The fact that people have different communication styles in not news. However, I have found a “word picture” that seems to really help individuals get a better sense of how different they are from others, and also gives a clearer understanding on the challenges they have in communicating effectively with those close to them.
There is a wide range in how each of us: a) think about the world around us; b) create messages in our minds; c) communicate what we are thinking; and d) decode and interpret the messages we receive. Essentially, we each are “wired” differently, and that wiring affects our communication style. And, believe it or not, each communication style has both benefits and drawbacks — even though we tend to believe our way of thinking and communicating makes the most sense!
Let’s use the images of a Morse code telegraph machine, an AM radio station, a FM (“high fidelity”) radio station, black-and-white television, color television, and High Definition Television (HDTV).
People who communicate in morse code send in the simplest of messages: dots (. .) and dashes (- -). It is one tone, no emotion, short words and phrases. The bare minimum information is sent. No elaboration. No “color” description. Just the facts.
AM radio wave senders are a step up in complexity. More information (both words and music can be sent and received) but the tone is still fairly flat and monochromatic (sort of “tinny”, actually).
FM high fidelity radio has more depth, richness in tone, can send stereophonic music, and can communicate a range of emotions well. But it is still only auditory.
Black-and-white TV (for those of us who remember it) was an exciting advance in being able to communicate both auditory sounds and visual images (without having to verbally describe the object or action — like sports radio announcers had to do.) We could “see” and hear more — due to the more complex message being sent.
Color TV was the visual equivalent of FM radio. We now could see the blue sky, green grass, and the wide range of colors of people’s clothes. The picture was full, vibrant, rich in detail and really left little to the imagination.
And now we have HDTV (and 3D movies) which bring even more detail and more realistic communication.
And this is the way interpersonal communication is — some people send very simple, short messages with not a lot of information (or emotion). While others send very full, complex messages with a lot of information in many ways — auditory with a broad range of frequencies in stereo, plus visual images with colors, movement and exact detail
The problem and challenge is: the sender of the message and the receiver of the message have to be able to process the same type of data for the communication to be truly effective. There is some overlap (you can sometimes receive a radio signal on your TV, or at least, just the audio signal of the broadcast).
But some of us just aren’t wired to “hear” the richness of the stereophonic symphony or to be able to see the depth of color and feel the richness of the experience. No matter how hard we try we “just don’t get it”. And, like it or not, some of this is gender-based. Men and women generally think, process the world, express and receive information differently. (Note: when I say “gender-based”, I mean that men as a Bell-curve distributed group are towards one end, while women as a Bell-curve distributed group are towards the other –but the two groups overlap significantly.)
How can this example help in your communicating more effectively with those around you?
1. Think about what what type of communicator you are — do you send a lot of information, with a lot of deep feeling? Or are you a “just the plain facts” type of person? Do you think and feel deeply? Or do you process a lot of information quickly, but it is more on the surface?
2. Consider the people with whom you have the most difficulty communicating clearly — what type of communicator are they? Are you sending messages that they really aren’t wired to receive, decode, and understand the fullness of what you are saying (and experiencing)?
3. Remember that each mode of communication has its only benefits and drawbacks. Morse Code is great when you have to send an important fact quickly and there is o time to set up complex recording or receiving equipment. Color TV is wonderful at communicating a complex message that involves sound, visual images, color, movement. But it can take a lot of time, effort, and complex communication equipment to record, communicate and decode the message sent. For example, you often can’t receive a TV signal in the midst of a major storm.
4. Try to be understanding and accepting of those around you. We are who we are. We can grow and develop to some degree; but due to the hard wiring we are born with, there are limits to how much we can change. Some of us think pretty simply, with not a lot of depth or complexity. Others of us really have a hard time sending a simple “yes/no” message without giving all of the context around the decision, and we process while we are talking!
This might be an interesting topic of discussion around the dining room table, while driving or even in a staff meeting. What type of communicator are you? Morse code, FM radio or HDTV?