I’m thinking about that right now for two reasons. 1) My guest today is an interculturalist who has built a global consultancy. He’s also Eastern European born, grew up in the Middle East and now lives in China. With communication style so deeply influenced by culture–that’s a lot of adapting, to flow seamlessly from one culture to another. And, 2) in response to this article from Chris Brogan on LinkedIn, which advocates that more direct communications in meetings, and less “rapport building” would be more effective to combat “covid fog brain” and get things done at work.
I’m with him. There are times I want to spontaneously combust in meetings that don’t come to a focus quickly! I also often have to go back over emails to add in niceties, like “how are you?” or re-reading and acknowledging what someone has shared in their original communication.
In the article, Chris acknowledges this yearning for straight-to-the-point communication is a US-American perspective. More specifically (per the research) it’s a White, northern European male perspective (and what the US workplace is normed around).
Here are two (short!) points from an article I had written for a client on the topic, “Why it’s time to retire the phrase ‘the right fit.'”
A direct communication style says…
“I show you respect, save time and get tasks done quickly, by telling you precisely what I want, think and need.” The focus is on task. The US workplace is highly normed around a direct communication style, which, coincidentally, research shows is used by 55-88% of White, northern European males (Kochman, 1981).
A person who uses an indirect communication style…
may ask questions or go through a third party. The value underlying this style is one of relationship. “I want to get the job done but not at the risk of damaging our relationship, so I will be less direct and avoid any possible embarrassment, insults or conflicts.” Research shows that 55 to 88% of women tend to use this style (Kochman, 1981).
To be clear, I’m not saying one style is right or wrong, good or bad–just that people have different communication styles and that research shows a connection between communication style and culture, gender and other “identity” markers. The ability to recognize one’s own style and that of others, and then adapt their style accordingly, will be the most effective.