Kingdom Culture Leadership Series Four Communication/Conversation Profiles—The Good and the Not So Good! What are You?
If you are a leader training other leaders,
If you are a parent training children to thrive in relationships,
If you are a person simply desiring to create healthy relationships in a more excellent way,
If you wonder why people aren’t motivated to nurture friendship with you,
Then you may benefit by investing 5-10 minutes by reading the following 1419 words—they may possibly improve your life!
In my book Kingdom Culture I devote several pages to the art of dialogue and the grace of listening that promotes healthy relationships. Today I am expanding on that leadership teaching because how we communicate one to another, and in a team, is critical knowledge for both living and leading. So, what are you?
Over the years I’ve related to different types of communicators—some I really enjoy, but some I say, God, help me never to be that way! The four types I categorize below are dialoguers, listeners, tellers, broadcasters, chairmen/women of the board. Though each category may dip into other categories, depending on the circumstances, as you read the descriptions below, ask yourself the question: What profile fits me most of the time? Then think of others you know and practice identifying what category you think they are in.
So, again, we are talking about one’s PRIMARY MOTIVATION, not the profile we might embrace intermittently.
I rate this style of relational communication the highest, healthiest. In this category are those who know how to listen, but also know when to speak, impart, give, and contribute to the conversation. My perception tells me that most people enjoy conversation with dialoguers the most. Dialoguers are the ones who command the most respect, and they are the ones who transmit the most value to those they are communicating with.
Dialoguers respect others by drawing the other(s) into the discussion by pausing and waiting for response or asking for response. Dialoguers are also good at asking questions of the other(s) to facilitate mutual participation in a conversation—questions such as, What do you think? How would you approach that topic? Are you understanding what I’m trying to say? We’ve talked about me, but how are YOU? Dialoguers know when to listen and how to sift their words so that what comes out of their mouth is meaningful and mutually relational. Quite often dialoguers are those who have a heart for others.
I rate this style of relational communication a notch below dialoging, but highly valuable. We all need to be listeners at times. But as a general profile I am referring to listeners as those who choose to be an ear to those who like to, or need to, talk. They may dialogue some, but usually allow others to speak 70% to 90% of the words in a conversation. Listeners ask tons of questions to give stimulus for others to talk. Listeners may be anywhere on the scale—from insecure people who devalue their own thoughts (unhealthy) to incredible lovers of others who don’t need to talk to feel good about themselves (healthy). Might I offer my own opinion by saying that quality listeners are a rare commodity these days. We all love listeners, but I think most people value dialoging the most. Sometimes listeners need to know that though it is noble to give others the chance to talk, others need what listeners have to offer, too.
Telling has its virtue in it’s place. I often am placed in situations where I tell. In this article, though, I am addressing a profile of people who are poor dialoguers, limited listeners. Generally tellers are masterful interrupters and most often conversation dominators. They rarely look at another person in the discussion and say, What do you think? Tell me more so I understand! It goes like this: You mention a problem or issue that came up in your life to a teller, and the teller gives you an answer, tells you options, or tells you what is true and false. The problem is that tellers don’t often listen enough to hear the whole story, or fully listen to others’ hearts, unless they have a personal agenda and need to listen. Sometimes they don’t even ask you if you want TOLD, they just tell you anyway. So midway through someone sharing a thought, tellers interrupt by giving their wisdom. Tellers often have great things to say, but you may come away from a teller feeling devalued or jumped on—or counseled. Tellers take opportunities to spout what they know and what they think without the virtues and grace embraced by dialoguers and listeners. Generally people love a teller when they need something from them, but may not want to be in close relationship with them. In a one-on-one conversation tellers often speak a large majority of the words reducing the other to forced silence. Tellers, though, who know how to dialogue, and have the grace to steward their telling, can be great communicators.
My wife, Ruthie, recently met with a friend. Ruthie doesn’t see her much—she lives out of state, but Ruthie prioritizes time with her. When I asked how her meeting went, I already suspected the answer—her friend told her what she was doing, struggling with, thinking about. She talked about God things, and more. One problem: The friend, like normal for her, didn’t take the time or the consideration to ask Ruthie how she was doing and then listen and focus on Ruthie. Broadcasters are similar to tellers, but they are not telling somebody something as much as they are spewing their thoughts, opinions, emotions and experiences, usually with limited regard to how their verbal emissions are being received. Sometimes they are even clueless to how they dominate conversations by giving testimony of their own life—often in a self-centered way, and often under the cloak of spiritual talk. Broadcasters range on the scale anywhere from braggers to poor little ol’ me. Broadcasters dominate conversations by speaking a significant majority of the words. You might come away from a broadcaster feeling as if he or she cares only about themselves. Broadcasters often suck life out of you without giving any back—often, and rightfully labeled, consumers. Oh…another thing. When someone else is talking about themselves, the broadcaster often detaches from the conversation—especially in a group.
Chairman of the Board
I concocted this term for people who have to comment on everything. It goes like this. Robert speaks, Joyce speaks, Robert comments, Diana comments, Robert clarifies, Daniel gives an idea, Robert comments, Dave speaks again, Robert… Got the gist? Chairman of the Board communicators don’t know when to keep quiet. For example, a person leading a group—a teaching or team discussion—asks a question to the group for response, and who is quickest to respond?—the chairmen/women of the board. Hey! Let others talk! Wait on your words! You may think what you have to say is more valuable than what others might say, but it is probably much more valuable that others get the chance to talk.
The Communicator’s Fix
I’ve often said that one of the hardest blindspots in people to recognize is being dominant or insensitive in conversations. Though I’m very cautious to not judge people, I usually can discern volumes about a person after just one conversation with them. So can you!
Often over-talking can be addictive. In Kingdom Culture I mention that years ago my life was impacted by a statement in the classic leadership book, How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In summary he said, You will never get people interested in you by talking about yourself, but you will—by listening to them.
The antibiotic for communicating to people in an unhealthy way, in my view, boils down to learning to love. We all need to stop being self-centered and, as it says in Philippians 2:3-4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Another quote usually attributed to Teddy Roosevelt is, Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
There are times to broadcast, times to tell, times to be an all-out listener, and perhaps certain situations demand you being chairman of the board. But when it boils down to a pattern of relationship, my experience tells me that dialoguers are the most productive and influential. Look closer next time you are chatting with a friend or colleague. I’ll do the same, and let’s both get better at making verbal interactions win-win, or if you happen to be in a group or team discussion, win-win-win-win-win…