EP: 132 The Art Of Mindful Communication: Navigating Communication And Listening Styles With Jennifer Furlong

BWW 132 | Mindful Communication

I’ve been on a communication kick lately with the podcast. I believe that clear and concise communication is an important ingredient to being a brave woman at work. I’ve brought on a communications expert, Jennifer Furlong, that brought a new and interesting spin to being an effective communicator. Jen talks about communication styles. And this got me thinking about my own communication style and how it has helped and hurt me in my professional and personal interactions.

During our conversation, Jen and I talked about:

  1. The four different communication styles.
  2. Why being mindful of your communication style is crucial for strong and healthy communication.
  3. How men and women have more in common than differences in terms of communicating.
  4. How listening comes into play.
  5. The BPI technique with tough conversations at work.

This show applies to everyone, so make sure to share this one with all the people in your life. Everyone can benefit from learning their communication style, how to improve their listening, and more.

Learn more about Communication TwentyFourSeven LLC here!

Take the assessment and find out your communication style here!


Check out our website: Brave Women at Work

Listen to the podcast here

The Art Of Mindful Communication: Navigating Communication And Listening Styles With Jennifer Furlong

I have been on quite the communication and a kick with the show and having a communication theme. I believe that clear and concise communication is an important ingredient to being a brave woman at work. You have got this show. I had Bobbie Carlton talking about presenting like a boss. Check out these shows.

I have brought on another communications expert, Jennifer Furlong, and she brought a new and interesting spin to being an effective communicator. Jen talks about communication styles, and it got me thinking about my own communication style and how it has helped and sometimes hurt me in my professional and personal interactions.

During my conversation with Jen, we chatted about the four different communication styles, why being mindful of our communication style is crucial for strong and healthy communication, how men and women have more in common than their differences in terms of communication, and how listening and listening styles come into play. In the end, she shared an awesome bit of information called the BPI Technique with tough conversations at work. This particular show applies to everyone. Make sure to share this one with all of the people in your life. Everyone can benefit from learning their communication styles, how to improve their listening skills, and much more.

Here is more about Jen. Like many entrepreneurs, Jennifer Arvin Furlong wears many hats. She is a highly-rated communications and media specialist with 30 years of experience in the communication industry, and 18 years of experience teaching in higher education. In addition to being the host of the Communication TwentyFourSeven Podcast, she is an author, a TEDx speaker, a TEDx coach, a communication skills trainer, and a media literacy advocate. She is a Marine Corps veteran and a first-generation college graduate. She has a BA and a Master’s in Communication, is a mom of two 20-something adults, and is a breast cancer survivor.

Her favorite quote is, “Jump and the net will appear.” Jen likes to lean in rather than opt-out when it comes to having difficult conversations about challenging topics. As communication impacts every aspect of our personal, professional, and civic lives, Jen wants to challenge you to think critically about your own communication habits, from consumption to expression, to listen to different points of view from a place of curiosity, and to confidently communicate your own point of view.

Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have already left a rating and review, I thank you so much. Your support of this show means so much to me. You can also share this show like I have encouraged you or any of the shows with your family members, friends, or colleagues on your social media feeds.

If you haven’t heard, I have some new freebies on my website for you. The freebies are 24 Career & Leadership Affirmations that you can use every day to keep your positivity up and your mindset focused on your goals. The second one is Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. You can use these tips for pay, for benefits, making sure you get paid what you are worth. You get the benefits that you deserve. Finally, 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome because we all know that. I believe it’s part of the human condition and it can strike us at any point, and I would like you to be prepared when you have periods of self-doubt. You can grab any one of these or all of them on my site at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Jen to the show.

BWW 132 | Mindful Communication

Jennifer, welcome to the show. How are you?

How are you doing? Thanks so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.

I love women’s stories. Anyone reading knows that. I’d love to hear more about your background story and how you have gotten to where you are now. More specifically, why and we are going to talk about communication a lot and I’m curious about how you have gotten to this full area of specialty and communication.

Communication has been something I have been working on for a very long time. When I graduated high school, college wasn’t in the cards for me at the very beginning, and because of lack of money, lack of resources. Like many kids who grow up, households that don’t have a lot of money and don’t have family members who have graduated from college, the assumption is you got to have money to go to school.

I was so naïve. I did not know anything about financial aid, grants, or none of that stuff, but I knew that I wanted to be able to go do something. I knew I wanted to be in journalism in some fashion. Whether it was print journalism or broadcast journalism, I wasn’t quite sure. When I graduated high school, I decided to join the military and I went active-duty Marine Corps.

