When you communicate with someone, your style will depend on the purpose of the conversation, your intention behind it and what results you actually expect.
Although there are many different styles we can adopt, we will address two different ones here: Advocacy and Inquiry.
What is the difference between the two?
Well, you function differently when you are in advocacy mode to when you are in inquiry mode.
Advocacy communication puts you in a position of “standing for”, or advocating a particular action, position or set of principles. In other words you are trying to persuade and argue for the position you are advocating.
Inquiry communication is different because the point of inquiry is to UNDERSTAND the position of the other person or people, rather than to change their minds or opinions.
There is certainly a place for both kinds of communication. However, the problem with advocacy communication is that it can interfere with understanding and short circuit listening on both sides. We tend to live in an advocacy type culture and society, and that accounts for a great deal of unnecessary conflict, where both sides try to convince the other, and neither side understands the other. That’s
a major problem and weakness.
There is a solution, and may prove to be a difficult one for those who “advocate”. First try to understand the other side, and once you understand, then and only then should you advocate.
That has several benefits and strengths, not the least of which your advocacy will be more effective since you can hook into the perceptions and point of view of the other side. The second benefit is that when you try to understand first, you may find that either it is pointless to continue to advocate (like trying to sell snow to Eskimos), or, you find that there is no need to advocate since both parties agree with each other.
Next time you communicate with someone, notice whether you are putting a position of power across (your own opinion, your facts as you see them, your own position) or whether you should find out more details about their position before you talk about your own. The order may well prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretations when you communicate effectively.
Looking for more advice on improving your communication skills? Try this article:
Head of Training