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My leader and I have different styles and it’s creating conflict. I feel like there’s little time for me to share my perspective and ideas before they jump into problem solving or taking action. I don’t feel understood or supported. I want to communicate more effectively and work better together.


Learning how to communicate and build relationships where you both feel understood and supported is difficult! Thankfully, these skills can be learned. The key is to learn how to tailor your messages to create a positive impact. To bridge the gap in communication, your goal is to have a “tune in” conversation.

Here are 3 steps to get you started:

Step 1. How you listen and respond to others determines whether they listen to you.

Focus on what you can control to improve the situation and strengthen your skills. You control your responses, words, attitude, thoughts, choices, and more. When you are feeling frustrated or misunderstood, see it as a “signal” and ask yourself these questions:

  • In what way might you be contributing to your not feeling heard or understood?
  • What active listening steps are you taking during the conversation (mirroring, validating, empathy) that allows for clearer understanding?
  • What kind of support do you need from your leader and/or the conversation? (i.e. acknowledgement, information, etc.)
  • How willing are you to express your needs and better position yourself to receive what you hope for?
  • Describe what it means to “work better together”. What does that look and feel like to you? How can you articulate this to your leader to help with joint understanding?

Step 2. Understand how your behavior impacts others.

Recognizing how you think, feel, and behave is based on your own past experiences, whether our experiences are good or bad, our beliefs, senses, etc.

Your style is unique to you; their style is unique to them. When we have a conversation, we typically respond using our default communication style.

  • Do you drive towards action?
  • Do you seek excellence or harmony?
  • Do you prefer to move slowly and gather all the data before making decisions?

If you’re unsure how your behavior impacts others, ask a couple of trusted friends or colleagues.

Observe your preferences and identify how they show up in verbal and written communications. When we want to improve our connection with others, the first place to start is with ourselves.

Step 3. Recognize the other person’s style.

 What can you learn about the other person’s style of communication?

Do they focus on driving initiatives forward, are they direct and assertive, do they prefer the bottom-line impact versus having all of the details? Perhaps you’ve observed they prefer bullet points in written communication and high-level information about a situation.

Do they seek harmony across the team; interested in how the team is feeling and what they are experiencing before moving forward?

Maybe you observe them focusing on doing the right thing, learning heavily on guidance and principles of trusted resources and striving towards excellence.

Observing their style gives you a roadmap. It’s a guide to tailoring your message to their style which increases the “tune in” opportunity.

One of our Riverbend coaching clients changed their default approach of interacting with their senior leader and saw an immediate change in their conversation dynamics…

“Today, I had my 1:1. I went in prepared with topics, bullet points, action items I already completed, strategies I was planning to take. I focused on the process and intended outcomes. It went AMAZING! I got all the things I asked for approved, delegated an item to my leader when I was asked. My leader said they liked how I approached and led the discussion.”

- Riverbend coaching client

When you work to close the gap in communication styles, it:

  • Minimizes misinterpretation and miscommunication. When your approach tunes in (versus tunes out), it creates clarity and space in the conversation that leads to better outcomes.
  • Builds rapport and trust. It shows you respect their preferences and are willing to engage in a way that suits them.
  • Resolves conflict. When you choose language that supports their style, it’s easier to find common ground.

Experiment with these 3 steps. Let us know what you observe and where you see the conversation shifting.

Our ability to recognize and understand our own styles and the styles of others is a direct line to strengthening communication, learning from one another, and working better together.

Want to learn your communication style and how to recognize the style of others? Message us. @theriverbendgroup on social.

Author Jen O'Hare

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