For this post, we have prepared for you an overview of five different interpersonal styles of engaging with relationship. What is your preferred or default way of dealing in professional or personal relationship? Do you practice the synergetic, balanced, pleasing, forceful or evading style?
If you want to improve your relationships, use the appropriate style with the other person, depending on the importance of the relationship and the issue at hand.
At work, in the office and at home, good relationships are keys to a happy, fulfilling life and a productive, satisfactory work environment. One of the main conclusions of the interesting 75-year longitudinal Harvard Grant Study on Adult Development of 268 people, is that “warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction’.” Based on this study, a person could have a great career, wealth and good physical health, but what matters most for the happiness of people in life are good, supportive and sustainable relationships.
However, in any relationship tensions, conflicts and disagreements are only a natural dimension in any human interaction. The point is not to get rid of, to deny or to avoid problems or conflicts, but to manage them well. How? We can use appropriate styles in different situations and within the professional or professional relationships we have.
The five styles depend on three qualifiers: (i) the importance of the relationship for you; (ii) the efforts you want to invest; and (iii) how much time you are ready to spend. Keeping these three qualifiers in mind, the following five styles are suggested with the goal to create and to maintain a good, supportive and sustainable – meaning a long-lasting – relationship with another person, be it your colleague, client, partner or friend.
(0) Evading style
It means that you or the other, or both, are simply ignoring any issues between you two. With this style, people are usually passive and withdrawn, and attempt to avoid the issue. You both prefer to remain passive or to maintain neutrality rather than to engage. This style is appropriate when the issue at hand is of very little importance to you. It is the ‘zero’ level, as it requires not much effort, just to ignore and to look away.
- There are two separate “I’s”, only a small and likely a decremental or degressive “We”, and the task is of little importance to you.
(1) Forceful style
With the forceful style, you push and insist to have your own way, regardless of the other. You need to be firm, strong-willed and to stand your ground, and for this, you need to be in a competitive spirit. So you are actually perceived as being forceful. How to act on this style? You need to be very clear, specific and explicit about your own wants and your position, and explain it to the other very well. You need this style when the task at hand is much more important to you than your relationship. When applying this style and forcing your position, your might want to note the other’s wishes or needs and to make sure that the emotional dimension is still somehow taken into consideration, as much as you can.
- There is a big “I”, a small “You” and a little “We”, and for you the task is highly important.
(2) Pleasing style
With the pleasing style, you accommodate and give in to the others’ wishes. You get a solution that agrees completely or to a large degree to the wants of the other. How to act on this style? You first listen to the other, and although you might know exactly what you prefer, you consciously give up your position and accept what the other wishes. So you are actually perceived as being pleasant. This style is appropriate when the issue at hand is not very important to you, but you value your relationship a lot more. For this style, you need to have good listening skills and to be very understanding and empathetic.
- There is a little “I”, a stronger emphasis on the “You” and a little “We”, and for you the task is less important.
(3) Balanced style
With the balanced style, you partly give and partly take. You reach a balanced outcome and achieve a compromise, and thus a solution, which mostly satisfies and equally dissatisfies both sides, you and the other. The balanced style is like a ‘negotiation’. It focuses less on the emotional aspects and more on the facts and figures, or the quantitative, numerical issues. How to engage in the balanced style? It is more complicated and requires more of a skilful approach, to: (i) know what you need and you want; (ii) know your ‘bottom line’, i.e. the minimum result you would agree to; (iii) be very clear what your maximum and most preferred outcome is; and (iv) be ready to negotiate. You need this style when the task is important to you as well as the relationship. The result is balanced, as this is a win/lose for yourself, as well as a win/lose for the other.
- Overall, the two “I’s” are recognised and it is still rather good for the relationship because you get some agreement and an acceptable solution for both, and the task is also solved or moved forward.
(4) Synergetic style
With this style, you reach a collaborative solution. In the interaction, you and the other come up with a combined result that is even greater than the sum of your separate wishes and wants. How to engage in this style? Well, with this one, like with many good things in life, you need more work: (i) you have to know and be able to express your own needs and wants clearly; (ii) you equally need to be truly open to listen and respect the needs and wants of the other; and (iii) most challenging, you need to engage in a dialogue and a discussion on how to solve the issue at hand, by respecting both people (the other and yourself). You need to patiently elaborate a higher, better and most often creative new solution. You need this style when the “We” is highly important to you, and task is equally an important matter. This requires you to be in a collaborative spirit, to have a lot of empathy and respect for the other, while at the same time being clear and firm of your own needs and wishes. The goal is to have a synergetic flow and an evolution of the issue, and to solve it together.
- With this style, you both respect your separate “I’s” and at the same time, you maintain a strong and healthy “We” while the task is solved together and constructively.
Wishing you fun practicing the different styles above. As a recommendation and to have a personal impact: chose a person (colleague, friend or partner) and tell them about this article. Then consciously, the next time you disagree on something, engage together (preferably) in the synergetic style – or try one of the other styles.