Art by Caitlin Roark
The world is full of diverse cultures that bring with them different styles of communication. Sometimes words have different meanings across cultures, and a hand gesture can be friendly or offensive depending on who is viewing it. Students should be open to unfamiliar communication styles so they can connect to others more successfully and become better communicators.
People have to interact with others who have different communication styles than themselves on a daily basis, since gender as well as cultural, regional and ethnic backgrounds shape how a person communicates. In the future, students will work alongside so many people who have different ways of communicating.
Some co-workers may interact through email more than in person, openly give direct criticism or only speak when directly addressed. If students aren’t willing to seek understanding of their differences, they will create barriers between themselves and their coworkers.
People need to try to accommodate others to work better together, according to the Communication Accommodation Theory. For people who are from different cultures or who stand at differing levels of authority, this means that they must learn to respectfully interact with one another in ways that they would not naturally do. One might start using more hand gestures or speak more quietly, mirroring the other person’s style of communication to help that person be more comfortable.
Knowing other styles of communication also helps students get information across more effectively. By understanding what others around them need, they can address those desires, allowing people who they’re interacting with to be more receptive.
“To get your message across, it’s critical that you construct your messages in a way that you can be heard. Understanding communication styles accelerates your progress in this area,” wrote Lisa Liszcz of Liszcz Consulting in “Three Ways Understanding Communication Styles Can Benefit You,” published Sept. 6, 2016 by LinkedIn.
Communication is a two-way street, and those who take the first step toward understanding others will have many people willing to do the same for them. People want to be listened to, and when they feel like others are giving them that attention, they are willing to return it.
“The secret to success … is to be flexible enough to understand and appreciate others’ styles,” wrote David G. Jensen in his study “Behavioral Style: Understanding Communication Styles Can Advance Your Relationships — and Your Career Prospects,” published Mar. 6, 2001 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mastering other styles of communication is so important that some universities such as Stanford University and Cornwall College in the UK are devoted to understanding different types of communication.
If people see others as different and don’t make the effort to reach out, the world will become stagnant. So many people are only willing to stay within their comfort zones, and they are missing out on the amazing people they can befriend and groundbreaking accomplishments they can achieve.
When entering a new environment or encountering a group of new people, stop and listen to them. Observe the way they try to get information across. Look at things from their perspectives.
By trying to expand their understanding of communication styles, students will open themselves to amazing opportunities to establish new relationships and understand other cultures than their own. Taking those steps for others is a truly rewarding experience, and students who can do this well will set themselves apart from their peers in their careers and interpersonal relationships.
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