How To Talk To People That Don't Get Right To The Point
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Have you ever been talking to someone who’s going through a plan in such painstaking detail that your brain started to hurt? Giving you every nitty-gritty little step when all you really wanted was for them to cut-to-the-chase and give you the bottom line? Or maybe it was the other way around, you needed to hear all the detail, but all you got was the bottom line.
Over the past two decades of research into communication styles, I’ve learned that conflicts between people with an Intuitive communication style and those with a Functional communication style (exemplified by the two situations described above) are one of the biggest communication conflict issues that happen in the workplace.
Intuitive Vs. Functional Communication Styles
Intuitive communicators like the big picture and avoid getting bogged down in details; they cut right to the chase. Because they communicate in a non-linear way, they don’t need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that lets them skip right to the end point. For example, some people, like Functional communicators, will tell you things step-by-step (they start with A, then go to B, then C, then D, then E, etc.). But this can drive Intuitive communicators nuts; they’d rather jump right to Z.
By contrast, Functional communicators like process, detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. They like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion so nothing gets missed.
It’s easy to see why Functional communicators, who like to communicate step-by-step, can drive Intuitive communicators nuts, and vice versa. But while the conflict is very real, neither of these communication styles is better than the other; they each have strengths.
One big benefit of the Intuitive communication style is not getting bogged-down in too many details, allowing these communicators greater comfortability with big ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. One big benefit of having a Functional communication style is that communication generally hits all the details and nothing gets missed. Colleagues will often turn to Functionals to take the lead in project implementation and execution because they have confidence in the Functionals’ talent for process and detail.
What Does The Data Say About These Communication Styles?
More than 67,000 people have taken the free online quiz called “What's Your Communication Style?” And based on this immense data set, we know that about 21% of people have a Functional communication style and roughly 24% have an Intuitive communication style. But notwithstanding this almost-even split, we’re more likely to see the Intuitive style in very senior executive roles.
The good news is that whether you’re the boss or an employee, there’s an easy fix for resolving these maddening communication conflicts. Let’s take a look at both scenarios.
What To Do When Your Employees Take Too Long To Get To The Point
When you’re the boss and it’s one of your employees that’s taking too long to get to the point, you can handle this pretty quickly. You still don’t want to audibly sigh and say “can you please just hurry up and get to the point?” Instead, you’re going to teach them a little bit about your preferred communication style.
Say something like:
We have different communication styles, and that’s okay. But I do think we can work together even more effectively. You’re a Functional communicator; that means you like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion so nothing gets missed. By contrast, I have an Intuitive communication style, so I like a broad overview that lets me skip right to the end point. Going forward, what I’d like is for us to accommodate each other’s preferred style. So next time you have a plan, give me the end point first. Cut right to the bottom-line, give me ‘Z’ and skip the ‘A, B, C, D’ detail. Then because I’ll have gotten what I really need, you’ll find me a bit more willing to listen to some of the other ‘A, B, C, D’ details.
Even though you’re the boss, and you have the formal authority to make people communicate however you want, there’s no need to do this rudely. Just teach your folks how you like to receive information and you’ll generally find them much more attuned to your Intuitive communication style.
What To Do When Your Boss Takes Too Long To Get To The Point
If you’re an Intuitive communicator and your boss has a Functional communication style, it’s just not going to work for you to audibly sigh and say “can you please just hurry up and get to the point?”
Instead, you’re going to need some patience and understanding. First, know that they’re not rambling or slow-minded; they’re detail oriented. And one big reason that bosses will adopt a Functional communication style with their employees is that they’re worried that those around them will miss an important detail. In fact, if they know that you’re a cut-to-the-chase person, they may be giving you lots of details because they think you’re likely to miss an important point. And they’re nicely trying to tell you to pay more attention to the details.
So the next time they’re giving you lots of detail, pull out notepad and pen and literally start taking notes. Pay attention to all those details and then, when they’ve downloaded everything, give them a quick recap to show you’ve heard the key details. But don’t do the normal Intuitive thing and start at the end; start back at point #1 and go forward from there.
This takes some work, but after a few sessions of this, when you’ve demonstrated to the boss that you really do hear all their details, you’ll typically find that they’ll dial-down a bit on the nitty-gritty and your conversations will proceed more quickly.
Mark Murphy is the author of Truth At Work: The Science Of Delivering Tough Messages, Hiring For Attitude and Hundred Percenters.