When I was in the Marines, I was in public affairs. I got to do both. I got to do broadcast journalism as well as print journalism. That served as the catalyst for this career that I have been working on for the past several years. After I got out of the military, I did end up going to college. I ended up getting my Bachelor’s and my Master’s both in Communication.

I was in public relations for a little while. I worked in different industries from the public school industry to the publishing industry. I so happened to stumble into the academic world of teaching Communication because when I was a graduate student, one of my instructors came up to me and asked me if I wanted to teach a Public Speaking class because they had a full class but they didn’t have an instructor, and the only question I asked was, “Are you going to pay me?” He was like, “Yeah.”

I was like, “Okay.” I had no idea what I was doing. I had never taught a college class before. I was a graduate student. I was like, “Let’s do it,” and I fell in love with the classroom, helping others figure out how to not only find their voice but how to use it more effectively, and help them to gain more confidence in their presentation.

In the classroom, you’re helping others figure out how to not only find their voice but how to use it more effectively. Share on X

I ended up teaching Public Speaking and Communication Studies courses for eighteen years. Fast forward to now, I’m doing a couple of things that I love. Not only am I a business owner, but I also own Communication TwentyFourSeven, which is a little firm I put together during COVID like many other entrepreneurs.

I started consulting organizations doing team building and helping new managers learn how to communicate more effectively, but I also work full-time as a media analyst. I get to read and rate the news for reliability and bias. The coolest thing, I love what I do and I love helping people do this thing we call communication a little more effectively. It’s one of the best jobs in the world if you ask me.

It’s pretty cool that you didn’t know when you were a kid. This gives me inspiration and motivation. Maybe you did, but it doesn’t sound like it. You followed the path of life and it took you to communication.

That’s what we got to do. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day and we all have this plan. Not an inkling. I knew I wanted to do something in journalism, but I’m not a journalist. I started out as a journalist, but that’s not what I’m doing now. I’m still in the field that I love, which is connected to communication as well as journalism and the media. If you go with the flow, keep your eye on what it is that you truly enjoy doing, and try to follow that path, somehow, things end up working out.

I have to ask before we dive into communication which is our topic. How was it? What was it like to be a Marine? What was that experience like for you?

I loved it because one of the reasons that it resonated with me so much is because of my upbringing. Growing up, I came from a broken home. Whether I was at my dad’s place or my mom’s place, there was alcoholism, a lot of drug abuse, and violence in the home as well. One of the reasons why I thrived when I went into the Marine Corps was because of the structure.

To be honest with you, I loved the structure. I loved the high expectations. I loved that it pushed you. I felt strong. I felt in control. The most wonderful experience is being able to come into your own and feel that level of strength. I credit the Marine Corps with that. A lot of people will say when you go to boot camp that it creates you. It molds and shapes you in some way into who you are and I would argue, for me at least going to boot camp revealed who I was.

It gave me an opportunity to peel back those layers so that I could understand the strength that was already in me. I had not had the opportunity to put it to the test. I credit the Marine Corps with everything, not only for jumpstarting my career path in communications but for giving me a way to develop my own voice and be challenged. It was not easy. Being a woman in the Marine Corps, it isn’t easy. It’s not for the weak of hearts. That’s for sure.

Boot camps can give you the opportunity to peel back those layers so that you could understand the strength that was already in you. Share on X

I didn’t go that path. Not for me. I give you a lot of credit for doing that and finding you to where you are now. With communication, turning to that, you mentioned communication and confidence. What does that mean to you? What does communicating with confidence mean in your own words?

For me, communicating with confidence is number one, truly understanding who you are, what you believe, and what you value, and being able to express your beliefs and your values in a way that others can understand you. To me, that’s what true empowerment is. When you learn how to communicate effectively, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody’s going to agree with you. If you can get someone to say, “I still disagree with you, but that was a damn good point you made,” you have won right there. To me, that’s what confidence is in communication.

You have taught men and women alike on this topic. Is there a difference between how men communicate with confidence and women do the same?

The men versus women communication styles debate. I love it. This is a topic that’s always fun to talk about, whether it’s in the classroom or when I have the opportunity to go out to different organizations and do communication skills training. This is also something that comes up within different departments.

