Adapting Communication for Various Situations

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  • 0:03 Understanding Context
  • 1:48 Assertiveness & Responsiveness
  • 2:51 Identifying Your Style
  • 4:02 Knowing Your Audience
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communicating. In this lesson, we'll explore some types of communication styles and learn some ways that they can be altered and adapted to fit the situation.

Understanding Context

Think back to the last time you spoke to a baby or a child: do you remember the tone or the words that you used? Like most people, you probably used simple phrases and maybe even spoke in a pleasing tone of voice to seem non-threatening. Now imagine that you spoke to your boss or a stranger that way - how do you think they would respond to you? It's probably safe to say that they would give you a strange look or maybe even think something was wrong with you.

The difference between talking to a baby and talking to your boss isn't necessarily what you say but how you say it. This is because people respond differently to another person depending on the situation or the relationship between the parties. For example, if you're giving a class presentation on the theory of relativity, you may behave in a casual manner, make jokes, or use slang so they understand you and stay engaged. However, if you gave the same presentation to a group of scientists at a conference, being casual, making jokes, or using slang could make you look unprofessional or even disrespectful.

In the previous example, you may have given the exact same presentation in the exact same way, but there was one critically important element that made you successful in one scenario and unsuccessful in the other: context. Context is the circumstances or environment in which something occurs, and when it comes to communication, it sets the standards and expectations. Given the importance of context, if you want to become an effective communicator, you're going to need to know how and when to adapt your style to be successful.

Assertiveness & Responsiveness

Communication is a two-way process, but before you can learn how to adapt to another person's style, you need to understand your own style. How you communicate has a lot to do with your personality type and your self-confidence, but it really comes down to a ratio between two qualities: assertiveness and responsiveness.

In communication, assertiveness refers to the ways that you assert your thoughts and needs. For example, when you're involved in a group conversation, do you frequently ask questions or interject your opinions? Assertive people tend to have no problem sharing their thoughts or taking control of a situation.

The second quality, responsiveness, relates to the ways that you respond to what others are saying. For instance, when discussing sensitive or difficult topics, are others able to easily tell how you feel about the situation? People that display a lot of responsiveness in communication may argue passionately and regularly show their emotions.

Identifying Your Style

We all use a blend of assertiveness and responsiveness in our communication, but the ratio tends to determine what type of communicator you are. For example, analytic communicators are likely to be more assertive as they carefully ask questions and gather evidence. These types of communicators tend to be more objective in their collection and sharing of information, which can make them seem formal or unfriendly. If this is you, think of the ways that it can affect your communication with others. When meeting new people, for example, you might need to adjust your behavior to come across as a little warmer and less critical.

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