“Live long and prosper”
At Open Options, our #1 goal is how best to support the people who receive services from us. This outcome begins and ends with our employees, so we invest heavily in training them on the best practices of the disabilities field. Because developing their ability to effectively communicate with each other is also very important to carrying out our mission, we’ve recently undergone a communication style assessment.
Myriad books have been written on personalities and how they interact in the workplace, each with their own corresponding acronyms and identifications. I, for example, am an INFJ; CD; Type 6 with a wing 5; my strongest frame is Structural; my preferred leadership style is Coaching; and my top 5 strengths are Restorative, Responsibility, Intellection, Input, and Empathy.
Every assessment I have ever taken references my desire to communicate (and be communicated to) with logic, facts, and well-researched assertions devoid of strong emotion. I become skeptical of new ideas, I am told, when they are presented with sweeping generalizations or by a person who seems highly emotional. Interestingly, I also become highly skeptical when a person is overly enthusiastic! Thanks in large part to these endearing traits, I’ve been called Spock, everyone’s favorite green-blooded, logic-driven Vulcan from Star Trek. I have embraced this nickname and often pride myself on my ability to be calm and level-headed in highly stressful situations.
While I am comfortable in my personality and communication style, it is also imperative to recognize that others may not share the same opinion of my Vulcan side. To someone with a different style, I can appear cold, apathetic, or uncaring. My lack of an outward emotional response, it seems, can also be interpreted as I am not listening or, even worse, that I do not care. Because we become so comfortable in our own style, we can also be tone-deaf to how it can be perceived by people different from us.
I have found tremendous value in understanding what often creates a “rub” in interactions is not necessarily the substance of what we are communicating but rather the style of our communication. Recently, our Community Living team (10 individuals) and our Executive Team (6 individuals) participated in workshops centered around the DiSC assessment. This assessment is “a non-judgmental tool used for discussion of people’s behavioral differences.” Individuals take the assessment which provides a breakdown of their motivations, stressors, responses to conflict, and problem-solving style. Perhaps most importantly, the DiSC format provides a “shared language” that people can use to discuss conflicts and better understand each other. In our Executive Team discussions, we found that while many of us share similar traits and we overall get along very well, we can also get into conflict due to differing styles. Conflict, of course, is not inherently bad and, if managed well, can improve team effectiveness and understanding. Our hope is that by using the shared language of the DiSC system, we can better resolve issues and tailor our communication style to more effectively interact with each other. Personally, I have learned that in order to “live long and prosper,” Spock needs to embrace differing communication styles and show some emotion!