“Communicate” is defined by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, as “transmit or pass on information by speaking, writing, or other means”. Such a simple definition for something that often turns out to be so complicated!
In 2018, there should never be an excuse for humans to mess up when we are communicating with one another – yet how many times in our lives do things go really wrong, or even a little sideways, because of the way we communicate with each other? It happens at work, with our families, with our friends, in our community groups, and now with the advent of social media – with strangers we don’t even know!
Many of us have cell phones, which we can use as actual phones, or use to send texts or emails. While I know lots of people still find it more efficient to pick up the phone and call – a text or email gives you a written reminder of what was said, when it was said, and can be referred to later if you happen to forget.
Regardless of how you choose to communicate, most of us have learned the hard way that our message can often be misunderstood or even have the reverse meaning attached, depending on the person receiving it. Sometimes we forget that there are two parts to communication … what is said, and what is heard. These things can differ greatly – and can be influenced by body language, tone of voice, how the receiver is feeling when they get the information, and even memories of conversations long gone. A current radio advertisement features the speaker conveying two completely opposite messages simply by changing the tone of voice – the words are exactly the same.
People on both sides of communication make lots of assumptions and figure the other person should “just know” without requiring things to be spelled out. These things are all made worse when we are stressed or in the middle of our busy seasons on the farm. It is easy for the receiver to form a picture in their mind when listening and then that becomes what they heard, regardless of what actual words were spoken. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are going to say in response, we don’t even really listen to what is being said.
The Ag Women’s Network and Syngenta sponsored a Whole Farm Health day back in March, where much good information was presented to help us become better communicators on our farms and in our relationships. Kelly Ann McKnight, of Stone Ridge Consulting and Leadership, led an active discussion that helped all of us consider what matters to us and how that affects the way we communicate.
Most of us have probably been through some sort of personality evaluation over the course of our lives. These things should be thought of as tools to help us understand ourselves and each other, rather than rigid, non-conforming boxes that explain everything about a person.
Kelly Ann worked through one of these tools, called DiSC®, which is described as a “personality assess-ment” designed to help improve communication. “Everything DiSC® helps you build more effective working relationships based on an under-standing of different behavioural styles. Better employee commun-ication means efficiency on both individual and company levels.”
The workshop was fun and active as we all got up out of our seats and moved around the room. The room was divided into four quadrants, and Kelly Ann’s questions guided us eventually into which quadrant best suited our personalities. It was important to realize that everyone is a blend of all four styles, but one or two will often dominate depending on the situation. All styles are equally valuable – understanding them makes communication easier.
“DiSC” stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. People in the Dominance group tend to be direct, result-oriented, firm, strong-willed, and forceful. Influence group people are outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, and lively. Those in the Steadiness group tend to be even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble, and tactful. The Conscientious group is analytical, reserved, precise, private, and systematic. While we all had some overlapping tendencies, it was interesting to see that when people found their place in a group with like-minded others, they were able to identify factors about how they communicate that make a difference in the workplace.
While the “take charge” people focus on getting things done and fixing mistakes later, the more analytical group would not make a move unless they were sure it was the right thing to do first. While these two groups can frustrate each other – both have strengths to bring to the table that can make a team stronger overall. Understanding the differences and using the strengths helps lower the frustration and tension of working together.
Participants pointed out that often they fit into different roles, depending on the situation. People who have been in the position of taking charge most of their lives, can find themselves in more of an analytical role as they move into retirement or change roles.
The exercise we participated in that early spring day gave us just a hint of how being more aware of our natural communication style impacts how we understand each other – and how we can learn to communicate more effectively. Respect for each other and recognizing the strengths of all can go a long way to improving how we communicate and get along.◊