This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.
Effective communication is one of the most important factors when it comes to teams not only performing well, but being able to exceed expectations. And yet, it takes practice to listen to different communication styles and know how to adapt.
If you have already mapped your team’s personality, then you are halfway there. When your team knows their own personality type and that of their teammates, they can use that information to improve communication.
There are many ways to approach it, but to keep things simple, we are going to use the Temperaments to assist us. If you have completed the Typefinder® assessment with your team, each person will have received a four letter Myers-Briggs type which will allow you to determine their Temperament.
If they have ‘SP’ or Sensor-Perceiver, they are known as Responders.
If they have ‘SJ’ or Sensor-Judger, they are known as Preservers.
If they have ‘NT’ or Intuitive-Thinker, they are known as Theorists.
If they have ‘NF’ or Intuitive-Feeler, they are known as Empaths.
NB: David Kiersey’s original names for these types were Artisan, Guardian, Rationalist and Idealist. However, in the modern age, those names seem to confuse people. Hence we updated them to make it easier to relate to your temperament and to practically apply it.
Each group has their own motivations and drives, but for today, we will simply focus on their natural communication style, both strengths and possible challenges. I’ll also outline an activity you can do with your team to help improve intrateam communication.
Read on to learn more or watch the video here.
Understanding the Four Communication Styles
Let’s look at the four communication styles. If you have your team’s personality map on hand, you can use it as a reference guide to double check what you are hearing.
Responders (SPs) tend to tell it like it is, saying what’s going on as they see it. They are great storytellers and can give colorful examples to illustrate their point. They talk concisely, using brief words to make their point. That said, they can offend others with their casual communication style and might skip over important steps as they think faster than they talk.
Preservers (SJs) tend to present information in a structured and organized way. They speak in a sequential order, with plenty of details and examples to get their message or instructions across. However, they can provide too much detail and can need time to process non-sequential information.
Theorists (NTs) tend to take an objective, independent viewpoint. They question assumptions and critically assess ideas and plans. They want to be precise, needing to find the right word for the concept they are working with. But they can appear critical or arrogant to others.
Empaths (NFs) tend to find common ground between different points of view. They use their empathy to connect people, adapt their communication style and express optimism about another’s potential. However, others can find them hard to follow when they use general or vague words and skip between topics where the connection isn’t obvious.
As you consider the four styles in your team, consider which you find easier to work with and which is harder. People who share your style will likely feel more natural to you than those who don't.
Once your team is aware of their personality type and natural communication style, you can help them practice adapting to the other styles as needed. Here is an activity you can run with your team in person or online.
1. What is effective communication? How do we know when we are doing it?
Set the scene by having the group explore what effective communication is and indicators of when they are communicating well and poorly. Discuss the impact on the team if they could improve their communication.
2. How could I adapt my style for each temperament?
Working individually or in small groups of the same type (ie, all Rationals or all Idealists), discuss how each individual could adapt their communication style to suit each of the three other temperaments. The focus is on how each individual can take responsibility for changing, not on expecting another person to change to them.
3. Present your ideas to each temperament in turn
Have each group present their ideas, focusing on one temperament at a time. For example, how the other three types suggest adapting their styles for the Preservers. Then move through each temperament in turn.
Each temperament will find some easier and some harder to adapt to. It just takes practice. Here are some examples of what people might say.
- Allow for more casual communication
- Make space for flexibility
- Focus on what’s happening now
- Be more specific and literal
- Try to be sequential and ordered
- Be patient with details
- Talk about people on the team
- Discuss the past and why it matters
- Be pragmatic about what needs to be done
- Be patient with answering questions
- Discuss what will happen in the future
- Use a model or framework to discuss the plan
- Allow for empathy and talking about personal experiences
- Discuss the impact on people
- Explore improving the lives of others
- Be patient with generalizations
Once you have your team’s personality map and have run the activity above, it's time to practice. Whenever you meet with a member of your team, be prepared to adapt based on what you know about their communication style. Focus on one thing you want to practice in each meeting, and then assess how well you did.
If your whole team is practicing too, at the end of each meeting you can ask how it went, assessing whether communication was effective in that meeting or not. Discuss how you might improve it for next time.
Given that we are all communicating constantly, it can take time to learn how to adjust our communication styles. It can feel uncomfortable at first. But it will pay off in the end when your team is able to pool their collective strengths to discuss challenging topics and stretch each other beyond anywhere each thought possible.