A recent workshop on communication showed the normal range of folk who felt ill-informed by some of their colleagues. I've seen the same in almost all organisations and relationships.

The problem?

Most people communicate in the way they like to be communicated with, not how the other person wishes to receive the information.

The solution? Ask ourselves:


Am I communicating in a way others can understand, and what is their preferred communication method?

There's no 'one size fits all'. The answer is buried within the personality of each person. There are many personality analysis tools on the market, almost all giving similar insights. I like using 'What Makes People Tick', a very easy-to-remember yet well-researched product designed by Australian Des Hunt.

Des's tool uses bird names - Eagle, Peacock, Dove and Owl - to describe broad personality types.

The Eagle

These little charmers are cool and confident. They're strong dominant personalities and usually move naturally into leadership positions. They work well without supervision, don't need a lot of encouragement to perform, and are highly motivated by getting results.

A major weakness - not very good listeners. They also hate having their time wasted. They tend to snap under stress and then can't understand why others get upset. Others would call them bossy; they call it showing leadership.

If you want to get a favourable response from an Eagle, have your facts straight, get straight to the point, be direct, and for goodness sake, don't nag!

The Peacock

These warm confident people enjoy fun, parties and noise. They're quickly bored if there's no-one else around. Many salespeople, trainers, motivators, and entertainers fit here. They're great people people. If you've got a job requiring people skills, look for a Peacock.

They're great starters, not such good finishers. Too much detail bores them. (How many sales managers tear their hair out because their salespeople are sloppy about filling in their paperwork?) Quieter souls think they are much too loud and pushy; they think the quiet ones are boring!

To get the best out of a Peacock, you must be prepared to encourage and praise them. They thrive on it. They are energised by being around others, and stressed by being on their own for too long. Don't put them in a lonely work environment - they won't be able to perform effectively. They need to know that they are appreciated, and even when, in their heart of hearts they know they've done a good job, they still like to be praised.

The Dove

These warm shy peace-loving, supportive folk are the salt of the earth. They enjoy being around other people but not centre stage. If you want a job done, almost always a Dove will offer. Great listeners and sympathisers. Often found in helping roles - nurses, counsellors and support positions.

Don't expect them to initiate things, though. That's way outside their comfort zone. They prefer not to speak out in public meetings. It is very easy to crush a Dove and not even realise, for they find it very uncomfortable to stick up for themselves. Therefore managers have to be more thoughtful for their Doves than their more vocal staff.

Doves are the kind-hearted souls who'll sacrifice their own needs for the last-minuting Peacock, or the domineering Eagle who comes rushing in demanding something, without checking what else the Dove has to do. These are the ones who have the hardest job to say 'No' to unreasonable demands.

The Owl

You always knew owls were wise birds, didn't you! So are human Owls. Here we have the cool shy folk of society. They make great accountants, lawyers, researchers, software developers - anyone who needs high accuracy. They thrive on being right. Having to pass work in without checking it several times just about brings on an anxiety attack. Their strength is their attention to detail. Their weakness - challenging to make a quick decision. What if it was wrong!

Give them plenty of time to do a good, well-checked job. They won't be happy about a rushed one. Give them a good briefing. Also, don't expect them to be happy in a work environment where they have to do heaps of interacting open plan is very uncomfortable. They prefer a 'smattering of shush' so they can get on without noise and distractions.

So, which type of person are you? How do you like to be communicated with? And the people around you? Do you give them information in the style they want it?
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