Laura walked up to Carrie and began talking about something as if they had been interrupted a few minutes earlier and were simply continuing the conversation. In fact, it was the first time they had seen each other at work that day, so Carrie had no idea what Laura was referring to.
This pattern is familiar to Carrie because it happens frequently, and when it does she always says, “Wait, Laura, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Laura, too, is frustrated by this pattern and says, “You know . . . the project we were working on last week.” Of course it doesn’t take them long to get on the same page, but the pattern annoys and frustrates them both.
In situations like this it is common to attribute some kind of negative motivation to the other person. Given this pattern, Laura believes that Carrie wants to feel important by controlling the conversation; and Carrie sees Laura as presumptuous and sloppy in her communication.
Fortunately, Laura and Carrie began to see this pattern differently through the communication styles lens as we fleshed out their core processing strengths during a team-building project in the workplace. Here’s what happened:
Laura discovered how her core processing strengths—interpersonal, visual-spatial, and kinesthetic—combined to drive her unique communication style. Specifically, Laura needs a lot of interaction with others to help formulate her thoughts and feelings. Therefore she frequently seeks engagement with others and because she thinks so strongly in pictures she spends a lot of time connected to her internal visual-spatial world, which, of course, is invisible to others and hard to describe in words. Because she is also kinesthetically strong, her direct experience and feelings are very important in how she processes information.
When Laura was describing her core processing strengths and how she sees them manifesting in her communication style, Carrie had an ah-ha moment and with good humor said, “Oh, now I get it!” “Get what?” Laura asked.
Carrie found a kind, yet straightforward way to talk about her observation that Laura often starts talking about something in a way that feels like it’s coming out of the blue. Laura immediately chuckled and made a comment about how she could tell that Carrie was often annoyed with her. From there Laura articulated how she has constant conversations in her head and strongly pictures the interaction, her feelings and ideas, so when she sees someone (Carrie in this situation), she assumes a level of involvement externally that has been going on internally.
This type of conversation happens frequently during communication styles programs, and often with good humor. When what is really occurring gets illuminated, a natural problem-solving and relationship repair discussion ensues. That happened naturally with Laura and Carrie. They decided that when Carrie can’t tell what Laura is referring to she (Carrie) will ask Laura what she’s picturing. With this simple solution, they can now quickly and efficiently manage conversations, where formerly they would have felt frustrated and irritated, even when they managed the content of the conversation to a workable conclusion.