under several managers that once they get wound up this is their style.”

Being aggressive implies that your needs are more important than others. It can be hostile and threatening in tone. This style is used by those trying to dominate or control others. It involves criticizing, blaming, or attacking. Those using this style tend towards a low frustration tolerance and high impulsivity.

“It’s amazing how some people go non linear.”

Non-verbal communication expresses dominance in conversation. Vocal tone tends to be loud and fast. Express a large posture with big, fast, and sharp gestures.

Using this style tends to have some unwanted consequences. Others tend to react either defensively or aggressively. You may become alienated or alienate others. Those around you may start to fear or hate you. Blaming others shows a lack of maturity or personal responsibility.

28:38 Passive communication focuses on pleasing others and avoiding conflict.

“I used to be really shy and a people pleaser.”

Being passive puts others needs and wants as more important than your own. It is very soft spoken, apologetic, and avoids conflict. Those with this style tend to have difficulty making decisions or taking responsibility. It involves always feeling like the victim and blaming others for everything. The passive style allows others to force their views on the person.

Non-verbal communication expresses submission in conversation. Vocal tones are soft, low, and slow. Express as small posture with fidgety gestures. Difficulty making eye contact.

“Not directly addressing people.”

This style tends to leave others feeling exasperated. They may feel frustrated with you for not being able to make a decision. They may feel guilty for taking advantage of you.

31:28 Passive-Aggressive comes from a feeling of powerlessness or resentfulness.

“I’m trying not to rock the boat but I’m trying to get my way.”

This comes from an inability to deal directly with a situation. People may have difficulty acknowledging their anger. They may use sarcasm to hide their frustration or anger. They can appear passive or cooperative but subtly undermine or sabotage.

Non-verbal communication appears saccharine sweet. Usually involves speaking in a sweet almost sugary voice with tones of sarcasm. Asymmetric posture with quick, jerky gestures.

“Bless Your Heart!”

Others tend to feel confused or hurt by this style. Using it may alienate those around them. Not address the real issue so remain powerless.

37:19 Assertive is the ideal style of communication.

Being assertive involves clearly stating what you want and need. This could be stating your opinions and feelings clearly and appropriately. It also involves advocating for yourself without hurting others.

“Whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing at the end you can still have a conversation.”

Non-verbal communication involves keeping yourself at an even tone. Use a medium pitch, speed, and volume. Express an open and relaxed posture. Make even and rounded gestures. Maintain good eye contact.

There are several ways to go about assertive communication. Use “I” or “We” statements. Listen without interruption. Coordinate non-verbal communication with verbal. Don’t allow emotions (yours or others) to overtake communication.

Communication Behavior

Your communication behavior goes beyond what style you use to communicate to how you use it to get your message to others. There are several different systems for determining how we use communication.

49:34 Communication Styles Technology

Communication Styles Technology is a system for understanding how we communicate with each other. It was created by Dr. Paul P. Mok and is a proprietary system. Therefore we will only discuss it from our experiences and the publicly available information. You can get more information about the system through the link in the show notes.

It starts off with an assessment to determine your primary and secondary styles of communication. Default or not stressed and then your style under stress. Not mutually exclusive as each of us have a blend of them all. One or two are more dominant.

There are four types of communicators and we will discuss each one, what motivates them, characteristics of their communication behavior, situations they are uncomfortable, and how they are perceived by other styles.

50:40 Thinker

Thinker is based on logic, organization, and problem solving. They are motivated by logic, clear structural systems, and organization. They value quality, ethics, and justice and focus on all stages of a project.

“This tends to be a lot of DBA’s.”

They tend to be very analytical and deliberate in communication. Think about all consequences before making a decision, may even elaborate on them. Always structured and organized in communication.

Thinkers are uncomfortable with direct personal communication. They do not like making quick decisions. Reserved or conservative dress and postures.

Perceived by other styles:

  • Feeler: blunt/stiff, impersonal, strict, boring.
  • Intuitive: narrow, no imagination, conservative, meticulous.
  • Sensor: old fashioned, too slow, too cautious, defensive.

53:18 Feeler

“How do you feel about that?”

Feeler is based on direct human interactions and expressing feelings. Motivated by love, gratitude, and feelings of usefulness. They value family, friends, and loyalty and tend to focus on the past stages of a project.

Their communication tends to be spontaneous and informal. Prefers human interactions and likes to analyze people. Need constant feedback as they care about what others think.

“Sittin’ there in the Quad with your DSM IV just lookin’ at people.”

They are uncomfortable in impersonal situations. They avoid structure and strict accuracy. Feelers do not like being given orders.

Perceived by other styles:

  • Thinker: impulsive, immature, childish, disorganized.
  • Intuitive: full of mistakes, exaggerated reactions, manipulative, based on intuition no ideas.
  • Sensor: “Prima Donna”, sensitive, talkative, time waster.

55:28 Intuitive

Intuitive is based on imagination and speculation. Motivated by creative and unstructured tasks. They value concepts, ideology, and discovery and focus on the future of a project. Intuitives tend to be early adopters to technology.

“They tend to go more towards the architect type role.”

Intuitives Communicate via abstraction. They prefer to talk about ideas and is vision oriented. Conveying ideas through metaphor.

They are uncomfortable with bureaucracy and avoid the mundane tasks that bore them. Also they do not like too much structure or strict accuracy.

Perceived by other styles:

  • Thinker: disorganized, free form, philosopher, not disciplined.
  • Feeler: fascinating, fanatic, too persistent.
  • Sensor: crazy, dreamer, talking too much.

59:35 Sensor

“Mechanical engineers, chemical engineers: That’s the sort of group I see this behavoir out of.”

Sensor is based on work, competition, and results. They are motivated by clear goals and tasks with practical solutions and value action and winning. Sensors tend to focus on the present stage of a project. They are fast and sharp thinkers.

They have very short direct communication and appear to always be in a hurry. Sensors like to be in control.

They become uncomfortable with vagueness and avoid situations with no clear purpose. They also do not like difficult theories.

Perceived by other styles:

  • Thinker: simplistic, politician, negligent, likes to give orders.
  • Feeler: no mercy, selfish, more interested in money than people.
  • Intuitive: dangerous, dictatorial, ready to do anything to achieve a goal.

DevSpace: North Alabama's Premier Polyglot Technology Conference

IoTease: Project

Family Calendar

This is a project that Will and I are going to build that will display a family calendar for his family to keep track of all they do. We’ll use an arduino and a display screen with some code to integrate his and his wife’s google calendars to display on a screen with reminders of upcoming events. It’s still in the design phase but I wanted to mention it now since it relates to our current conversation. Once built we’ll write up a blog post about how you can build one for your family.

Tricks of the Trade

These tools can help you understand where other people are coming from, however they are also useful for getting insight into your own behaviors. Most people tend to exhibit a couple of these under normal conditions, and another pair when under stress. If you know which ones you tend to use in different states of mind, it can help you understand the warning signs of getting stressed out, even if you don’t perceive them well yourself. This is important, because we all lie to ourselves about how much stress we’re under.

Editor’s Notes:

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