Yann has a new team member Sonia, who is technically very competent, but he is finding her difficult to talk to. He tells his coach Beth, “She is very quiet, gives short answers and I feel that she is not opening up to me and might be withholding information. I find it frustrating that I am not having the same types of discussion with her that I have with other colleagues.”
Beth asks, “Do you think she is lacking confidence?”
Yann says, “Her CV is excellent and she appears to be confident in a quiet way, but you can’t always tell. People can be very good at hiding their lack of confidence.”
Beth asks more about Sonia’s personality and communication style and then says, “It sounds to me that she has a preference for introversion, for reflection and thinking things through rather than talking things through as an extrovert would. Yann, you have a preference for extroversion don’t you, so you like to have open discussions about ideas. This may be more difficult for Sonia.”
Yann says, “Yes I recognise that I am extrovert and like to discuss things. But how does that help me with Sonia, – I need to be able to discuss work with her and to get her views.”
Beth says, “You may need to modify you approach in order to get the best from her. An extrovert can unintentionally overwhelm a less confident introvert, and if she doesn’t respond, you may feel uncomfortable and compensate by talking more yourself. When you are with her, what percentage of the time do you spend talking?”
Yann thinks about this and realises that he does most of the talking when he is with Sonia and is not giving her a chance to contribute to the conversation.
Beth gives Yann a few tips for drawing a quiet person out and for handling non-assertion.
• You need to adjust your own energy level to match hers. If you are too energetic and bouncy, you may make her feel less confident and less able to talk.
• Recognise that she needs time to reflect and think before discussing things, so give her time to do this. Make an appointment for a discussion and let her know the topics you want her view on in advance.
• Try and mirror her body language and pace of speech, this may mean you need to slow down and reduce your volume.
• Ask open questions beginning with Who, Why, Where, What When and How. These questions will draw out ideas and information and help you understand her thinking. Be careful of your intonation, and make sure your questions don’t sound like an interrogation. Keep your voice even, calm and friendly.
• If she is behaving non-assertively, there may be something that she feels uncomfortable sharing with you. If you think she is holding something back, you need to build the trust between you and she needs to feel safe to disclose her real concern. Asking careful phrased open questions will help you find out her real concern.
• Once you think you have identified the real concern, check that you have identified it correctly – say “is this what you are concerned about? ….. Is there anything else?”
“When are you next meeting with her?
Yann says; “I will email her and ask her if she has half an hour for a meeting later this afternoon. I will let you know how I get on.”
Do you find it more difficult to communicate with some colleagues than others? Click the link to find out more about our Confident Communication workshop on 5 October 2016 and coaching.