How to Be a Better Communicator When You’re Thinking WTF!

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“We need to talk…” 

We’ve all heard those dreaded words… 

And when we do, our first thought is “WTF!” 

“We need to talk” often indicates there is a conflict on the horizon. A conflict we’d much rather avoid. We are being asked to face a person and a problem head-on. Yikes! 

Is there a way to prepare for a such talk? 

What do we do if we find ourselves amid a heated conflict? 

It all depends on your ability to effectively communicate.

How you communicate during that talk will not only impact the outcome but the status of that relationship.

In this article, I will share with you the different ways people communicate along with 3 surefire strategies to help you turn down the heat during a WTF conversation fraught with conflict.

Let’s begin by learning about the different communication styles. So we have a clear understanding of who we are dealing with and what we bring to the table when it comes to expressing our thoughts and feelings.

Then we will get into the juicy stuff – conflict! 

What Is Disc Communication styles?

After doing some research on the different ways people communicate I discovered DISC.

DISC is a behavioral assessment tool developed by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke. It centers on four different communication styles.

What are the four different communication styles?

Each communication style is represented by a letter in DISC.

Think of it like astrological signs but for communication. (Check out the chart below. Which one are you?)

Disc Chart

Communication Style #1 Dominant Director

I am a direct communicator, who comes from a long line of direct communicators. 

My sassy grandmother would say things like: “Why are you so pale? You should be married by now.  How much did that car cost?”

My cousin at age 5 asked my grandpa: “Why do you have so much hair in your nose?” 

As for myself, I have been pulled into a conference room and told by a male boss, “that my emails are too assertive and off-putting and I need to learn to fluff them up.” 

If I was a man, I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have reprimanded me for being direct. But I am a woman, who is blessed and cursed with a direct communication style and it hasn’t been easy. 

Society often deems women with this communication style as a “B*itch.”

Yeah, I said it. There is no B.S. when you are dealing with a direct communicator. I’ve had to learn to soften myself to get along with others and to function in society. 

Though some may consider my direct communication style a flaw, I believe it’s one of my greatest assets. It makes me a decisive strong leader. Send me into battle and I will successfully command the troops to besiege a fortress. 

Fight with me over an oven mitt, and well… I’ll come back to that story shortly. 

My greatest need according to research is Achievement. And I agree with that in this context.

Now let us move on to the letter “I”

Communication Style #2: Inspiring Influencer

As you can see from the chart above they love to bring people together to collaborate. 

This reminds me of an amazing former boss I worked with on a long-running TV series. She excelled at bringing energy and positivity to every single zoom meeting. She always encouraged everyone to participate in brainstorming. 

But the one thing she struggled with was getting the recognition she truly deserved in her role, which was her greatest need. Inspiring Influencers can sometimes be undervalued for what they bring to the team. 

Next is “S”.

Communication Style #3 Steady Empathizer

My fiancé is a Steady Empathizer.

We are total opposites! I am direct and quick to make decisions. He wants to keep things harmonious and is glacially slow to decide anything. 

I remember one time we were in a hardware store, where I watched him consider the different types of duct tape for 20 minutes! OMG…and WTF…

In our relationship, he is the rock and I am the crashing waves. 

His greatest need is relationships.

He would rather maintain the relationship than rock the boat. I am all for rocking the boat if it gets the desired outcome.

But there is one thing I have learned from his steadiness over the years, it has its strong points. There are times when being slow to decide is a smart move and valuing a relationship over winning a battle is best.

Now we move on to the letter “C.”

Communication Style #4 Cautious Thinker

Recently, we have been dealing with an insurance claims adjuster, after a water pipe burst in our apartment. I bet you a billion bucks that most people doing this line of work are Cs, cautious thinkers. 

It’s their job and nature to consider all the information, review the details, and process data in a thoughtful way. It’s all about the facts and figures. Heady stuff! Their greatest need is accuracy.

[lasso ref=”training-with-disc-30-games-team-building-exercises-to-lead-your-first-or-your-101st-disc-workshop” id=”19801″ link_id=”20110″]

Now that we know the communication styles, let’s talk about how to deal with conflict.

