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Communication Styles and Conflict

LEAD STORY-DATELINE: The Journal for Quality and Participation, Summer 2004.

In a detailed analysis, facultative coach and consultant Kathy Jourdain, stresses that knowing your communication style and having a mix of styles on your team can provide a positive force for resolving conflict. As far back of Hippocrates’ time (460-370 B.C.), people have tried to understand other people by characterizing them according to personality type. Hippocrates’ work was further developed 500 years later by Galen. These days, there are any number of self-assessment tools that relate to the basic descriptions by Galen. The value in self-assessments that determine personality styles, learning styles, communication styles, conflict handling styles and other aspects of individuals is that they help personalize conflict in interpersonal relationships.

Hippocrates and later Galen determined that there are four basic temperaments: the sanguine person, the phlegmatic person, the melancholic person and the choleric person. Their descriptions were developed centuries ago but are still somewhat apt. In today’s world, they translate into the four fairly common communications styles. The sanguine person would be the expressive or spirited style of communication. The phlegmatic person translates into the technical or systematic communication style. The melancholic person translates into the considerate or sympathetic communication style, and the choleric temperament translates into the bold or direct style of communication.

A well-functioning team should have all of these communication styles for true effectiveness. We have all aspects of each style within them. Some of us can easily move from one style to another and adapt our style to the needs of the situation at hand. For others, a dominant style is very evident. The good news about communication style is that we all have the ability to develop flexibility in our styles The greater the flexibility we have, the more skilled we usually are at handling possible and actual conflicts.

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Kathy Jourdain. “Communication Styles and Conflict.” The Journal for Quality and Participation, Summer 2004; pg. 23.

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