We can all relate. You’re in a business meeting, and it starts to get awkward. Maybe you’re not quite sure how to take a comment someone made. Maybe a co-worker’s non-verbals are sending a negative message. Or maybe a person is too loud, constantly interrupting the conversation.
According to the webinar, “Communicating for Results; from Conflict to Cooperation with Marilyn Sherman, there are four styles of communication, and if you can understand these styles, it will help you become a better communicator while making better decisions about how to respond in difficult situations. Here are a few items Marilyn shared during the webinar about communication styles:
AGGRESSIVE people are typically loud, reactive, defensive and competitive. They like to “one up” you. They make sure their experience and know-how are projected to prove themselves. Deep down inside, however, they come from a place of insecurity. And, they keep you at a distance, so you don’t see their insecurity. If you can understand why a person is aggressive, it will help you understand the best way to approach them.
PASSIVE people are quiet. They are followers. They tend to be very conscientious and feel responsible if something doesn’t go well. They can also be described as weak… or even a doormat on the extreme side. And they are indecisive, waiting for the other person to make the first move. They are also viewed as just nice people, giving up their time and space for a colleague in need… a good trait. Taken to the extreme, however, that trait becomes negative. This type of person will not be seen as a leader if they can’t speak up and give an honest opinion, and they will stop being seen as a resource. As Marilyn stated, “If you are nice all the time, people will take advantage of you. You are only a victim once then you are a volunteer.” These types of people need to stand up to others who take advantage of their good will, work on their positives and have confidence.
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE – There are two types of passive aggressive people. The first type has the intention of good will toward others. And, they don’t know how to say “no.” They overextend themselves because they are not confident in staying within their boundaries. The second type has NO intention of good will. They are seen as manipulative, having their own agenda. When they speak to you, their words may sound insulting. How would you respond to someone you believe is insulting you? Marilyn suggests a simple statement and a question – “That sounded like an insult. Was that your intent?” Be prepared to stand up for yourself when you call out a person like this. They will probably put it back on you as if it were your fault – “Is everything at home alright?” “Are you OK?” Simply respond, “Well, we weren’t talking about me; we were talking about what YOU said.” With this approach, you are setting a boundary for yourself.
ASSERTIVE – Marilyn points out that when you communicate assertively, there is no reason to raise your voice, or get in someone’s physical space. You just need to genuinely come from a place of respect. To be assertive during difficult situations, she suggests you take a breath to remain clear and to respond appropriately. If you say something that is hurtful, you can’t take it back no matter how much you apologize. Another important tip is to use “I” statements. Take ownership. This is how “I” feel… this is what “I” need. Slow down and deepen your voice. Watch a person’s non-verbals – eye rolling… crossing their arms. And don’t say, “Whoa, what’s wrong with you?!” They get defensive. Instead, use these simple words – “Help me understand.” “Help me understand what’s going on,” then let them speak. Don’t fill in with excess verbiage. If you feel you may lose control, recognize your warning signals and heed them. If you find yourself in a high potential anxiety situation, use an exit line – “Let’s finish this later.” “This conversation is important, and I’d like to get closure on it, but I need 5 minutes”. Exit and regroup.
For more information about Marilyn and her communication workshop offerings, visit her website at www.marilynsherman.com.