Plato said, “Wise Men speak because they have something to say. Fools, because they have to say something.”
One of the single most important skills we need, as REALTORS®, is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively with our clients, colleagues and support people. This, though, goes far beyond the simple exchange of words. Communication is much more than just the transfer of information from one person to another. Effective communication is composed not only of the information itself, but also takes into account the medium through which the transfer of the information occurs, such as “simple” conversation, books, letters, email and text messaging.
As well, the purpose behind the transfer, the non-verbal communication between the parties including body language and gestures, how we dress or act and the ability of the person on the other end of the transfer to clearly hear and understand the information will all affect the effectiveness of that transfer. The first step in effective communication is recognizing how you communicate and how the other party is communicating back to you.
There are four styles of communication which you’ll come across during your career; Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive and Assertive. Take a moment and see if you can identify which of these you fall into and how you’ve dealt with them? This article will provide some key points in recognizing the different styles and some suggestions (by no means comprehensive) on how to deal with them.
Passive communicators can be tricky to deal with. They avoid expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying or meeting their needs, which may sometimes seems like acceptance of what you’re telling them. They accept the communication, but don’t provide feedback and don’t freely enter into or encourage discussion. They don’t feel comfortable expressing what they think or feel because they’re afraid that it won’t make sense to people or that it may make other people angry. The passive communicator’s stance is one of “You’re right and my opinion doesn’t matter.”
When dealing with a Passive communicator, you need to be assertive and clearly state what it is that you want / need / feel as well as asking them for their opinions and concerns. As you demonstrate that you value their opinion and views they may begin to feel more comfortable and may learn to trust you and become more open and assertive themselves. You’ll need to build confidence with that person before he/she begins to communicate openly with you.
The Aggressive communicator expresses their feelings and opinions and promotes their needs in a way that tends not to take the rights of expression of the opinions of others into account. Their communication style is one in which shouting, arguing and speaking over people are typical traits and can occasionally lead to verbal abuse. This communication style may be a method of compensating for a feeling of low self-esteem, unhealed emotional wounds, or feelings of powerlessness. The aggressive communicator is clearly saying, “I don’t care how you feel or what you say, I’m right and you’re wrong. You have to listen to me!”
Because the Aggressive communicator’s style can be overwhelming, it’s extremely important to avoid getting caught up in their manner. You’ll need to be assertive and clearly state what it is that you want/need/feel, without allowing yourself to get into a confrontation. Arguing only generates confrontation and spirals into hardened stances in which no one wins.
One simple way to avoid allowing this type of communicator to trigger a confrontation is to speak softly. The louder they become, the calmer and quieter your responses should be, thereby compelling most aggressive people to reduce the volume of their voice and lower the “testosterone” level of the communication. It’s important, right from the start, to communicate directly to them that the manner in which they are addressing you is unacceptable and to ensure that you maintain that stance throughout the entire conversation.
The Passive-Aggressive communicator appears passive on the surface but is really just hiding their anger and will eventually act it out in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. They tend to feel powerless, stuck, and resentful and feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. They tend to express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments. The passive-aggressive communicator conveys the message, “I understand what you’re saying and I don’t want to argue. But I’m going to show you that you’re wrong.”
Because Passive-Aggressive communicators don’t provide much feedback and it’s difficult to get a grasp on where they are in the conversation, you need to ask clear, direct questions. Ask them to clearly explain how they feel about specific points throughout the conversation. If you suspect that they’re hiding their anger or disagreement, it may be necessary to confront them. If their behaviour doesn’t match their words, you’ll need to point out that disconnect and that while they’re telling you one thing, you’re confused because they’ve just done something completely different. When this occurs, it’s important to set limits and let them know that certain behaviors will not be tolerated.
The Assertive communicator clearly states their opinions and feeling and firmly advocates for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. They value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs as well as those of others. Assertive communicators sound like, “I hear and understand what you’re saying. Here’s what I believe. Does that make sense to you?”
Dealing with an Assertive communicator will be fairly easy. Maintaining an assertive stance involves allowing them to express their opinion and acknowledging their concerns and feelings. By asking many clarifying questions, offering options and asking for their input in reaching a mutual decision you will ensure that effective communication is maintained.
Here’s a little secret.
We can be all of the above. Many times it’s situational. And sometimes, it’s strategic and depends on the result we’re trying to achieve. Ever said ,”Just do as I say!” to your kids? Ever just said, “Yeah, whatever!” even though you disagree with the other person? And I know that we’ve all listened and discussed options and the other side’s opinions when we’re negotiating deals. But, ask yourself, “Which of these is my major mode of communication? And can I do a better job at it?”