Personality and communication styles: do we ever really hear each other?
Personality impacts how we prefer to communicate with people, as well as how we ourselves respond to information. The more we understand our own communication styles and those of the people we work with, the more effective we can be as leaders, teams, and colleagues.
Different personalities mean different communication styles, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace. A clash of communication styles between two people, whether it’s a manager and their line report or two colleagues working together on a project, can mean they fail to ever really hear each other.
Think about the people in your own workplace. Do you find it difficult to speak to your boss or a particular colleague? Do you feel like you’re not ever quite on the same page? Or that they don’t really get you?
A clash of communication styles can not only affect productivity, but it can cause frustrations and conflict. Understanding that everyone is different is fundamental to a cohesive workforce. The more we understand the people around us, the more effective we can become as leaders, managers, and colleagues.
This is why it’s important for people to understand their own personality, as well as the personalities of the people around them. If people know themselves better, they can understand how they prefer to communicate. And if they know their colleagues better, they can talk with them more effectively, develop better relationships, and create a friendlier and more united team environment.
So, what can an individual’s Facet5 profile tell us about how they prefer to communicate, as well as the communication styles they themselves are likely to respond best to?
People who score high on Will have strongly held beliefs and can, therefore, be quite direct in the way they communicate. Some people may respond well to this style as it means they know where they stand, but for others, they may come across as confrontational and stubborn. High Will people are usually very determined too, which means it can be difficult to change their mind on something. If attempting to persuade them to see your way of thinking, you’d have to come in with a very strong and clear argument in order to sway them.
Low Will people, on the other hand, like to take a back seat in discussions and can become frustrated when others (like high Will individuals) demand them to make their position known. Their own communication style may be more submissive and unassertive, meaning it might be hard to get a clear answer from them about their opinion. Some people may find them unassertive and as sitting too much on the fence. However, low Will people are very tolerant and willing to listen, which can make them approachable and easy to talk to.
The key element to remember with Will is that those with high scores can be quite confrontational, whereas those with low scores will do anything to avoid confrontation. If these two personalities are working together, it could mean the low Will individual ends up accepting the others’ viewpoint, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it, just to keep the peace.
People with high Energy scores often prefer to talk through a problem with others in order to arrive at a solution. They are likely to ask lots of questions about how others feel and talk through their own feelings out loud. They may then become frustrated with low Energy individuals who don’t engage them in these situations because they prefer to take their time thinking things through alone first.
High Energy people can also be very energetic and enthusiastic in the way they communicate. Some people might find this motivating and inspirational, whereas others might withdraw, finding them distracting or overbearing. From the opposite perspective, people with high Energy might find it difficult to talk to low Energy people as they seem shy or unsociable.
People with low Energy are quieter, more reserved and private. They may be more softly spoken which some people may find calming, but others might find unengaging. Low Energy people do tend to be good listeners and will always try to understand before commenting, which can make them an easy and safe person to talk to.
People who score high on Affection tend to communicate in a warm and supportive manner. They are also open-minded and receptive to new ideas, making them easily approachable. In this sense, they often make good managers and mentors as people feel like they can talk to them and know they will be heard.
People who score low on Affection tend to communicate in a more pragmatic way. They make decisions quickly, and while some people might like their proactiveness and no-nonsense style, others might want to ask questions or talk about alternatives. If the low Affection individual doesn't make an effort to engage those people, they can come across as cynical or dismissive.
People with high Control tend to have very strong views on what is right and wrong. As a manager, they will usually communicate very clearly how things should be done and when they should be done by, which helps for getting everyone on the same page. While this can benefit the whole team, it may also detract others from putting forward new ideas in fear of rocking the boat.
People with low Control tend to be more laid-back and less rigid. As a manager, this might make for a more relaxed and open team, but alternatively, it could leave people feeling lost, or even worried that they won’t finish a project on time or meet wider objectives if there is no clear direction. For some people, their easy-going nature might make them easy to talk to, but others (especially high Control people) might be frustrated by their lack of structure and focus.
People with high Emotionality may communicate in a vibrant and passionate way, which can be motivating and encouraging for others. However, they can be unpredictable, which may put people off approaching them to talk about an issue or a problem they are facing.
When talking to high Emotionality people, it’s important to take their sensitive nature into account. This doesn’t mean not telling them the hard truths when they need to be told, but doing it in a way that gives them an opportunity to ask questions. To drop a bomb on them without giving the full explanation or allowing them to ask questions - either immediately or later - could leave them feeling tense or anxious.
Low Emotionality people are likely to communicate in a more measured and relaxed manner. This can make them easy to talk to, however, others might struggle to spark action in a low Emotionality person. It's not uncommon for others to become frustrated by the low Emotionality individual’s seemingly unmotivated or unengaged attitude, especially if they themselves score high on both Emotionality and Will.
These are just some examples of how the interactions between different personality styles can help or hinder how we communicate with each other. However, people’s communication styles are not immutable. This doesn’t mean we need to force people to change, but rather to take into account the personalities of others they work with and think about how they can modify their own behaviour to avoid conflict and get the best out of people.