Transforming Talk at Work | July 2016


Dear Reader,

Matt was increasingly frustrated with his colleague, Lindsay. She “pops in” frequently to ask for his input on projects or to brainstorm on things Matt thinks she should be doing independently. “In addition to asking for my input, she gives unsolicited advice on my projects. She even stops by to find out how my weekend was,” Matt laments to me.

Lindsay, on the other hand, feels like Matt is equally frustrating to work with. “He’s withdrawn and not open to feedback or even giving input on projects that are connected to what he’s doing. It’s like he doesn’t even care,” she tells me.

What’s really at play here is a difference in communication styles. Lindsay’s dominant communication style is that of the Collaborator. Collaborators tend to be kind, cooperative and relaxed. They want input from all parties and are good listeners. They prefer to work with people, ask a lot of questions and be “in the loop.” They place a high value on the relationships they have with their colleagues and clients.

Accordingly, Lindsay “pops in” to satisfy her need for collaboration and build and maintain the relationship with Matt. She genuinely wants Matt’s input on her work and she expects the same from him – to be asked for her input. Collaborators don’t like to work in a vacuum, so they reach out, often to those who are most nearby.

Collaborators like Lindsay also offer helpful and supportive comments, which Matt is interpreting as unsolicited input on his work.

Matt can take just a few simple steps (see Reverse Engineer: Communicating with a Collaborator below) to improve his communication with Lindsay. When he understands that collaboration is central to her working style, he will recognize her requests for his input and her willingness to share helpful and supportive comments as an upside to working with her rather than a downside.

The next time you are working with someone like Lindsay who is the “Collaborator” style, use the following steps to adapt your communication to their preferences.

(If you’re not sure, consult this high-level diagram of communication styles and associated characteristics.


Reverse Engineer: Communicating with a Collaborator

1. Listen actively. Collaborators are excellent listeners and they expect the same from you. Your work will progress faster if you listen actively, making eye contact and paraphrasing key ideas.

2. Ask for their reactions. Collaborators are highly engaged and have opinions. They want to express those opinions, so plan to ask them.

3. Don’t mistake their kindness for weakness. Collaborators have a strong desire for peace and harmony. To that end, they tend to be warm and kind. That warmth is not an indicator or weakness, however. They are not pushovers.

4. Understand that they want to give and receive input. Collaborators love to offer help and support and they love it when others respond similarly. They want you to contribute your ideas and be in on the collaboration with them.


In the March, April and June issues of Transforming Talk, I covered two of the other communication styles. If you missed them, you can find the March issue on the Motivator style here, the April issue on the Director style here and the June issue on the Analyzer here.


Digest This: Communicating with Collaborators

How to Build More Collaborative Teams, According to Harvard Research(Inc.)
Collaboration not your dominant style? Not a problem. Recent research from Harvard University shows you can rewire your brain to become more collaborative.

The Secret Weapon for Collaboration (Forbes)
Using the collaboration between Disney and Pixar’s blockbuster success with the Toy Story series, the author distills the secret ingredient for successful collaboration.

The Fine Line Between a Collaborative Employee and One Who Doesn’t Get Enough Done (Harvard Business Review)
If your dominant style is that of the Collaborator, you’ll want to implement the tips in this article to keep from getting dragged down by the details.


My Treat

Just for fun: Computer Sitters!

Tap into the force all day long with Yoda hanging out on your monitor.

Or choose from Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Albert Einstein or Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.


Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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