Do You Have a Signature Conversation Style?

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”

~ Naguib Mahfouz

Do You Have a Signature Conversation Style?

By Loren Ekroth

Many professional entertainers like comedians have a “signature style.” Examples: Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Stephen Wright. They come to be known for their special styles.

Similarly, regular people become known for their “signature style” when conversing. They may not know how they come across to others, but people talk about them. “Boy, Larry really does go on and on, doesn’t he?” and “Liz seems to know everybody and is a great host introducing us at parties.”

The English language has terms for certain styles. You’ll find some of those terms below. (Other languages also have an array of terms for conversational styles.) Some English terms have negative connotations, e.g., “chatterbox”, and some have positive meanings, e.g., “straight talker.”

Of course, I prefer to be thought of in positive terms.

Here’s a problem: Few of us know how others really see us. We have “blind spots” and we may misread feedback from others. This may be partly due to cultural or personality differences among the people talking.

For example, New Yorkers tend to talk much faster than folks from the South. What is standard and usual in Brooklyn is perceived as negative in other regions. Personality differences: Talkative, extroverted personalities may seem dominating to introverts who need time to think what they’re going to say.

I think – and hope – I am usually seen primarily as both a good listener and a skillful networker. (And a pretty good storyteller.) These are my signature styles.

Do you have one or more signature styles when you converse?

Here are two short lists of styles by which you may be known.

Positive Styles

Networker (Connects people)
Good listener (Deeply attentive and engaged)
A Wit (Quick with humor)
Knowledgeable (Well informed in many subjects)
Storyteller (Animated expression, colorful words)
Inspirational (Shares uplifting ideas)
Kind and congenial (Pleasant to talk with)
Straight talker (Frank, honest talk)

Negative Styles

Chatterbox (Talks quickly and aimlessly)
Blusterer (Talks in boastful or threatening ways)
Double-talker (Intentionally talks in confusing language)
Gossip (Talks about the personal lives of others)
Always Old News (Shares stale information)
“Yes, but” (Regularly contradicts others)
Lecturer (Talks down to others)
“Ain’t it awful?” (Talks about problems and pains)
“Trivial pursuits” (Talks only about minor matters)

Two ways to know your signature style(s)

1) Pay attention to the feedback you receive when interacting. If people seek you out and their expressions show they like talking with you, you probably have a positive signature style.

2) If you’re not sure, you can ask a few trusted friends. For example, if you think you may be talking too much, ask “Sometimes I think I talk too much. What do you think?” Or you can find out how you come across from a coach or counselor, or in a facilitated workshop.

Good news: Most styles are composed of learned behaviors, and you can change behaviors, sometimes quite easily. For example, if you discover that your complaining drives others away, you can reduce or eliminate complaining.

If you are told you don’t listen well, you can change that with a bit of effort. When you become aware of negative communication habits, you can replace those with positive behaviors.

From “Better Conversations” newsletter by Loren Ekroth. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2013. All Rights reserved. Dr. Ekroth is creator of information products to improve conversation, such as “Small Talk Success Tips” and a free newsletter at www.ConversationMatters.com.

Coaching Call To Action

This week do an assessment of your communication style. Does it lean towards the positive or the negative? Don’t know? Are people at your company seeking you out for your ideas and input? If not, take some time to follow Loren’s advice and ask some trusted friends or colleagues for feedback. Please take a minute to share your learnings below.