How Clear is Your Communication?

Last time I blogged about the Directing and Informing styles of influencing and how this impacts interactions at work.  These differences also play out in our personal lives. 

In fact, I believe that this difference causes more difficulties in personal relationships than almost any other difference.

Our expectations about how to make requests, and decisions about what to do, are very different, depending on whether we naturally have a Directing or an Informing style.  This can lead to lots of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of each other’s behaviour. 

Making Requests

My husband naturally has the Directing style of communication and I naturally have the Informing style.  If I give information, such as “we’ve run out of bread”, I regard this as an observation, and the next stage would be “what shall we do about it?”.  This is typical of a consultative Interaction Style (such as Energiser or Synthesiser).  However, he is likely to interpret this as an indirect request to go to the shop to buy some bread, and he may see this as manipulative – he would much prefer me to ask him directly to go and buy bread.

Conversely, if my husband says to me “can you put your car in the garage please?”, for him this is a clear request which doesn’t require explanation.  This is typical of a decisive Interaction Style (such as Mobiliser or Navigator).  However, I am likely to interpret this as an instruction and will want more information about why it is necessary, before I agree to do it.    

People with the Directing style prefer others to communicate clearly about what they want. 

  • If they are given information without clear direction, they can feel they are being manipulated.

People with the Informing style prefer others to give them information so they can decide for themselves. 

  • If they are given direction without an explanation, they can feel bossed about.

Asking Questions

Even the way we ask questions is influenced by whether we are naturally more Directing or Informing in our communication. 

If I want to use our shared pc, and my husband is using it, I may say something like “how long are you going to be on the pc?”.  Depending on his answer, I might decide to wait in the office, go and do something else in the meantime, or be more specific about when I need it.  His answer is another piece of information that I will put into the mix when making a decision about what to do next. 

If my husband wants to use the pc when I am using it, he is much more likely to say “can I have the pc in half an hour please?”.  His direct approach is much clearer and requires a clear answer – though in practice, I might first ask why he wants it, to weigh up whether his need is greater than mine! 

These examples may sound trivial but in fact they can have lead to conflict because we read different intentions into each other’s words. 

How blended is your communication?  You’ll find more strategies to communicate with influence and impact, in How to Get On with Anyone.