Before You Get Offended

Yesterday I was talking with a colleague about the different kinds of relational styles and how they affect us at work.

I realize that the different styles of communication outlined in the “Listening Styles Profile” can actually make people feel like they’re being mistreated when they’re not being mistreated necessarily it’s just that they are dealing with a completely unfamiliar relational style that feels hostile to them.

Take myself as an example. I am task oriented. That means that I will cut people off in the middle of talking in order to focus on the task at hand.

Relational people, who like to talk more, and to focus on forming an empathetic relationship with another person, can find this very disconcerting. And so I found helpful in talking to this colleague to simply say, “this is my relational style. And if I cut you off, it’s not because I’m trying to be rude, but rather this is just how I tend to relate to people, so please let me know if it’s bothersome.” (I shouldn’t be cutting people off—that goes without saying.)

Another type of relational style is critical. This means that the person who is speaking will find themselves picked apart and their arguments not necessarily listened to but continuously evaluated for signs that something is wrong with the commentary. Of course if you were just trying to get some thoughts out, and you’re dealing with a critical relational person, this can feel really really bad!

Now I know you may be reading to this and saying to yourself, Dannielle is encouraging people to be rude and nasty and excusing her own bad behavior. That’s not true at all. And I would love to learn more skilled methods of interacting with people with different relational styles, because just cutting people off in midsentence doesn’t seem like the right way to do things obviously. At the same time, all of us have a set of characteristics, for lack of a better term, personality traits, and we exhibit them.

Here’s another relational style: analytical. This person combines everything they hear and tries to form a balanced opinion. In my experience, analytical personality types are the easiest to talk to because they truly listen to what you’re saying and try to understand before forming an opinion. In other words they let you get the words out.

When you’re working with other people, try figuring out the relational style of the person you’re talking to, before getting upset that they’re not necessarily treating you the way that you want to be treated. You might be surprised at how helpful this is in moderating any natural reaction you might have to getting upset when the conversation seems to be taking a wrong turn.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own.