Ever notice that there are some people with whom you just naturally seem to click? Your conversations flow freely, and you feel an instant rapport.

Yet there are other people with whom communication is more of a struggle. Less flow. Just don’t feel like you’re on the same wavelength. More opportunities for misunderstandings. It’s all about your style of communication.

Now there are numerous assessments of communication style, and they typically divide people into four basic types. The idea is that we’re all made up of all four to some extent, but probably have one or two that stand out.

Each assessment gives different names to the four styles — perhaps terms like “amiables and analyticals,” perhaps different colors, even various animals — all describing pretty much the same four styles. To make things simple, I’m going to talk about these styles by referring to categories used on one of my favorite communication inventories: the Director, the Presenter, the Mediator and the Strategist.

Remember, no style is “right” or “wrong.” They each have definite strengths and potential liabilities. The point is that by learning to recognize both your own style and that of others, you can maximize your communication with everyone simply by tweaking your own communication to better match the other person’s and develop better (and faster) rapport.

An added benefit: You may find that what you thought was a “personality conflict” with someone is more likely to be just a difference in your communication styles. Realizing that the other person has a different style from yours — and that the other person uses that same style with everyone — allows you not to take things personally.

The Director

Directors are fast thinking, fast moving and task/results-oriented. They are visionary and creative, and they like to take charge. They speak succinctly and want to know the bottom line. They are assertive and direct, telling you what they think without softening the message. They make decisions quickly and are often leaders. They enjoy taking risks and like challenges.

Possible liabilities: Directors can come across as blunt, unfeeling and even arrogant or intimidating. They tend to have difficulty delegating because they think “it’s easier and faster just to do it myself” or they “dump” instead of delegating, handing over a task without following up or providing support. They can be poor listeners and tend to be impatient. With their task orientation, they may not ask about or seem to care about how others are feeling.

The Presenter

Presenters are lively, energetic and extroverted. They love to have fun, use humor and enjoy being in the spotlight. They are people-oriented (rather than task-oriented) and love to talk and socialize. Very creative, they are excellent at brainstorming options and solutions. They make excellent speakers and can be very persuasive. They like to be acknowledged and are very good at acknowledging others. They never meet a stranger and tend to excel in sales.

Possible liabilities: Presenters can get so enthusiastic about so many things that they tend to lose focus. They tend to take on too much, to over-promise and under-deliver, and to have difficulty meeting deadlines and following through on commitments. They become easily bored. Because of their humor, they sometimes have difficulty being taken seriously.

The Mediator

Mediators are also people-oriented, but not extroverted. They are excellent team players,always conscious of how others are feeling and seeking win/win solutions to problems. Often describing themselves as “the office chaplain” because everyone comes to them with their problems, they are excellent listeners and seek to genuinely understand. They make decisions carefully and thoughtfully. They are often described as “transparent leaders”: It’s a Director or Presenter receiving the award at the front of the room and saying “the person who really deserves this award is (the Mediator)” — who is at the back of the room making out nametags or arranging the display. Mediators typically have an area of expertise and are very direct in their communication when talking about that area; however, they tend to use “waffle” words or to soften their communication when not talking about their area because they don’t want to offend others. Mediators avoid confrontation and conflict.

Potential liabilities: With their discomfort with conflict, Mediators have difficulty giving or receiving negative feedback. They have difficulty accepting criticism and get their feelings hurt easily. They often annoy Directors in particular because Mediators prefer a slower, more thoughtful pace and need time to make decisions.

The Strategist

Strategists are facts and data people. They are excellent with detail and follow-through. They like a plan, a structure with clear parameters. They are very concerned with quality and are task-oriented. They do not buy into ideas until they’ve had time to go off by themselves and research the issue. They are not risk-takers and do not like change unless it can be proven that the change is necessary. They are careful decision makers and clear communicators (because they can tell you the facts).

Potential liabilities: Because of their perfectionism, Strategists can slip into analysis paralysis — taking too much time to make decisions or to act. With their emphasis on the task, they tend to overlook feelings and can come across to others as detached and uncaring. Being slow to accept change, they often stay in a bad situation too long.

A Warning

Remember that we are all a blend of these four communication styles and that the goal is to understand how to best modify our own styles to have better rapport with those of different styles. A few examples: If your boss is a Director, you want to be succinct and bottom-line when you speak to her. You would give her an executive summary (with back-up data behind it if appropriate) rather than trying to verbalize all the data in a detailed format or being too chatty.

If your boss is a Presenter, you’d want to schmooze a bit before getting down to business. If you’re dealing with a Mediator, you may need to slow your pace a bit and to ask “feeling” questions. With a Strategist, you’d want to make sure you know your facts before you present a new idea.

It’s not that you want to be a chameleon and change your own style completely. But you do want the flexibility of tweaking your style to be more in sync with the person you’re dealing with to facilitate the communication process.

Author: Judi Craig