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 “He’s withdrawn and not open to feedback or even giving input on projects that are connected to what he’s doing.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.