Creating a Winning Management Style
Empathy and Communication Style:
Being Accessible to Others
Parry identified four descriptors for personal communication
style: empathic, critical, searching, and advising. These four
ways of interacting with others are the major determinants of
your communication style; they either tend to draw others in,
or push them away.
Understanding Your Communication Style
• Are you empathic, tuning in to others’ concerns?
• Are you able to make critical distinctions?
• Are you good at searching and digging out
• Are you good at advising, coaching, and
Each of these four descriptors lies on a negative–positive
continuum: unattractive behavior on one end, and behavior
that attracts others on the other end. As an illustration, con-
sider this pair of opposites for being empathetic:
“Why are you telling me this stuff?”
“I can really feel your pain!”
Which approach is likely to attract others and encourage
them to come to you? Which will create warm and welcome
feelings in the minds of people who report to you? And which
will cause people to withdraw or withhold their feelings?
Do you care? Do you want to be an approachable
manager? Or do you want people to keep you at a respectful
Your Communication Style
distance? A manager can do and be all the Theory Y things
described above, yet still be considered cold. If you think
your effectiveness is limited because people think of you as
cold, unfeeling, or unsympathetic, maybe you can make a
greater effort to tune in to people who are trying to share per-
sonal information with you (My mother died; my dog got run
over by a delivery truck; the transmission fell out of my car;
my best friend’s boyfriend shot her last night).
Why do you want to know about people’s lives? Maybe
you don’t, but social convention and practical experience say
that the whole person comes to work. So deal with the whole
person! Sometimes that means allowing them to share the
things that are foremost in their minds, so they can focus on
the work they have to do.
The whole person comes to work, so you’ll have to
deal with the whole person.
Is there a Theory Y way to do this? Of course. Many of
them. But the idea is to give people 30 seconds of undivided
attention, and then break the connection. Say something
soothing, such as “I know that must have been distressing to
you.” Then say something like, “If you’ll excuse me, I have
to make a call. But do let me know later today how you’re
doing with the combined project report.” That closing remark
returns the relationship to business.
Is there a Theory X way to deal with kind of situation? Of
course. All you have to do is assume that the other person,
like you, has a childish need to share his or her latest excite-