Five years ago I fell in love with a man who had the opposite communication style as me. A Steady Empathizer.

Right out of the gate, our communication styles clashed. We were polar opposites.  

My communication style has helped me lead teams, accomplish goals, and finish difficult projects but it’s also hurt people along the way, unintentionally and intentionally. I can sometimes come across too harshly or forgot to consider another person’s perspective. 

I knew if I wanted to keep this relationship going, I’d have to learn how to be a better communicator, or else we were doomed. 

The truth was I wanted less conflict and drama in both my work and personal life, and I was willing to put in the work. 

So I started reading books like “Crucial Conversations and How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Experimenting with different approaches. Trying things out. I got better and had a few misfires, failures and a few successes.

Then my fiancé and I moved in together and we had our first domestic argument.

We were one week into our shiny new apartment.  And I had one goal, to achieve kitchen perfection. The living embodiment of the Netflix series  “Home Edit.” An organizer’s dream.

Spices filed in a row, oils separated from the bottles of vinegar, and baking supplies in plastic containers with the contents labeled. No doubles or triples of utensils, only the best item stayed. 

Then I stumbled upon a… crusty ole oven mitt.

In my opinion, it belonged with Oscar the Grouch.   

I said to my fiancé, “we need to talk” about this oven mitt, it’s yours and it’s going to go in the garbage, right?! 

To my dismay, he had other ideas. He insisted we keep it! He was steady and unmoving in his position. WTF! 😡

I had just bought new oven mitts that perfectly matched the wall color. Why the heck would we keep this hideous thing?

We argued about this mitt for longer than I would like to admit.

I wanted to achieve kitchen perfection he wanted to keep a crusty relic. 

He was being a rock and I was a typhoon. 

Conflict arose and so did our voices.

I had a choice: be demanding, trying to get him to bend to my will, or be a better communicator and try to understand him. 

So I asked, “Why?”  

STRATEGY #1 Ask Why?(Especially when you don’t understand)

“Why did he want to keep it?”

To my surprise there was an entire story to go along with why he came to the defense of the oven mitt, it involved a thoughtless former roommate who had the habit of throwing out his things without giving him notice. He told me, it made him feel lousy and disrespected. 

Right then and there, I learned the power of asking “Why?” 

It can change the trajectory of an entire conversation. 

You learn something new. 

Try it and see what happens! 

Then I followed up with the three magic words, “Tell me more…”

STRATEGY #2 Say Tell Me More (Gather more information)

He went on to thoughtfully explain that although my new oven mitts, are pretty and match the wall color, he can tell they are the kind that will eventually burn your hands. And that this trusty oven mitt has never let him down in all the years he had it. 

(A month later, I would discover that he was right when I would burn my hands pulling a cooking sheet out of the oven with the cute mitts. They ended up in the landfill.)

When you say Tell Me More to someone you are talking with, you need to follow it with…the next strategy!

A graphic on how to be a better communicator

STRATEGY #3. Frickin Listen!

Give the person you are listening to your undivided attention. 

Let them finish their complete thought before you reply. 

Don’t think about your reply while they’re talking, that means you aren’t listening. 

As a direct communicator, I am results oriented. That day in the kitchen I wanted the old oven mitt out! But as Steady Empathizer, he wanted to keep what was working for him. 

After listening, I could choose to achieve kitchen perfection OR I could value our relationship. Steady Empathizer’s greatest need. 

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that we and the oven mitt lived happily ever after. 

Every day this ugly oven mitt lives in our kitchen as a reminder to me of how important relationships are over results.

So next time someone says to you we “need to talk” remember to consider  differing communication style, what their needs are, and when things get heated…remember WTF.

Ask “Why”

Say…Tell Me More

And Frickin Listen 

I am still a work in progress when it comes to talking to others in any given situation. I am not perfect but I am committed to trying!

I hope this 3-point strategy and knowing about different communication styles helps you bridge the gap in any conversation you have, whether it’s heated or not. 😉

*See my list below for the 9 Best Books on Communication I recommend.

9 Best Books on How to Be a Better Communicator

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Writer Whitney Ellis

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