Understand your communication style

What kind of communicator are you? Communication expert and leadership coach, Maya Hu-Chan, says most people fall into one of two categories. Knowing which you and others are can improve your communication:

Low context communication

They tend to focus mostly on words and ignore nonverbal cues. Their focus is not on how you say something, but the exact words you use. What to know about them:

  • They are direct and to the point. They’re comfortable hearing and saying “No,” because they don’t want to beat around the bush. They say what they want to say, regardless of who is listening.
  • Communicating via email or in person is the same for them.
  • They don’t like silence; they either rush to fill it or to end the conversation.

High context communication

They see the big picture, not just the words. They pay attention to body language, hand gestures and tone of voice. They are also cognizant of the context surrounding a conversation, such as the relationship between people or the surrounding environment. What to know about them:

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  • They are more likely to soften their language or be indirect. They avoid “No” because they don’t want to damage a relationship or become confrontational. They tailor their message with their listeners in mind.
  • They prefer in-person communication because they want to read body language. They often misinterpret the meaning behind an email.
  • They are comfortable with silences during conversation because they see it as time to process what is being communicated.

Takeaway: Both styles have merits, depending on the situation and the people with whom you are communicating. Knowing which type you, your co-workers and employees are allows you to adapt your message accordingly, so that you avoid misunderstandings and confusion.

— Adapted from “What Type of Communicator Are You? The Answer Might Surprise You,” Maya Hu-Chan, Inc., www.inc.com.