There are a lot of fallacies out there regarding how men and women communicate. We do have a lot more in common than what we believe, but it’s, when you get down to it, the things that we naturally gravitate to and the topics that we like to talk about. We are doing generalizations. When you talk about studies and all of that, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule.

As a matter of fact, I tend to be the exception to a lot of these rules. For example, studies will show that women will tend to focus more on topics that gravitate toward maintaining relationships. Whereas men will tend to gravitate to talking more about topics that focus on maybe technology or something like that. The things that we focus to talk about it are generally different.

In terms of men and women, we can both express ourselves confidently, but it can come across differently depending on who you are talking to and their perceptions. We both know. Women, when we come across confidently, sometimes we could be perceived as being aggressive or overly aggressive in the workplace. Whereas if there’s a man who’s expressing as much confidence, it may come across as, “He’s a confident guy.” We do have to understand that depending on the context, culture, expectations, and perceptions. That’s the challenge that we have to deal with.

If we want to talk about differences in confidence and then perceptions of confidence could come across regarding how we use our voice in communication. Women, in general, will change our voices and we can do this innately. We don’t even realize we are doing this. You see this happen in the home a lot, especially when we are working with children.

You will notice sometimes if we have a child that is being a little bad or having a temper tantrum, how do we calm that child down? We will lower our voices. We might start speaking a little more slowly. We will integrate more pauses. That is how we can command. That’s how we are commanding in our presence. We convey confidence in the situation. If we raise our voices, what’s the perception? We have lost control and we are probably not going to be received very positively when that happens. How we use our voices can also impact others’ perceptions.

If you hear somebody describe a woman as shrieking, she could be communicating in a very similar way as a man, but we don’t use the word shrieking to describe men. We might say they were yelling or forcefully saying something or loudly saying something. The differences that we think exist do come across more in terms of cultural perceptions, but in reality, we do have a lot more in common than we are led to believe. When we start having conversations with one another, we end up having more things in common. There are a lot of myths here.

Diving into that though, we are similar. A few of the female coaching clients I have worked with, there’s this thing. They are so smart, capable, ambitious, driven, and all of that. They have all the things. They have all the credentials, but then they have a difficulty speaking up. I’m wanting to get your take on that because I’m sitting there thinking, “Is it because of fear?” I don’t know why they’re afraid to speak up. As this is an area of expertise and strength for you, why do you think that is that women won’t speak up for themselves?

There are a whole host of reasons. Some of it could be conditioning. Some of it could be a lack of confidence in yourself and it needs to be built up. Some of it could be your communication style. One thing that we all can agree on is it can be detrimental to your career path if you don’t find a way to be able to use your voice effectively to empower yourself. It’s fine to allow others to have the stage, but if you want to be able to move forward in your career path, you have got to build the confidence to be able to speak up and say something. A lot of women do have a difficult time doing that.

BWW 132 | Mindful Communication
Mindful Communication: Communication can be detrimental to your career path. If you want to be able to move forward in your career path, you’ve got to build the confidence to be able to speak up and say something.

For some women that I have worked with, a lot of times the reason they don’t speak up is because they are self-conscious. It could be because they recognize that maybe they need to have voice lessons or something like that. They want to make sure that their voice comes across as in control. Some women will take voice lessons so they will learn how to speak making statements rather than, “I’m speaking and now I’m going to end my sentence. I sound sing-songy and that’s how I sound.”

It does take away some of the credibility that you have as a professional if you are asking questions at the end versus making statements. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Taking a couple of vocal lessons to learn how to use your voice more effectively. Sometimes it’s deeper than that. You got to peel back the layers and look at the conditioning. How did you grow up? If you grew up in a household where you were to be seen but not to speak, that’s a difficult thing to break.

That requires peeling back the layers a little more in getting you to understand that you do have a voice, you have a right to have a voice, and that you can use your voice. You are allowed to use your voice. That’s all about building confidence in yourself so that you can do that when the time is required to do that.

Sometimes it boils down to your communication style. We all communicate in different ways and some of us tend to be more action-oriented. We will dive right in. Somebody asks a question. We will be the first one to answer and it’s a yes or no question. You get a yes or no answer. Some of us are more contemplative because we have got to process the information and we need some time to think about it before we respond. There are a whole host of reasons.

Let’s dive into the communication styles a bit more. You have given two. I don’t know if there are more than that. You said active and you said more contemplative. Are there others?

