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Mastering Communication – Maximising Impact Across Styles For Professional And Personal Triumph

Since 2016 Jacqueline has been dedicated to empowering and inspiring future female leaders, sharing her tips and strategies through Elevate, a global virtual programme where over 9000 women have graduated. She is the host of the Finding Your EPIC podcast and author of the Finding Your EPIC book, published 2024.

Executive Contributor Jacqueline Frost

In our day-to-day lives, we are mainly engaged in two fundamental activities: problem-solving and collaborating with others. The latter presents a challenge that permeates every level of an organisation. According to a recent McKinsey survey involving 100 CEOs, senior-level executives struggle with effectively engaging with their board members and establishing connections with stakeholders. Meanwhile, for those in less senior roles, this challenge often manifests as the need to engage with their managers and cultivate strong relationships with colleagues.

Two women whispering

Effective communication serves as the cornerstone for addressing all business challenges. One contributing factor to its importance lies in basic psychology: in the absence of adequate information, individuals tend to default to worst-case scenarios. Another factor is the often-overlooked communication styles, inferential versus literal, which can complicate even the most straightforward conversations.

Two styles can alleviate a lot of frustration

To illustrate, consider how different individuals might respond to a situation where someone they know performs poorly:

  • A literal speaker might straightforwardly tell them about their performance, emphasising the importance of knowing the truth.

  • An inferential speaker might inquire about their thoughts on the matter, leaving it to the individual to discern the underlying message.

These communication styles also influence how we listen. For instance:

  • Literal listeners take statements at face value without reading into deeper implications.

  • Inferential listeners tend to interpret statements and may assume a need for action based on their interpretation.

Interestingly, in a virtual ‘Elevate’ session attended by over 1000 women, 54% discovered that their speaking and listening styles differed. This highlights that our listening style may not necessarily align with our speaking style. The breakdown of results revealed a relatively even distribution, with 62% being inferential listeners and 47% being literal speakers.

Both styles have their strengths and challenges. Inferential listeners are often praised for their ability to nurture and support others, qualities typically associated with women. On the other hand, literal speakers are valued for their precision and clarity, although this style may not always be well-received, particularly if the speaker is female, where feedback can lean towards descriptors such as “aggressive”, “blunt” or “hard-nosed.”

It’s essential to recognise that neither style is inherently superior or inferior; each brings its own set of strengths and challenges. Whilst we cannot change our preferred style, we can learn to adapt it. This concept may appear to conflict with the notion that authenticity is paramount. However, in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), the Law of Requisite Variety states that the part of a system with the greatest flexibility of behaviour will exert control over the system.

By being flexible with our communication styles and employing them according to the context, we enhance the likelihood of positive and fruitful communication. This adaptability allows us to navigate various situations more effectively and build stronger connections with others.

Understanding and appreciating these differences is incredibly powerful. Being armed with this knowledge can help to spot when a conversation might veer off course and consequently take steps to steer it back in the right direction. Becoming someone who communicates effectively and comprehends effortlessly is a valuable asset in any professional (and personal) setting.

For more insightful statistics, download your free copy of The EPIC Report!


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Jacqueline Frost, Founder and Creative Director at Elevate Talent

Jacqueline is a recognized leader in female executive development and mentoring. While her background includes a significant tenure in investment banking, her passion lies in empowering women to excel in leadership roles. She started her mentoring journey in 2009, sharing invaluable strategies for navigating high-pressure environments. Realizing the transformative effect of these lessons, she founded Elevate in 2016. This global virtual leadership program has equipped over 9,000 women from 50 countries with the skills to lead and influence in diverse industries. Her vision is to make leadership development accessible to women worldwide.



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