While everyone has a primary Communication Style, for most people Communication Styles are situational.
When you think about it, you’ll realize that you instinctively adapt your Communication Style depending on where you are or who you’re talking to.
When we’re with friends or family, we probably behave and talk differently than we do at work. When we want to convey something important to someone in any situation—at work or in social situation—we make conscious efforts to adapt and do what will work best in that situation.
While we all have a natural Communication Style that we use without thinking, we also adapt our style as necessary. Here are three common types of adaptations that you will recognize from your own experience.
The first category is one I call “role adaptation.” In our lives, and even during a typical day, we each play many “roles.”
An example might be the role of wife compared to the role of mother. Another might be the role of boss compared to the role of husband or father. In each of these cases we will quite naturally behave and communicate differently based upon the role we are in at the time.
There are obvious practical reasons for this. The way we communicate at work may give us terrible results at home, and vice versa. Giving orders might be effective at a construction site, but it probably won’t work as well at home.
Of course, some people don’t make changes in order to adapt to different situations, but most people have learned from experience to modify their Communication Style for different roles, at least on some level.
The specific ways that we adapt to different roles will not always be the same for everyone; there are people who are more relaxed in their work role than with family and friends. Our job may be easy and familiar for us, while our family members may require us to expend a lot of energy to get along with them.
Since our natural Communication Style requires us to expend the least amount of energy, one good way to tell whether we are using our natural style with someone is to answer the question, “does this make me tired?”
If you are using a style that comes naturally to you and not using an energy-expending role adaptation, it will require less energy and you will be less tired.
Favorable or Unfavorable Environment
A second common adaptation of our Communication Style is based on whether we believe we are in a favorable or unfavorable environment.
When we’re in comfortable situations with people we know and trust, we tend to communicate in different ways than we do when we’re in situations that are unfamiliar, or which we may perceive as being dangerous.
This is different than role-based adaptation in that a role adaptation is based upon who we are with and an environmental adaptation is based on where we are.
Situations that May Be Stressful or Not
The third adaptation is based on whether the situation is stressful or not because, as we noted before, during stressful times we tend to revert to our natural Communication Style.
Stress can simply be the result of being tired, even if we are happily at a party or social gathering or just reaching the end of a long day at work. Stress can also be a completely internal reaction and does not have to be the result of any social situation.
One thing to notice in each of these three adaptations— stress, an unfamiliar environment, or the need for role adaptation—is that they can cause either conscious or unconscious adjustments in the way we communicate.
For example, we can decide to adapt our style in order to accomplish a goal at work or at home, or we can take extra caution when we sense we’re in an unfavorable situation, or we can opt not to get into a serious conversation when we know we’re tired and might not be able to focus on things.
Most of our adaptations are unconscious and happen so fast that we don’t even realize that we are doing them.
Communication Styles Adaptations Summary
- Everybody (whether they know what it is or not) has a natural Communication Style that he or she uses without thinking.
- You can achieve the best results by adapting your style to the style of the other person(s).
- When you adapt to another person it takes energy because you are doing something that is not natural for you.
- If we’re forced to adapt for an extended period, we eventually run out of energy and revert to our natural style.
- Under stress we tend to revert to our natural Communication Style.