There are so many theories out there that have broken down communication styles. At the end of the day, when you look at the research that is done, four communication styles come out as most prevalent. It has stood the test of time. Action-oriented is one of them that I mentioned. If you have an action-oriented style, you like things to be brief. You like it to be organized. You probably like visuals because you can look at the chart or the graph and immediately, arrive at a conclusion.

Sometimes that can backfire because you might come across as a bully sometimes. You are direct, straightforward, and very informal in your way of speaking. Sometimes that might rub others the wrong way. Another one that I mentioned is the process-oriented communication style. If you are the type of person who also likes organization, but breaks it down even further.

You like to look at the pros and the cons and the good and the bad and leave no stone unturned before you make this decision. There’s no reason to rush into this, which is a wonderful thing. These tend to be the accountants. The action-oriented tend to be the CEOs. Let’s dive right on and let’s make this decision. Then you got the accountants saying, “Hold up. Let’s take a moment. Let’s think about this. Maybe let’s put together a study.” That’s what process-oriented people might recommend.

They could come across as if they can’t make a decision. That analysis paralysis sets in. That could be a downside. They also tend to be long-winded in their explanations, whereas action-oriented is to the point. Process-oriented want to make sure that you understand the entire story and that will drive the action-oriented person insane because it’s like, “Get to the point.”

People-oriented communication style are the ones who tend to focus on the relationships. If they are within a group, they are paying attention to your emotions and how it’s coming across. They want to make sure that everybody has a voice. Everybody has a say. If there’s this big decision being handed down from leadership, they are the ones that will say, “Hold up. Have we asked the employees how they feel about this? Is this going to work for them?”

This is a great thing because they end up being like the HR managers. These are the HR people. They want to make sure that everybody’s covered and that there aren’t going to be any nasty surprises for the workforce, which is wonderful. Sometimes these people tend to come across as maybe being too emotional at times or maybe too invested in others’ emotions, and so they can lose themselves. They can easily become overwhelmed with everyone else’s issues, the baggage that they are trying to carry for everyone else.

The last one is the idea-oriented communication style. These are the go-getters. These are the ones whose heads are in the cloud sometimes. They might come up with all of these brilliant ideas. They are wonderful in brainstorming sessions. The process-oriented person is like, “That’s insane. That will never work and here are 1,000 reasons why.” The idea is all over the place, just excited. They are the ones that are in their garages creating all the newest and coolest things that we are all going to buy within the next couple of years because they are doing things that we think are easy.

Steve Jobs of the iPhone, all of the innovators.

If you have somebody in your workplace who is like that, sometimes they may come across as a little provocative. Maybe a little too out there. It’s like, “Don’t ask him what his opinion is because he’s not going to come up with anything that is even remotely something that we will be able to achieve.” We need the idea people. They are innovators. It becomes interesting when you can begin recognizing all those different communication styles, and how they interact with one another. It’s pretty funny in a group setting when I do this with groups and they are like, “That’s why you are the way you are.”

A follow-up question for you. I’m an idea person in positive times, but then under stress, I’m action-oriented or maybe I don’t want to admit I’m fully action-oriented, but I’m got some shades of action orientation. I’m like a steamroller. I will own that. Can you flex under stress in different styles or are you like, “No. You were born with this style. This is the style you end with?” How does that work?

Everybody has all four communication styles. It’s just that we tend to have a natural go-to style. It’s our dominant communication style, but then that does change over time. Your dominant style can change depending on whether you are at home because you have to pull from different strengths while you are at home versus while you are at work.

If your position changes at work, you begin pulling on a different communication style because that’s the style you need in order to be successful in that position. You then develop and work on that style and you don’t even realize it. That ends up becoming your dominant style. The challenge is if you are underdeveloped in a certain style, that’s when you can run into issues with trying to connect with someone else. The beauty of understanding what your dominant style is and how close all of the other styles are to that dominant style is that if you can begin recognizing those styles in other people, then you can adapt your style to them.

If I can recognize that I’m sitting down with a people-oriented communication style person and here I am, I’m process-oriented, very closely followed by action-oriented, chit-chat before the meeting drives me insane. It’s like, “I want to get to it. Let’s get to the meeting and let’s focus on what we got to focus on. That way, everybody can get back to work.”

