It's easy for us to assume that other people do things the same way we do, but in many areas of life, including communication, people have very different styles. Understanding these differences can go a long way to assure that our communications are effective. While there are many systems for assessing communication/personality style that can assist in collaborative decision-making, I have found in more than a decade of consulting in organizations that knowing some basic style differences described in the Meyer- Briggs personality type assessment can be very useful.

There is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from the formal personality test, but one dimension of the Meyers Briggs that I find especially helpful with group interaction is that of introversion/extroversion. Extroverts tend to think by talking whereas introverts will rarely contribute something until they have thought through their ideas.

One implication of this difference is to have all members of a group take a few minutes to write down their thoughts before discussing a topic. This reduces the disadvantage of introvertʼs who need time to clarify their thinking and assures that the extroverts will reflect prior to putting their ideas out. When extroverts don't do this, and simply explore their ideas verbally, the others in the group may attribute more validity to what the extroverts are saying. The group is not necessarily aware that the extrovert is simply “thinking out loud” and may not have the experience and authority that their enthusiasm might suggest. Alternately, their communications can be dismissed as "not knowing what they are talking about" since the ideas expressed have not been thought through before sharing them.

Conversely, because introverts, being more reserved about putting out their thoughts, don't do well competing for 'airspace' with their more verbal colleagues, they are often judged by extroverts as not being willing to contribute to the conversation. Simply put, one style of communicators tends to judge the other as talking too much and saying too little while the other is judging that some group members are just not willing to participate.

In addition to taking time to organize thoughts, another viable solution is to encourage extroverts to use their desire to communicate by engaging in "process" oriented communications---those communications that help the group interaction--rather than simply talking about the content. This might take the form of asking specific members if they have any ideas (introverts won't just pipe up if they do), asking for comments on an idea that has been contributed, checking for consensus with the group or a number of other moves that encourage the communication of others. Just bringing the awareness of these individual differences and simple action steps can make a huge difference in facilitating effective communication within a group.

Action Step:
 Do you tend to be more introverted or extroverted in a group? How might you be more effective in collaborative decision-making knowing your style preference?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Connie Stomper earned a masters degree and doctorate in education and psychology from Columbia University in New York.
An ordained minister for over 20 years, she graduated from Peace Theological Seminary in Los Angeles with a masters and doctoral degree in Spiritual Science. The research on self and others that Connie did in this extraordinary program became the basis of the workshops, counseling and writings described on the Soul Musings site.

Her commitment to peace on the planet has taken her on journeys to nearly 30 countries around the world, traveling with fellow ministers focusing on individual and world peace. This interest in peace on the planet has motivated her involvement with organizations such as The Institute for Individual and World Peace and The Community Planet Foundation whose training in consciousness of Community and consensus decision-making she co-created.

Dr, Stomper has been a consultant, trainer, college teacher, and curriculum developer in a variety of organizational and academic settings. She has created trainings in areas such as team building, customer service, listening skills, problem solving, and is certified in the Meyers-Briggs personality profile and in dispute resolution.

Based on working with her own health issues, Connie has studied many forms of alternative medicine and counsels in the spiritual opportunities in dealing with health challenges. Having done care-taking with her mother for several years and having experienced a joyful shared death experience when her mom passed into spirit, Connie's counseling counseling and writing also addresses care-taking and end of life process.