Rational Communications – [Talent Profile]

Communicating with other people is the most important thing that we do. It determines our social position, how others perceive us, treat us and interact with us. Effective communication with others can have a huge effect on our success in life and in our career.

peoplestylesatworkThere is a model of communication based on the work of Robert Bolton, he wrote several books about it, including the excellent and practical guide, “People Styles at Work: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better”. I cannot recommend that book enough, it changed the way I saw myself and others, it unlocked a whole world of nuance that I had, up until that point, ignored. People who are strong in the Helper and Team Player roles probably pick this stuff up naturally, I didn’t. I had to go out and get some book learn’n.

That book breaks down communication style into 4 quadrants and it has a solid practical foundation. The author of the Octogram(R) test created a test for that model called, “Communication Styles” (very original, I know). That test was taken along with the Octogram test by several thousand candidates and there were some very strong correlations between how people communicate and how people work. Based on that research, the report can say something about how you communicate and give you some tips for making that communication more effective.

Here is what the Talent Profile has to say about my Communication Style:

commstyleCommunication style

In communications, people speak in general terms or focus in on specifics, they are inwardly focused or focused on others, they are followers or leaders. Communication style is a description of how a person communicates both verbally and non-verbally with others. This section describes how Richard communicates and gives advice on how best to communicate with him.

Richard gets to the point quickly. He clearly states what he wants to happen and what is to be achieved. He talks a lot about targets.

Advice: Talk about what needs to be done and especially about possible obstacles. Be straightforward, do not beat around the bush.

Richard asks fundamental questions about the identity and mission of the organization, division or department and keeps these questions on the agenda. He is good at finding the main issues and subjects in a discussion and putting them into a logical framework. Richard will sometimes use unnecessarily abstract language and terms. He is reluctant to provide detailed explanations, thinking that his listener should just ‘get’ what he is talking about.

Advice: Be prepared for a substantive conversation. Challenge him and confront him with fundamentally differing viewpoints.

Richard gives reliable information. He is focused on making sure what he is telling you is correct to the best of his ability, which makes him less willing to share opinions. If he senses that his conversation partner is exaggerating or distorting information, he will emotionally block them.

Advice: Do not combine personal feelings and facts together with Richard, make sure he understands when you are talking about facts and when you are talking about opinions. Keep business discussions professional, he will let you know that he has done his homework.

My reactions:

Richard gets to the point quickly.” Is a very nice way of saying, “Blunt”, I think. I can illustrate this with a story from my own work life. For a while, I was developing year-end review systems for companies. A way for managers to keep track of their reviews, their notes from previous yearly reviews and a systematic way of making sure that everything happened at the appropriate time. It was sticky. Every organization had there own way of doing it and after (re)building it for two companies, I had decided that this was not a future I wanted to pursue. The second company was dragging out negotiations on the yearly licensing, they wanted to have meeting after meeting to argue about the cost. I just wanted to wrap it all up as a failed experiment, I didn’t want to *talk* about it for several more weeks. In our first meeting, their negotiator is going down a list of items submitted by their technical guy (on her right) and their financial guy (on her left) and it’s clear that they want to hunker down and talk about this for-e-ver. I look at the agenda and see that there is nothing crazy, they’re just willing to waste several man-months trying to negotiate for a few hundred bucks. I know that anything they offer is going to be gravy for me, keeping the system up was going to cost me about 500 a year in hosting costs and any changes would be expensive, for them.

(start of meeting)


Negotiator, “We want to talk about the licensing costs.”

Me, “How much do you want to pay for the yearly license?”

Negotiator (startled), “We . . . umm.”

Me, “It’s okay, just tell me a number you would be comfortable with.”

Negotiator, “4000?”

Me, “Done. I’ll send you the new contract this afternoon.”

(end of meeting)

Now you might look at that interaction and wonder if I should have argued for more money or pushed for something else. I just wanted to solve the issue and quickly move on to the next project. It worked, by the way, that contract is still running, 8 years later, and they think I’m great. “That Richard, he sure gets things done!”

There is a sentence in the second paragraph that I don’t agree with, “He is reluctant to provide detailed explanations, thinking that his listener should just ‘get’ what he is talking about.” I am good at coming up with analogies that make things understandable for non-technical people. But that is probably experience (my stint working a phone support for Prodigy Online in the early 90’s), I had to develop that skill early in my career. The rest of the paragraph seems relevant to me.

He is focused on making sure what he is telling you is correct to the best of his ability, which makes him less willing to share opinions.” Aha! But it’s not an opinion if I think I’m right. And I tend to think I’m right too much. I’ll have to keep an eye on my mouth! Seriously, I do speak with a different tone of voice when I think I’m communicating facts, it’s been commented on by my co-workers. Unfortunately, I sometimes use that tone when I am communicating things that I only think are facts. I am aware of this tendency and my co-workers are aware of it, too. They will challenge me when I start using the ‘fact’ voice too much and keep me on the up-and-up.

For more background on Communication Styles, I made a video for Online Talent Manager about this model:

The Talent Profile is available on the Octogramtest.com website.