The people-oriented person is like, “How was little Johnny’s football game? You said you were going to go on this trip last weekend. How did that go? How was your mom doing? You said that she was having surgery over the weekend. I want to hear more about that.” For the process-oriented person or an action-oriented person, “I might need to stop for a second and say, “Let’s allow for five minutes for chit-chat because, let’s face it, it is good for relationship building. It is good for the group to maintain a positive communication climate. I need to shut up and let the people-oriented person have time for chit-chat.”

That’s the value in figuring out how to adapt your own style to other styles, but we all have it. It’s just, how dominant is it? If you find out you have a style that’s not very dominant, I will fully admit that people-oriented is the last style on my list of styles. It’s like the weakest communication style for me. Empathy is not my biggest strength in the world because I do focus so much on the end goal.

Things happen but we got to get this done. Let’s focus on the work and that’s not always a good thing. I have had to spend a lot of time working on my own communication style. If somebody comes up to me and they have an issue, I have to say, “Hold up. Use your listening skills. Tap into the empathic listening skill and allow this person the time to vent whatever it is they want to vent about, and then they are going to feel like you have all the empathy in the world for them.” They do because you give them the space that they need to express whatever it is that they feel like they need to express.

We do have more in common. People will correct me in the most subtle way. Let’s say I’m in a meeting and it’s Monday morning and we have come off the weekend. I’m diving right in like, “Let’s get to the work. Let’s get to the agenda.” I sounds like I don’t care about how their weekend was. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s I don’t think about it. I’m here to get the work done because that’s why I’m here. You are paying me to get the work done. People will correct me in a subtle way like, “How was your weekend?” I’m like, “Humanity.”

People. You and your emotions. People and their emotions.

I got to slow down because this person wants to emote with me. This person wants to ask how my weekend was. It’s funny for those people-oriented processors and communicators out there. For an action-oriented, now I’m feeling like I’m probably much more naturally action-oriented. I have to remind myself to be like, “I got to spend five minutes doing that. That’s important.” I appreciate you calling that out because it’s good. I don’t know if this is on your site. What would you say if they are interested? “I don’t know what my communication style is.” How do they find that information?

I do have an assessment. It’s a PDF and you can find it on my website. It’s CommunicationTwentyFourSeven.com/communication-style-assessment.

Everyone, go out and get that and figure out your communication style because that’s something that we learn about. That something that we study about or know about. It’s that like, “I don’t know. I didn’t know that they were that many and things like that.” One clarification because I was counting along with you because I’m also very detail-oriented too. You said there are four styles. I also heard process-oriented. Are process and action orientation the same or are there five styles?

There are four. There are action, process, people, and ideas.

Those are the four for everybody. I was like, “I think there’s a fifth.” It’s a no. There are four, everyone. I wanted to go back to listening. When we were preparing for the show, you were saying, “Listening plays a big part in the communication and the listening style.” Can you comment on the role of listening and the various listening styles? I don’t know if you can be action-oriented in communication but have an entirely different listening style. Set me straight on that.

We can listen in the wrong way. That’s one of the things. It’s like when miscommunication occurs, someone says something that they didn’t mean or you think that they took it in the wrong way. You said something that you didn’t mean. Whatever the excuse is, at the end of the day, sometimes people are angry and they need to vent, and they don’t need us to solve the problem for them.

Sometimes people are angry, and they just need to vent. They don't need us to solve the problem for them. Share on X

This is where we get into trouble with the different listening styles. We can listen using the wrong style. If you tend to be action-oriented, that means you focus on the goals, you focus on getting there and you want to achieve. You have got that drive. “Let’s make it happen.” Someone walks into your office and something is bothering them, it’s going to be easy to use the listening mode where you want to solve the problem.

You instantly engage in critical listening mode. “Tell me the problem and let’s figure out a solution so we can move past this and continue about our day.” We both know that sometimes people aren’t always operating in that mode. Sometimes you are upset about something and you want to vent. You need to get it out of your system.

If somebody comes to you, you are engaged in your critical listening mode and they start complaining about something and you ask them, “What are you going to do about it?” That comes across as judgmental like maybe you are blaming them and then they get upset at you because they are like, “Are you saying this is my fault?” “No, that’s not what I meant,” and then that’s how the argument begins.

Whereas sometimes if we can stop, somebody comes into our office, and begin talking about an issue, sometimes we need to listen with an empathetic ear, empathetic listening and say, “I can understand why that would drive you crazy. I can understand why that would bother you. It sounds like that’s something that hurt you,” and they want that confirmation. They are not looking for it to be solved. They are looking for someone to understand, to put yourself in their shoes. The conversation is over and everything is good.

