Looking for a “Back to School” Tool That Really Works? Using Behavior Styles to Improve Family Communication

August 29, 2017

Effective communication skills are the basis of all great relationships and the most important relationships are the ones we foster in the home. We all want a happy and harmonious life, and poor communication is at the root of most family conflicts and drama. The start of a new school year is a great time to reboot and install some updated communication practices in your home.

Being mindful of what we say (and do), how we say it, and who we say it to, can have a huge impact on family dynamics. Understanding your own behavior style, as well as the style of your kids gives you the power to successfully navigate the communication minefield.

Understanding behavior means understanding the your own emotions, motivations, and preferences as well as that of your children. Then using this information to have productive and rational conversations.

So, how do each of the styles prefer to communicate:

If you have a LION child, or are a LION yourself, you will communicate quickly, loudly, and confidently.  With no time to waste you will want to get things off your chest – whether this be delivered diplomatically or not. Your motto is to be ‘brief, bright and gone’. You tend to stick to the business at hand and have limited time for idle chit chat. You are a direct and competent communicator, typically insisting on ‘your way or the high way’. Communication is a full body experience for you.

If you have a PANDA child, or are a PANDA yourself, you will prefer facts over feelings, logic over emotion, and will need time to process and debate the various angles of an argument. You are born to question everything and take nothing at face value. You need time to think and contemplate and do not respond well to being rushed.  You are also direct in your communication and may come across to others as critical or harsh. You prefer to communicate with others who have similar interests and if you are not surrounded by such people would rather be on your own.

If you have a DOLPHIN child, or are a DOLPHIN yourself, you value connection over content and are always seeking to preserve and develop relationships. You want to love and to be loved, to feel valued, and to ensure harmony in the home. You take time to consider and process feelings in your communication and will spend time on quality conversation. You are the ultimate diplomat, peace-keeper and people pleaser. You are easy to be around and always seeking win/win communication outcomes. You pick up on non-verbal communication skills.

If you have an OWL child, or are an OWL yourself, you will communicate with facts and supporting information. Structure and organization are paramount to your communication efforts. You seek to understand and to be understood. Accuracy and attention to detail is important to you. You can be trusted to always deliver on a promise. You expect the same from others. You have high personal standards.

So, now that we understand this, how can we use it to have constructive conversations? Well, consider the probability of communication success when a LION parent engages in conversation with a DOLPHIN child. The DOLPHIN child needs affection and an opportunity to express their emotions, while a LION parent simply needs to get their message across. In order for the communication to be effecitve, the LION will need to ask the DOLPHIN how they feel and allow opportunity for input.  The LION should also speak slowly and evenly without raising their voice or rushing off mid sentence.

Consider also an OWL parent attempting to communicate with a LION  child. The OWL will be prone to going into great detail, ‘dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s’ while the  LION child slowly descends into life threatening boredom. The LION child has no time to waste and no need for specifics. In order for the communication to be effective it must be interesting, involve an element of fun, and be delivered expediently. The LION is not an active listener – for the message to sink in it must be quick. Get to the point and get out.

What about a DOLPHIN parent and a PANDA child? This scenario is fraught with potential conflict where a DOLPHIN seeks emotional connection with a child who has no need for it. The PANDA does not need their communication wrapped up in a giant hug. What they need is logic and fact, and for you to anwer any question they may have. Be prepared to answer ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ In any conversation. When the PANDA has what they need from you they will simply wander off to navel gaze and contemplate on their own. And as they say ‘don’t poke the bear!’

Want to know more about the creatures that live in your home? Take the assessment here (for tweens & teens) and here (for your little people).