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Not Just Talk

Family Communication: Illusion or Reality?

"Did you hear what I said, or did you hear what you think I said?"

Style 2: Expressives–Social and Spirited

Who are "expressives"? They are all about being accepted in relationships. They're talkative and speak quickly, with big gestures. They make great motivators, and enthusiasm is their trademark. They tend to prefer looking at the big picture, and they can easily get sidetracked or bored. They feel most comfortable in groups and are performers. They may enjoy a "healthy" difference of opinion from time to time, and they love change and challenges. Expressives are most interested in “who” is involved—the people are most important to them.

When communicating with an "expressive" person, expect a fast-paced conversation with open body language. Have patience when she strays off the point. Stay in the big picture, and don't give too many details. Don't take it personally if she sets up a "spirited discussion"; expressives enjoy debate and don't see it as problematic. If change is afoot, show enthusiasm for it. Expressives thrive on praise and compliments—even as adults, so don’t just shower praise on your children, if your spouse is an expressive, he may need an “attaboy” too!

Style 3: Thinkers–Analytical and Systematic

Who are "thinkers"? They feel grounded when they have data and facts. Often perfectionists, they have a strong drive to achieve results. Less talk, more results, could be their motto. They dislike errors or being unprepared. They want to approach family decisions logically and with little emotion. They may not say much until they have come to a conclusion. Thinkers ask, "How are we going to do this?"

How to communicate with a thinker? Thinkers respond to well-planned conversations. They are not spontaneous. When involving them in important family conversations, schedule a later time so they can prepare themselves. When you talk, provide thinkers facts and information. Have a clear goal that involves resolution and an agreed-upon plan of action. Keep your voice low and your gestures calm and low-key. Don't expect thinkers to express emotion as you converse. Their rational appearance doesn't mean they don't have feelings; it's just their communication style.

Style 4: Directors–Bold and Straightforward

Who are "directors"? They are honest and plain-spoken. They are confident drivers and go-getters. Decisive, directors have strong opinions and see things as right or wrong. They are organized, goal-oriented, and can be competitive. Directors are the superheroes who tally up accomplishments and have a hard time understanding why other people don't. Others often perceive directors as blunt and pushy, since they have no problem telling someone what to do. They frequently take on leadership roles in the family, coordinating family schedules and events. They ask, "What needs to be done?"

How to communicate with a "director"? Let her take charge; allow your "director" her views. Communicate as directly with her as she does with you. Try to be brief, so as not to "waste" the director's time; set mutual goals with directors. Set boundaries, but give directors the autonomy to do things their way. If the director in your family intimidates or frustrates you, try adjusting your body language when you communicate in person: Take a solid stance with feet apart, and make eye contact. Ask for the director's respect, and remember that you are her equal.

After reviewing the four basic communication styles, ask yourself these questions:

Does one or more of these styles describe you? We are all a composite of styles, but one style usually dominates. How do you see yourself? Does your family have the same perception of your style? Check in with your family to make sure.

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