It’s important to be able to, at the moment as you are speaking to someone, think about, “Am I supposed to be engaged in critical listening here? Am I supposed to be engaged in empathic listening? I’m listening to observe and learn. I’m trying to figure out the ropes here. I’m going to be like a sponge and take everything in as much as possible.” It’s critical to figure out the correct listening style depending on the situation because that is the one thing that could create the miscommunication, and you didn’t even know that that’s what happened.

BWW 132 | Mindful Communication
Mindful Communication: It’s critical to figure out the correct listening style depending on the situation because that is the one thing that could create miscommunication.

I realized something as you were saying this, and I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I will give enough. This is a personal situation. A long time ago, a very dear friend of mine and I were having a conversation during a visit. I was baring my soul and sharing some personal information with her. From what I’m hearing from you, we are both action-oriented communicators.

She was still in critical listening or even more action orientation like where she had to solve the problem for me when there wasn’t a solution. She got frustrated because it was more of me asking for her empathy and it caused real pain in our relationship because I was so hurt on the other side of that. Thank God. We have figured out a way to move past it and we have a strong relationship and I love her to bits and stuff like that.

You have highlighted it to me. I’m like, “We probably were operating out of the wrong listening styles or out of action-orientation communication.” You can be in a conversation with someone and be like, “Maybe you can, but most people aren’t even aware.” I need empathetic listening right now versus critical listening or whatever, but that’s truly what was happening. Thank you for straightening that out for me.

The one thing that I have learned to do is to help because it is difficult to discern sometimes whether or not they are trying to vent or whether or not they truly are looking for your advice. They are looking for someone else’s perspective. I ask the people who are closest to me. They know if they come to me to talk about something, one of the first things I’m going to ask them is, “Do you need help with figuring this out or do you need me to listen so you can vent? What are you looking for? What do you need at this moment?”

A lot of times they will be like, “You are right. I’m bitching.” They need to vent. I’m like, “I got your back. You vent away. In everything you say, you are right. You have every right to feel what you are feeling. I’d feel that way too.” Sometimes they will think about it and say, “I’m looking for your perspective. Tell me what you think about this, and then that way, we know. I’m going to tell you what about this.”

It does help clear up what your function here as the listener. What’s your listening function? Ask the question. You will be surprised a lot of time how much relief is shown by the other person because now both of you are going into this with a clear understanding. There is clarity in what’s happening in this communication scenario.

One thing to take that a little bit farther. We all have a friend or a family member, colleague, or whatever that is constantly complaining. They are constantly asking for your empathy or to listen to them complain or whatever. We can ask ahead of time. If they consistently complain about one issue or play the same record over and over again, how do we diplomatically steer them either to action or to terminate the conversation because it can suck up a lot of our time and our day?

It can and I know exactly what you are saying because you are right. There are some people that regardless, it’s the same mistake over and over again and nothing is changing. Again, it goes back to asking the questions. For someone like that, I never make a statement. I will ask guiding questions. “The last time we talked about this was a very similar complaint or concern that you had. What do you think? Is there anything different this time from last time?”

Let them figure it out. I ask guiding questions in that way. “This hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past months that this has been happening, right?” They will say, “Yeah.” “What are you looking for? Do you want it to change?” “Yeah.” “What do you think is something that can be done that’s going to bring about a different result?”

Have them guide the discussion at that point because, at the end of the day, we can give all the advice in the world. Unless they have agency in that, they are not going to do it. They are not going to adopt it. If they do happen to do it and it fails, now you are the jerk because you are the one who suggested it. I strongly suggest don’t ever give advice.

Ask questions and help guide them to their own conclusions. If there is somebody who is constantly complaining about the same thing, that is a subtle way to break that cycle. Help them gently see the timeline, “This has been going on for some time now.” What is one thing that can be done differently and hopefully that will have a different result?

Don't ever give advice. Just ask questions and help guide them to their own conclusions. Share on X

It sounds like coaching. No wonder coaches are also, “We have to be good communicators and good question askers.”

That’s all you are doing. You are coaching them along. You do want them to arrive at their own conclusion.

That is something people can take away. An action for them to improve their communication skills is to ask the question. Ask what type of listening someone needs, and it also sounds like being mindful. Being aware and observant of the communication styles and even knowing their own communication style will be helpful when they come into a room. If I’m like, “I need help with communication skills,” what would you say I need to do? What actions do I need to take?

