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Is Your Communication Style Causing Stress?

Is Your Communication Style Causing Stress?

Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter

Our lives are filled with stress these days—personal commitments, workplace stressors, financial strain, society’s sometimes unrealistic expectations of who we “should” be and how much we “should” be able to accomplish.

Most of us have experienced these kinds of stressors in our lives at some point or another. They’re fairly easy to identify. But not as many people realize that “communication stress” can be one of the single biggest sources of stress in our lives. After all, we’re all talking the same language, aren’t we?

Not necessarily. In a series of books on communication styles, linguistics expert Deborah Tannen describes how many many of us, while seeming to speak the same language, really aren’t.

For example, if you communicate using a style of inclusion, where you bring everyone in to the decision-making process whenever a family decision needs to be made, yet your partner prefers to make most or many of the decisions on his or her own, then you’re not really speaking the same language. And when this type of communication disconnect occurs, it can wreak havoc on relationships.

That’s not to say that we all should be clones of each other. Our differences are often what make us interesting. The world would be a very boring place if we all thought and communicated in exactly the same way.

However, there are many situations where if we had a better understanding of differences in communication styles, we’d get along a lot better and our relationships would go much smoother. So let’s take a look at a few “style” differences and see how these differences may be impacting the dynamics of your relationships—for better and for worse.

One “style” difference has to do with assertiveness and competitiveness. How assertive are you when you communicate? Do you speak up readily when you hear something you disagree with, or do you prefer to avoid potential conflict so you remain quiet? Do you prefer to give orders and make decisions without a lot of input from others?

Or do you prefer a more collaborative approach, asking for input from others before you make decisions? Are you comfortable sharing power? Or do you prefer relationships and workplaces where there is a hierarchical power structure in place?

The way in which you answer these questions should tell you something about your style, but it also should help you see why there may be tension in personal and professional relationships when you communicate in one way and another person’s style lies near the opposite end of the continuum.

Next Page: Are you a direct or indirect communicator? →


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