Colorful flat design of conversation bubbles in minimalist style

How I work with anyone, no matter how they communicate.

How I approach communicating with people that don’t fit my communication style.

tldr: Establish good intentions, assume them of others, and work backwards from what they say to their intentions.

Trying to adapt your communication style to match someone else’s never works. Everyone has honed their own way of communicating over a lifetime, setting a bar that’s nearly impossible for someone else to reach. Even if you do manage to meet someone’s expectations, the effort required to re-engineer your own style tends to impact the quality of what you’re trying to say. I find, I may be better received, but I never end up saying things how I imagined.

Despite this, I see this constantly insisted upon in life. Everyone believes it’s reasonable to reach their benchmark for being spoken too, because they don’t believe they could have an ineffective communication style. And, why would they? They’ve gone through life thus far and only had as many poor communication incidents as everyone else, seems to be working right?

I try to forget about communication style altogether, let people talk how they want to talk. Instead I focus all my efforts in communicating and assuming good intentions. I start by making it very clear that I have good intentions, which makes a world of a difference. When people recognise that you want what’s best out of the communication, whether that’s to solve a problem or work across one another, they feel way more lenient towards your communication style. Plus, it implicitly puts the onus on your counterparty to reflect on whether they themselves have good intentions. The next step is, despite any preconceived notions or lack of response to the first step, to truly believe that that they have good intentions. Contextualise all your communication with this belief. This will help you tenfold in tolerating the way others communicate and not letting that impact a good intentioned outcome. Then I evaluate everything said against those good intentions. I ask myself, “How can I reconcile what was said with those good intentions?” if I start from the assumption that they mean well. From here, I often find that I get where they are coming from, even if that’s not how I would have said it. If that reflection leads me nowhere this is where I shift the focus of the conversation. I try to probe as much as possible for them to explain why they said what they said. If and only if, I can’t reconcile their communication with good intentions, then I safely end the conversation knowing my belief in their good intentions was misguided.

The bottom line is you want to communicate with those who have good intentions not those who match your style. Determining that is my number one priority. Ultimately, good intentions matter more and are far more pre-determined and unyielding to change. Communication styles can change easily and obscure intentions. For example, I don’t want to encounter communicators who “be the person you want them to be”, they are incredibly hard to work with.

I also think this way of communicating has also made me more open-minded and less judgemental. In my first business, teuf, we used to swear at each other, call each other idiots and say things that, if you heard professionally, would think was awful. But because we all knew we were just trying to make the business work and we had been friends for 10+ years, beating around the bush by being nice didn’t help. We just needed to say what we wanted, exactly how we wanted, to best communicate. This was and is incredibly liberating, and, funnily enough, strengthens the communication you have with the people you work with enormously. Some of the friends I worked with on teuf I haven’t seen in 5 years, but when we do talk we pick back up where we left off like nothing’s changed.

Ultimately, you can’t control how others talk to you, but you can control how you frame the conversation. Personally, it seems like a silly reason to fail to communicate because you don’t like how someone talks. So I’d rather forget that and focus on communicating with people who have good intentions no matter how they communicate.