As you said, the first step is going to be peeling back the layers and then recognizing what your own communication style is, and then figuring out how you can adapt your style to others’ styles. If we go through the world expecting everyone else to adapt to us, we are going to be unhappy, miserable people for the rest of our lives. It isn’t going to happen.

Peeling back the layers, being mindful of how I’m communicating with others, paying attention to how they are responding to that, and then being willing to adapt as needed. It’s like in any public speaking situation. It’s always the audience first. In any interpersonal situation where you are communicating with someone else, whether it’s an audience of 1 or an audience of 1,000, we like to remain audience-focused and audience-centered.

Being in tune with them and seeing how your communication is being received, and then along the way, this is one big grand experiment. What works in one situation may not work in another situation. That mindfulness that you mentioned is key, and then having that willingness to be flexible in your communication style and flexible in the type of listening that you are using.

Those things right there, truly at the bare minimum, are what you need in order to create that type of communication climate that is going to be conducive to making stronger relationships. It’s going to provide the atmosphere you need for clarity. At the end of the day, what we need in communication is clarity. Understand your style, listen, and be mindful of all of that. You will see huge improvements in the quality of the conversations that you have along the way.

I have done this. I am absolutely guilty. One other thing to add is it’s not just about your agenda. As an action-oriented style, I forget about everybody else’s agenda and you can’t hammer it home. You have to be like, “What do they want out of this?” Having curiosity too, as you said, mindfulness is important.

It’s funny with the different communication styles, if you are people-oriented or idea-oriented, you tend to be comfortable with making decisions based on your gut feeling. You have that, “It’s all about the feeling. It’s my intuition. I have a hunch.” Whereas if you are process or action-oriented, you like to see the proof in the data. You want to see like, “Show me the data. Show me the proof. I need something either tangible, something on paper, or something that I can look at that is going to help me make this decision.”

When you begin to understand how these different communication styles impact how you view the world, not only do you send the messages out into the world, but they also impact how you receive the messages. It truly is an empowering thing because now you can sit back if you were talking with someone who tends to go along with their gut instinct, their intuition.

You are the type of person who is like, “Show me the evidence.” That explains a lot right there and that opens the door for a conversation about exactly that thing. I can appreciate that you have this good hunch, but for me, I do need to be able to see the data. I do need to be able to see this evidence in order for me to feel comfortable in making this decision. That opens the door for that type of conversation, and it increases everyone’s understanding of what’s going on in this communication scenario.

You keep saying clarity. All of this is about getting clarity. That is the ultimate goal, which is awesome. I want to ask this quickly in tough work situations because I don’t want people to think, “It’s always roses and rainbows and all the communication is always so loving.” There are performance reviews, there’s giving tough feedback, and there are workplace conflicts. Since this is Brave Women at Work, we talk a lot about work around here. How do we use these communication skills in these tough situations?

One step is, like we have been talking about, being mindful of how you might learn to speed read others to try to anticipate what their dominant communication style is so that you can adapt, but there are also specific tools that you can use. For example, if you need to give difficult feedback, you have to have that tough conversation and someone is doing something that they don’t need to be doing. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have that difficult conversation.

One technique that I like to use, it’s called the SBI technique and SBI stands for Situation, Behavior, and Impact. It’s a very useful tool because it gives you almost like a rubric, if you will, to be able to fall back on. If you start with the situation, you describe to the person the time and place, whatever it was that happened. This is where you were at the time because it helps them get back to that moment.

For example, if it was during the 12:00 meeting in the conference room and everybody was all sitting around the table. It puts you back in that time and place. That’s the situation and then if you can explain the behavior that happened. We were all sitting around the table and the boss asked for everybody’s opinion. When it came to my turn, you jumped in and explained what your opinion was.

That was the behavior. You jumped in before I had the chance to explain what my opinion was. What was the impact? This is the third part. When that happened, it made me feel like my opinion didn’t matter at that point in time. You notice how I’m focusing on myself at this point. I’m using a lot of I statements on the impact.

There’s a big difference between, “When we were in the meeting and everybody was sitting around the table and the boss asked for everybody’s opinion, and then when it became my turn, you jumped in, said your opinion before I had a chance to say mine. That made me feel insignificant and made me feel like my opinion didn’t matter.” That’s way different from saying, “You were a jerk.” It’s getting a much different reaction.

They feel attacked immediately.

