How to deal with difficult communicators

Monday, October 21st, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Just because two people are excellent communicators does not mean they are capable of communicating with each other. After all, even the best managers can have entirely different communication styles. Sometimes, those styles just aren't compatible.

Harvard Business Review contributor Mark Goulston explains the two major types of difficult communicators and how they deal with one another.

First, there are the "venters" and their particularly aggressive cousins, the "screamers." These are most unpleasant to deal with. No one wants to speak with someone who is yelling at them. While it is tempting to ask a venter to calm down, Goulston says this might only make the situation worse.

"Instead, say to yourself, 'Okay, here comes another temper tantrum. Just let them blow. Try not to take it between the eyes and imagine you're looking into the calm eye of a hurricane and the storm is going over your shoulder,'" he writes.

After the vent is over, he advises the recipient to repeat back what was said, word for word, thus forcing the venter to hear his own words. This may slow down the flow and, perhaps, bring calm to the situation.

The other difficult communicators are the "explainers," who sometimes devolve into "belaborers." These people won't yell at you, but they may take a long time to explain themselves. For the average person, it can be frustrating waiting for an explainer to get to the point.

Goulston posits that explainers tend to repeat themselves because they don't think anyone is paying attention to them. Listeners need to counter this impression by being extra attentive, and then asking pointed questions about specific points when the explainer is finished.

Communication is an important skill for any project manager to master, which is why New Leaf Project Management offers training programs such as "Leading Project Teams: The Human Side of Performance" that will help them learn. In addition, managers can read one of our free white papers and take a post-test to earn convenient and affordable PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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