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Friday, 1 July 2016

Why do I have to adapt my style?

When discussing adapting our communication styles to suit internal or external stakeholder I'm often met with:
  • "We should I change to suit them" 
  • "It's not authentic"
  • "Why can't they adapt to suit my style"
  • "It's manipulative"
My response is the same each time.
  • "You don't - if what you're doing is working"
I agree, if the communication and relationship you currently have with the other person is as you'd like it to be then why on earth would you change. 

The issue arises when the relationship isn't as we'd like it to be - whether due to conflicting objectives, misunderstanding, conflict, power, pure pigheadedness (on their behalf obviously!) or some other reason.

To us it might feel that just like this picture we can't get the door to effective communication open.
We may even sense that the person is pushing on their side of the door not wanting to let us in.

Often however there is a way to open the door, and the solution is found by understanding this image: 

ie you're often just talking a different language.

The premise behind flexing or adapting your communication style is that until you're both talking the same language, how can you be sure that you fully understand where they're coming from and vice versa. 

Just put yourself into their shoes for a moment - what reasons do you have for resisting what others are asking of you? Perhaps it's:

  • Being told what to do rather than being asked
  • Reacting to the behaviour (words, tone, behaviour) of the other person
  • Not agreeing with what you think you're being asked to do
  • Not having the time or resources
  • Not understanding what is being asked of you
  • You don't like the person, or think they don't like you
  • Knowing they don't believe in you 
  • Not trusting the other person
  • Not liking, or even distrusting, their objectives
  • Having other priorities/objectives
  • Not thinking you need to listen to the other person 
  • Having no respect for the other person
  • Not thinking it's your responsibility 
  • Not even registering they've asked you to do something (wasn't that email just for info only?) 
  • You're stressed
  • Not reading their email (it's still 200th on the list of unread emails)
  • You've got your head down before you go off on holiday later today/tomorrow/next week
  • You're preparing for an important meeting
  • You've just had some bad news
  • You're distracted - e.g due to tiredness, hunger, thirst, time of day, hours worked, location
  • And so on
What other reasons might there be?

Many of the above could be addressed by the other person if they:
  • Asked your opinion
  • Stopped telling you what to do
  • Amended their tone, words or behaviour 
  • Listened to you
  • Were nicer, or less nice, or more assertive, or less wishy washy or ..
  • Understood your objectives 
  • Explained their position better (in a way that makes more sense to you anyway)
  • Explained the benefits (particularly those you're interested in)
  • Were less selfish
  • Were less controlling  
  • Demonstrated they could be trusted
  • Demonstrated they knew what they were doing
  • Showed they respected you
  • Appreciated you
  • Inspired instead or bored you
  • Made their request later 
  • Were patient
  • Picked up on your current state of mind/body and left you alone for now
  • Apologised for past misdemeanours 
  • and so on
Which means the same is true if the shoe is on the other foot.

When dealing with stakeholders it's important therefore that we understand their resistance may be something we can do something about and even turn around.

A blog on the enablers for category management and supplier management cover many of the different ways we can adapt our style to improve understanding with our stakeholders.

What do you need to do to improve your relationship with an internal stakeholder?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing coach  
Inspiring change inside and out

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