It’s a tool that I encourage managers to use a lot when they are having to give feedback to employees. SBI, Situation Behavior Impact. It encourages you to stay away from personal attacks, encourages you to stay away from you statements as much as possible, and forces you to describe the behavior because any problem can be solved. It’s the action that’s a problem. It was the behavior that was the problem. If we keep it focused on that, then it’s more likely that there’s going to be a solution that everybody’s going to be happy with.

Thank you for that little nugget of awesome information here at the end. We are talking about communication. I don’t know if you have a different thought on this, maybe it will be related to communication, but what are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

One way women can be braver at work is to understand that your voice does matter. You do have a point of view and your point of view is as valid as anybody else’s point of view at work. You are there for a reason. You got this position for a reason. Probably one thing that holds a lot of women back is that we don’t have a whole lot of confidence in that. Do we even belong here? We could have a whole another conversation about that imposter syndrome. The first step is recognizing that you have every right to be where you are and you have every right to voice your opinion in the workplace.

One way women can be braver at work is to really understand that their voices do matter. You do have a point of view, and your point of view is just as valid as anybody else's point of view at work. Share on X

A second way to be braver is to become a student of communication. The more you study it, the more you practice it, the more confident you will become. Communication is a skill like any other skill. You got to work at it every day to get better at it, and you also have to give yourself permission to be human. Sometimes you will use that SBI tool and it will work great, and then the next day you will use that SBI tool and it will feel like it blew up in your face. It didn’t go the way you anticipated it.

That’s the way communication is. People are messy beings. We are difficult to figure out and as soon as we think we have figured this out, we throw a curve ball. You do have to give yourself permission, be human, and show grace to yourself as well. Those are probably three things that I would want any woman who’s reading this to take away and that’s going to help them learn to be braver, build that confidence, develop that voice, and use that voice.

Thank you so much for sharing that. We mentioned your website one time, but I want to do it one more time. How can women find you online?

My website is www.CommunicationTwentyFourSeven.com and that’s all spelled out, no numbers. I’m also on LinkedIn. If you want to look Jennifer Arvin Furlong up on LinkedIn, I would love to make a connection. If you want to send me an email, you can send me an email at Info@CommunicationTwentyFourSeven.com. I’m on all the socials, but you find me on LinkedIn, find me on the website. I’m about to start Season 3 in the Communication TwentyFourSeven podcast. If you want to follow along for additional communication skills, tips, and tricks, I invite you to come on over and listen to a few of the episodes as well.

The podcast is wherever podcasts can be found, correct? Apple, Google, and all of them.

Your favorite podcast platform, it’s on there.

Thank you for sharing all of these awesome resources and great nuggets of info and it’s been such a pleasure. We could hang out all day.

Especially now that we have realized that you and I are basically the same person.

I’m like, “We do have a lot in common.” It was so fun talking to you and thanks for sharing about communication styles. It’s been instructive for me and thinking back and moving forward. Thank you so much.

Thanks for having me. Anytime.


That does it for my chat with, Jen. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. Here’s some homework for this next episode. Go and visit Jen site CommunicationTwentyFourSeven.com to find out your communication style among the four. Think about how you can leverage your own communication style in interactions with others in the coming weeks. Be mindful of listening before you talk.

This is so hard, isn’t it? What type of listening does the person in front of you or the group in front of you need? What if you simply ask them, “How can I help you?” I’m sure by taking these brave steps, you will have more engaged and enjoyable conversations. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time. Show up. Use your communication style to your advantage and be brave.

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About Jennifer Furlong

BWW 132 | Mindful CommunicationLike many entrepreneurs, Jennifer Arvin Furlong wears many hats. She is a highly rated communication/media specialist with 30 years of experience in the communication industry and 18 years of experience teaching in higher education. In addition to being the host of the Communication TwentyFourSeven Podcast, Jen is an author, TEDx speaker and TEDx coach, communication skills trainer, and media literacy advocate. She is a Marine Corps veteran, a first-generation college graduate (B.A. and M.A. in Communication), a mom to two 20-something adults, and a breast cancer survivor. Her favorite quote: “Jump and the net will appear.”
Jen likes to lean in rather than opt out when it comes to having difficult conversations about challenging topics. Because communication impacts every aspect of our personal, professional, and civic lives, Jen wants to challenge you to think critically about your own communication habits from consumption to expression, to listen to different points of view from a place of curiosity, and to competently and confidently communicate your own point of view.

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