Don’t worry – you are not alone. Many employees feel misunderstood or struggle with believing other people just “don’t get them”. I prefer to chalk those kinds of feelings up to being unique. The challenge is, in business we need to find a way to make sure people “get us”. So what can we do?
One of the most valuable books I have ever read is People Styles at Work and Beyond: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better, by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton. If you are thinking … Jeannette, I don’t need a self-help book, I just need to be understood … then we are moving in the right direction!
You see, each of us has a preferred communication style. Think of it like having your favorite place to sit at when you are watching television (for me it is the very end of the couch – or my massage chair – aaaaaah). Wherever you prefer to sit isn’t WRONG, it just is. Your communication style is the same. For example, you might be a person who likes to have all of their questions answered before making a decision. Or, you might be a person who makes a decision quickly based on the bottom line. Maybe you want to first get to know about the people you are talking with and then you can get to the task at hand. Perhaps you are just really interested in making sure everyone involved is happy. Whoever you are, you are perfect just the way you are.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. To be better understood, you have to make the other person(s) want to understand you. One way to do that is to flex your communication style to theirs. Let’s revisit the examples above. If I want all of my questions answered first, but I am communicating with someone who gets to the bottom line quickly, it would behoove me to pick up my pace a bit. If I prefer to get to the bottom line, but am communicating with someone who wants to get to know me, it helps if we chit-chat for a few moments. Are you getting the picture?
The beauty of this all is that being understand is often in YOUR control. The next time you drive past a bookstore, I encourage you to pick up the book. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it just might help you to feel understood.
(P.S. As far as the couch analogy goes – wherever you like to sit is great, but when you have an important guest over you won’t say to them “Um, sorry, get out of my spot that is where I sit!” So don’t kick people out of your communication either.)