Do you remember the first few weeks in your new job?
Were you the one asking all the questions? Or did you dive in and give your opinion of how the job supposed to be done? Either way points out our individual strengths and the way we cope and manage tension in a situation.
I remember my first few weeks at my very first HR job in the United States, when everything and everyone was new, I felt insecure about how to do certain things, what certain words meant and was slow and thoughtful at first when making decisions in my new position.
I asked a lot of questions, so much that it drove my co-workers nuts. We regularly ended up in an argument with misunderstandings, irritations, feelings of resentment and angry looks. By asking questions and listening, I learn and analyze new situations, interact with people, solve problems and make decisions.
On the other hand, I’ve also worked with people who tell you what is right or wrong and what to do. They speak in statements and directives. Do you know someone who interacts this way?
Well, that drives me nuts.
The point of this story is that people have different, readily observable, behaviors in the presence of others, which are also called “Social Styles”. Social Styles is a research-based model designed in the 1960’s by Bolton, refined over the past 50 years and still used to understand differences and to uncover the source of interpersonal conflict and strengthen collaboration. This way of looking at human interactions refers to several dimensions in straightforward individual behaviors in the interactions with others.
In my example I shared with you one of these dimensions is the spectrum of asking questions on one end and speaking in statements on the other. This so called Ask/Tell spectrum refers to the degree to which we perceive the other’s behavior as an attempt to influence the thoughts and actions of those around him/her.
The difference between my co-worker and I was, that I was on one end of the Ask/Tell spectrum of taking up space in interactions with others: I asked questions and listened, I gave a lot of space. My co-worker was on the other side of the spectrum of taking up space in interactions: speaking in statements and directives, and not taking much time to listen, making quick decisions. Either side of the spectrum has its strengths and weaknesses, obviously.
There are 4 distinct Social Styles that we can recognize in our co-workers. Not understanding each other’s Social Style causes conflict in the workplace, without really understanding what pushes our buttons and where the conflict comes from.
Successful are the people who know how to move from one style to the other, depending of whom they are interacting with. They know how to meet their own needs, cope and manage tension in the environment effectively, while building bridges between the different styles.
A better understanding of others’ Social Style and knowing how to adjust to the style of others helps us establish rapport and trust more easily with people who are on the other side of the spectrum. We become effective leaders, communicators and collaborators.
The Ask/Tell spectrum is just a small part of the Social Styles model. Join me for a comprehensive workshop, “Build Bridges, Not Boxes: The Leadership Essentials of Communication and Collaboration” at the end of July to find out what your Social Style is, learn how to recognize other styles and how to move between styles to create stronger work relationships and minimize conflict.
I had so much fun shooting my very first video during my trip to Italy. Here is the result; let me know what you think!
ARE YOU TRAVELING LIGHT? THE SECRET TO BUILDING DYNAMIC HAPPY RELATIONSHIPS.