Where’s the Communication Challenge?

If you’re lucky, the people around you have similar outlooks, priorities, and personalities. When this is the case, you “click” naturally and you have relatively little trouble getting your message across and receiving the other’s. Chances are, however, that there are at least a few important people in your world where breakdowns happen. And maybe you just can’t quite figure out why your “obvious” point of view isn’t getting across.

Welcome to humanity.

In this previous post, I introduced my favorite framework for understanding personalities. You, gentle reader, are stuck with this humble blogger who is locked into his Rational personality the majority of the time…meaning that this point of view will figure heavily in this space! I’ll do what I can to balance things out, folks. For example, I’ve been working closely with a very good friend who is a Guardian, the last few months. I also have recently spent a good deal of time with my close family…also Guardians. Well the fun ensues because Guardians are kind of a natural opposite to the Rational. They’re quite concrete about the day-to-day. I’m not. They’re more focused on rules, procedures, and avoiding conflict. Me not so much. I think honest, healthy, respectful conflict is the most effective way to get hard stuff done. In practice, this means I’d rather argue than keep quiet to just get along. Not always a popular route!

This post comes up because I’ve had a few really interesting business conversations that really pointed up these personality issues. (The business issues themselves aren’t very interesting) Even though I kind of know what to look out for around my Guardian friends, it’s pretty impossible not to have difficulties from time to time. It’s hard. The win for me is just to be aware of this stuff and not let breakdowns spiral out of control. Maybe you’ll see something familiar in these two (edited) conversations I recently had:

Do We Have to Go Through Those Details?

“What are you doing with AdWords the last few days?”

“Nothing with AdWords. I’m focusing on other user acquisition channels…”

“I thought we were focusing on AdWords…”

“No, I’m focusing on user acquisition in general. AdWords is one channel only. Remember? 1. Advertising 2. Social 3. Email”

“Where are we with Pinterest right now?”

“I’m not working on Pinterest. There are bigger fish to fry using our social channels. We’ll get to it.”

“But, if we can get some images…”

“I don’t want to talk about details right now. I’m still just experimenting…”

“How can we proceed without knowing what our expectations are?”


Do We Need to Talk Every Day?

“I’d like to schedule a call every day, so we can just trade ideas.”

“I don’t need that. I don’t have new ideas every day.”

“I think it’s a great way to give us energy and just make sure we’re on the same page.”

“If it’s important to you, I’ll do it. But for right now, I’m pretty much on the same page each day. I’ll answer your call, of course. And if I have something I really think is important, I’ll certainly call.”

There is no right or wrong here! (tell me if you disagree)
The differences are kind of subtle; these conversations weren’t blow-ups, but they were educational. All we have is different people with different mental models of planning and communicating. I like chatting with my friend and shooting the breeze. But for business conversations, I have a timer ticking loudly in my head. It’s not always a good thing…but it’s there. I intellectually understand the personality framework to understand my Provider friend, but in the moment, intellectual understanding doesn’t always cut. My main point: the other guy’s work style often makes very good sense within her/his possibly different set of values and preferences. Respect it. Understand it. Whenever you can, embrace it. It’s worth the effort.

1 reply
  1. Cicely Gill
    Cicely Gill says:

    I will try not to mention being deeply hurt and offended that Idealists weren’t
    mentioned in this post!! Wait… 🙂


    Seriously, I agree that we may intellectually know that there are different communication
    styles with our co-workers/managers. Your examples show how easy it can be to
    get mired in the ‘stuff’ without dealing with the STUFF. I, too, have an internal clock that ticks when I have to engage in “competing” communication styles which helps me focus and stay on point. That said, I’ve had a few
    intimate encounters where I blink and wonder how I wound up where I was. I’m unsure where my internal clock disappears to in these scenarios.

    “Respect it. Understand it. Whenever you can, embrace it. It’s worth the effort.”

    I agree it’s worth it, but man, sometimes I just wanna scream, ‘Shut the flip up!’

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