Human Resources Mysteries - Understanding Communication Styles

I have recently participated in a great leadership training session which opened my eyes and made me realize that during my recruitment times and during my HR career as a manager and team member I have made some mistakes in judging people incorrectly. I will tell you how I found that out, one mistake I realized now I made and how you can use the information that was offered to me in order to communicate better as a team leader or as a team member.

In 1975 Dr. Paul P. Mok developed the Communicating Styles Technology. He identified 4 main communication styles that people use. Understanding these styles helps us understand each other better. I was amazed to see how many misunderstandings and misjudgments can appear if we don’t understand and accept these styles in the people around us. No style is correct or incorrect – this is just how we communicate and we need to accept that. Also, some people use sometimes more than one style, under stress conditions the style can change dramatically, and understanding the main elements of each style helps.

Dr. Paul P. Mok also developed a questionnaire that helps us identify our style, but I am not able to provide that since it has copyright. You will have to find it yourselves. I will provide however, the main traits of each style so you can check where you are and where people around you are according to their behavior and according to how well you know them so far.

The main 4 communication styles are:

-          Always based on logic, organizing and problem solving;
-          Personal values: quality, ethics, justice;
-          Focuses on all stages of a project : past, present, future;
-          Is motivated by logic, scientific questionnaires, anything that is well organized and included in a clear system;
-          Prefers analytical tasks, likes to collect and use data – as detailed as possible;
-          Thinks about consequences before making a decision, likes to analyze all angles before any action is done;
-          Feels uncomfortable to use direct  personal communication and to do fast decision making;
-          Prefers: cold colors, classic and conservative dress code, an organized work environment;
-          Communication type: always structured and organized;
-          Suitable for jobs like: law, engineering, accounting, computers, science, problem solving.

-          Based on direct human interaction, projecting feelings;
-          Personal values: family, friends, loyalty;
-          Needs and likes to receive constant feedback and cares about what other people think;
-          Focuses on past stages of a project;
-          Is motivated by love, gratitude, the feeling of being useful;
-          Prefers tasks concerning of human interaction, likes to “shine”, likes to analyze people;
-          Feels uncomfortable with: structured areas, receiving orders, science, impersonal situations, strict accuracy;
-          Likes fun, people interaction, volunteering, team sports, informal dress code, a comfortable home environment for work;
-          Communication type: spontaneous, unplanned, informal;
-          Suitable for jobs like: psychology, social services, sales, ministers, trade;

-          Based on imagination, vision, speculation; they say this is the communication style least common and that most real leaders are intuitive;
-          Personal values: concepts, ideology, discovery;
-          Focuses on future stages of a project;
-          Is motivated by creative and unstructured tasks, discovery, using imagination;
-          Feels uncomfortable with: structured areas, bureaucracy, strict accuracy;
-          Likes reading, walks, climbing, chess, other games intellect-related, color mixtures, unpredictable dress code, high tech and thinking-lab work environment;
-          Communication type: abstract, ideas and vision oriented, professional done by association;
-          Suitable for jobs like: research, science, design for new products, economics, teaching;

-          Based on work, competition, results;
-          Personal values: action, winning, health;
-          Focuses on present stages of a project;
-          Is motivated by clear tasks, practical situations, simplicity oriented towards a clear goal; sensors are those people always busy, always ready for action, very fast and sharp thinkers and decision makers, people that feel that the world moves too slow around them, people who don’t have patience to wait and listen; they feel that their time is always wasted by those who move too slow around them;
-          Feels uncomfortable with: vagueness, difficult theories, situations with no clear purpose;
-          Likes competitive sports, gambling, action sports, financial publications, hot colors like red, functional and practical dress code, competitive work environment which needs fast moves from their side;
-          Communication type: short sentences, they give the impression that they are always in a hurry, they tend to be perceived as aggressive, they tend to give the impression that they don’t listen, they like to be in control;
-          Suitable for jobs like: business, financial investment, construction, sports, sales, anything risky and involving fast decision making;

Pretty interesting, right?
Now, what’s even more interesting is how each communication style perceives the others. This is sometimes hilarious:

Your primary style
A Thinker sees you as:
An Intuitive sees you as:
A Feeler sees you as:
A Sensor sees you as:
With no imagination
Old fashioned
Too slow
Too cautious
Full of mistakes
Exaggerated reactions
Based more on intuition than on ideas
“Prima donna”
Wasting time
Someone who likes to give orders
Ready to do anything to achieve a goal
No mercy
More interested in money rather than people

Free form
Not disciplined
Too persistent
Talking way too much

Now, back to me. In case you are wondering about me – I am a thinker under normal conditions and sensor under stress conditions. And about my mistake – I rejected during an assessment for a position of team leader an internal candidate that I saw as disorganized and not disciplined. He became a team leader two years later and he’s doing a great job. He has been with me during the training I was mentioning at the beginning and guess what, his communication style was intuitive. I realized my mistake and started being afraid if this is the only one I have made throughout my career. Probably not because we have the tendency when recruiting to recruit people that are like us. This is not ok, but it’s sometimes difficult to control.

So, all of you recruiters and managers out there, be open minded and give everyone an equal chance. They may have a different communication style than yours. Don’t judge before listening and investigating.

Take care,

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