By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ

Whenever I run a communication skills workshop I always get at least one person sidling up to me in the break to explain that there is a colleague or client who is “difficult” and with whom they have inevitably have difficulty dealing.

Once it was senior director who explained that his CEO was rude because he always interrupted his presentations. When I asked him how he structured his messages I said, as politely as I could, that if I was his boss, I would interrupt his presentations too!

The problem is that we don’t all like to communicate in the same way. Some people like lots of detail while others like the overview. Some people like to chat and connect and share how they feel about things, others don’t.

So what did I say to this frustrated director? Well I suggested that the first thing he needed to do was to stop thinking of his CEO as “difficult”. Instead he needed to reframe his attitude and start to see him as merely “different”.

To paraphrase the old biblical directive of “Communicate with others others as you would like them to communicate to you” only works when the other people are like you. Instead I suggested that he adopt the new mantra of Communicate with others the way THEY would like to be communicated to.”

In this particular case, the complainer was an analytical communicator, i.e. he loved to present lots and lots of data and analysis in a logical manner that build up, over quite a few minutes and eventually got to a recommendation. The CEO was a Directive Communicator, i.e. he preferred it when his colleagues got to the point quickly and succinctly without a lot of detail. If he wanted more detail he would quite happily ask for it.

So in summary, my recommendation was to stop moaning about the other person and to take responsibility for the content and style of his own presentations. By turning his typical presentation structure on its head and presenting the recommendations early, the CEO’s needs would be met and his message was more likely to be accepted and implemented.

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