Complementary Communication: Can we all get along?

We often elevate the idea that we all need to get along. Unconsciously we may invite people on our team who are more like us than not. Over time a leader will notice the team keeps circling on the same topics because of this tendency towards similarity. It’s time for fresh ideas and new perspectives. However, simply adding people with different styles of communication to the team is not enough. Leaders must also facilitate a shift in the way the team interacts to draw out the strengths of each style of communication otherwise the dominant preference (usually the leader’s) will squash other perspectives. 

In this blog series we have been talking about the four different communication styles: Problem Solvers, Bridge Builders, Strategic Thinkers and Compassionate Connectors. Last blog we transitioned into interactions between communication styles, starting with those like us because connected communication is easier. Now let’s dive into this new challenge >> Shifting team interactions as tensions emerge from our differences. 

Communicators Who Notice the Same Information, but Decide Differently 

Strategic Thinkers with Bridge Builders

Strategic Thinkers and Bridge Builders share a “big picture” view of the world. Their approach to generating creative ideas and innovative thinking translate into a real chemistry as they brainstorm together. Yet, Strategic Thinkers remain objective as they sort, plan and decide. Bridge Builders, on the other hand, fully immerse themselves in an idea, purpose or goal. These tendencies can cause conflict on the “objectivity vs. personal investment” tension. Neither are finishers and they will need to buckle down and assign tasks if they want to see their collaboration through to the end. 

Problem Solvers with Compassionate Connectors

Problem Solvers and Compassionate Connectors share their ability to notice tangible practical details in the world around them. Problem Solvers roll up their sleeves and dig into the details to define the problem and devise a solution. Compassionate Connectors focus on the details that relate to people, their needs, and the resources necessary to meet those needs. The tension over “fact vs. feelings” can cause misunderstanding in motives, intentions and purpose.

Communicators Who Use Similar Decision Making Criteria, but Observe Differently

Strategic Thinkers with Problem Solvers

Strategic Thinkers and Problem Solvers share their approach to using logical, objective, cause- and-effect reasoning when making their decisions. Strategic Thinkers focus on the big picture and may revisit goals if they see a new angle they previously missed. Problem Solvers are inspired to take action and drive toward results, getting frustrated when there is  too much conceptual thinking. They can hinder each other with this “thinking vs. acting” tension and overlook the relational influences that impact on the problem or idea. 

Bridge Builders with Compassionate Connectors

Bridge Builders and Compassionate Connectors share their focus on relationship-building and helping people find common ground to move forward. Values drive their decision making process. Bridge Builders are about creative ideas on how to make a difference in the world. Compassionate Connectors focus on being “feet on the ground” — What are we doing right now to meet practical needs and be a resource for others? They may experience tension between these  “future vs. present” realities. Together they tend to focus on people over data-driven results. 

What’s Next?

What commonalities do you notice between complementary styles? What contributions to the team do you notice because of these similarities? Remember it will be easy to default to the team’s dominant preference. So, expand your patterns of interacting. Think of one thing you could try this week to tap into the strengths of someone on your team who complements your style. 

Comment below on what has worked for your team to draw out the underutilized communication strengths on your team. Join me next week to explore communicating with opposite communication styles. Wondering what your communication style might be? Download my Communication Style Assessment.


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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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