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Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Learn differences in communications styles

Q I get talked over a lot. I tend to be slow in my speech, and by the time I get through a pause, two other people have jumped in. How can I get people to recognize my pace so that I can get my points across?

A: Let people know about your style and develop some techniques to hold your verbal space.

Start by assuming that others aren't trying to be rude. This will help you set aside some of your annoyance so that you can focus on solutions.

Instead, consider what they may be experiencing. They may be enthusiastic, busy, impatient or all of the above. They also likely have a different personality style than you, so gaining a deeper understanding of the implications of stylistic differences may be helpful.

In particular, examine the differences between introversion and extroversion. In the former, which may seem familiar to you, the individual tends to process internally, formulating complete thoughts before speaking. Extroverts are more apt to process as they speak, which picks up their pace. This is a prime area of contrast — and sometimes conflict — between these types of people.

External perspectives can be useful, so ask someone you trust for feedback on how you're perceived in meetings.

Finally, assess whether other factors hold you back. If you're afraid to be wrong, uncomfortable with disagreement, or uncertain about your knowledge, others may run over you. Age, gender and status can also have an effect. These are issues that you'll want to address so that they don't have undue influence on your behavior.

Raising awareness among colleagues is a good place to start. Depending on their role, it may be a good lunchtime topic, team meeting discussion or an issue to raise with your boss one-on-one.

Confrontation is not the point. As you increase your knowledge of style differences and your personal dynamics, your purpose is to share this with others so that you can collectively be more effective. No need to be deadly serious in tone. A light touch on "what's the difference between introverts and extroverts" can go a long way.

This communication issue may well be affecting others in your workplace, so raising the topic may have widespread benefit and may be something your boss would want to explore in team training.

Once people are aware that they are shutting you down, it opens a variety of tactics that you can use during a conversation. Try reminders: a "stop sign" motion with a hand if someone starts to speak before you're done or a request to "hang on" while you finish. Display team rules about communication and remind yourselves about them as needed.

For your part, try different meeting preparation techniques, taking the time to think through agenda items so that some of your cogitation has occurred before meetings. This can help speed up your communication. Also, if you're holding back out of fear, etc., push yourself to speak out more forthrightly. A tentative tone invites interruption.

A combination of awareness and actions — for your colleagues and you — will lead to more effective communication.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

Learn differences in communications styles 07/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 5:30am]
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