Are you a Closed Communicator?

Mar 25, 2010 by

Last Sunday was a good day to have been a Manchester United supporter: our match was against a Liverpool side that has struggled this season, but nonetheless they remain the team that all United supporters love to beat. We did… 2 – 1, a victory which took us to the top of the table, with only 6 matches remaining.

As usual, the atmosphere against Liverpool was bouncing. The chanting was lively and noisy, and it is pretty much impossible not to be drawn into it. The communication style, though, is interesting and almost all observations were what we could call “closed”.

What do I mean when I say closed communication?
‘Closed’ means a statement that prevents, or makes difficult, any possibility of dialogue or discussion because of its finality, or because of the nature of the language used.

As I’m sure you will understand, many of the football observations are inappropriate to repeat on here.  They related, with varying degrees of venom, stuff like: the referee’s eyesight or weight; the parentage of many of the opposing team’s players; the economic welfare of the citizens of Liverpool and their dietary habits. Similar taunts are, of course, thrown back by the Liverpool fans.

Some of the chants are genuinely distasteful and offensive but the majority are amusing, sometimes witty, and very much a part of going to a football match. But what does this have to do with interviews or securing a new role?

Surprisingly closed styles of communication can be a part of our everyday interactions.
While it may be acceptable, or even appropriate, at a football match it may be less helpful when talking to interviewers or colleagues. According to James Borg, in his very readable book, ‘Persuasion‘, there are three types of closed communication:

Firstly, the definitive: “It’s the best restaurant in the country”; “All politicians are crooks”;  ”All murderers should be given the death penalty.”

We all tend to use these type of statements but they leave no room for discussion – any listener has to either go along with your view or disagree. The tone would be entirely different if the statements were to begin with, “In my view…”, or, “I believe…”

The list of options for changing a definitive is probably endless, but these new statements are likely to be open and encourage, rather than discourage, dialogue.

A second type of closed communication is the exaggeration: “You never take me out to dinner”; “You’re always late to work”; “You only ever speak to me when you want something.”

Dialogue is again likely to be the major casualty of these statements, which could very easily be softened to encourage discussion.

Borg’s third category of closed statement is forceful: “You must attend this meeting”; “It should be done this way and by…”; “You have to make sure…”

Again these can be softened by phrases like,  ”I believe…”; “Maybe it would be helpful if…”; “Perhaps you could consider…”

Naturally there are times, although I suspect that they are rare, when closed communications that discourage dialogue are necessary and appropriate. A commander on the battlefield, in the heat of combat, would be forgiven for shouting, “Get your head down, Private Funk!”

Be particularly cautious about making closed statements to an interviewer.
I would wish to keep dialogue open as much as possible, thereby respecting difference and valuing diversity. It’s also worth considering the valuable addition that dialogue can offer in helping your own learning.

In short, you are much more likely to be attractive at interview if you express your views in a way that allows the interviewer to have a different perspective without having having to to argue with you. Keep the closed, provocative, and absolute statements to the football terraces, or similar environments, and enjoy the opportunity to have a dialogue instead.

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