6.16: The Practice of Style Shifting

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Style shifting is the ability to expand our own views, behaviors and thought patterns and choose the appropriate style according to the situation.

Interpersonal communication
If we have only one pattern, we cannot style shift. This is why it is important first of all to learn about both our own and the other’s style. Learning and style shifting go together. The Wilson Social Style analysis is one tool we can use to do this. If we know that we are basically an “influencing” type of person and that another member of our team is basically a “conscientious”, then we may choose to try and communicate in a more factual, logical and structured way. In the Wilson system this is called “versatility.”

Cross-cultural communication
It is a significant skill to be able to adjust our style – in meetings, presentations, negotiations, as sales persons, leaders, etc. Situations where we are interacting with people from different cultures are the prototypes. The key is to learn the other people’s cultural values and communication styles. For example, Japanese communication styles tend to be more indirect and formal than most European styles. An enthusiastic, direct and fast speaker should therefore become more patient and silent and soften his voice when doing business with Japanese clients.

Why style shift?
Style shifting is always a personal choice depending on the situation. As a general rule in business, if we are trying to sell an idea, product or service it is probably better that we make the most effort to style shift. If we are the buyer, we can expect the other to shift his style more towards our style.

A key ingredient in style shifting is the ability to handle the “discomfort” we feel in doing something in a very different way to “normal.” Here are a very few simple style shifts you can make to practice:

• Men: take off your tie! // Women: kick off your shoes!
• Shake hands with the person sitting next to you very softly. Now strongly.
• Hold a conversation and avoid direct eye contact. Now keep strong eye contact.
• Sit close to the person you are talking with. Sit at a greater distance.
• Use a lot of gestures as you talk. Sit on your hands.
• Be very direct in your language. Be very indirect and polite.
• Make a lot of listening noises and nod. Be silent and still as you listen.

Monitor your inner feelings. Become familiar with these feelings and your inner judgments about what is “wrong” and “right.” Practice expanding your “comfort zone.”


< Back to 6.15
Consequences for People with Low Versatility
        Next to 6.17 >
Tips for Better Communication