How to answer "How do you approach working with people who have different communication styles than your own?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

As a potential employee, you will be working with a variety of people who come from diverse backgrounds and communication styles. Employers ask this question to determine whether you have the ability to adapt and communicate effectively with your colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders. They want to know if you have the necessary interpersonal skills to collaborate with others and build strong relationships in the workplace.

Employers also want to see if you have experience working with people who communicate differently than you do. Can you provide examples of how you have successfully navigated different communication styles in the past? This question is a great opportunity to showcase your skills and experiences, demonstrate your adaptability and flexibility, and show the interviewer that you have what it takes to thrive in a diverse and dynamic workplace.

How to Answer the Question

The key to answering this question is to highlight your ability to adapt to different communication styles and collaborate effectively with others. Here are some tips on how to approach your response:

  1. Start with a clear and concise response. Begin by acknowledging the importance of effective communication in the workplace and the challenges that arise when working with people who have different communication styles. This will help to set the context for your response and demonstrate your understanding of the question.
  2. Showcase your interpersonal skills. Provide examples of how you have successfully navigated different communication styles in the past. Highlight how you were able to adapt your communication style to match that of your colleague, while still achieving the desired outcome. You can also discuss how you actively listened, clarified expectations, and built rapport with the person to ensure effective communication.
  3. Be specific. Avoid vague or general statements and provide specific examples of how you have worked with people who communicate differently than you. Discuss the situation, the different communication styles involved, and the steps you took to successfully collaborate with the person.
  4. Highlight the benefits of diverse communication styles. Highlight how working with people who have different communication styles than your own can bring new ideas, perspectives and insights, and how you welcome the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds.
  5. End on a positive note. Conclude your answer by summarizing your approach to working with people who have different communication styles than your own, and express your eagerness to collaborate with others in the workplace.

Sample answers

Good answer: I believe it's important to first recognize that everyone communicates differently, and it's crucial to be adaptable in any work environment. I approach working with people who have different communication styles than my own by actively listening, clarifying any misunderstandings, and tailoring my communication style to best fit the individual's needs. I also make a conscious effort to not make assumptions about someone's communication style based on any stereotypes or biases I may have.

Bad answer: I don't think communication styles really matter that much. As long as we can understand each other, it's not a big deal if someone communicates differently than me.

Explanation: The bad answer doesn't show a willingness to adapt and collaborate with others, which can be crucial in any work environment. It also shows a lack of understanding of the impact communication styles can have on team dynamics.

Good answer: In order to work effectively with individuals who have different communication styles, I try to approach each interaction with an open mind and stay focused on the goal we're trying to achieve. I also try to use clear and direct language, and ask clarifying questions when needed. Additionally, I believe it's important to build relationships with my colleagues, so I make an effort to get to know them outside of work and understand their unique perspectives.

Bad answer: I tend to be a pretty assertive communicator, so if someone has a different style than mine, I'll just roll with it and hope they follow my lead.

Explanation: The bad answer shows a lack of flexibility and a potential disregard for the communication styles of others.

Good answer: When working with individuals with different communication styles, I always strive to keep things professional and respectful. I try to listen actively and give my full attention to whoever is speaking. I also try to be mindful of my tone, body language, and word choice to ensure that I'm not sending any unintended messages. Lastly, if I'm unsure of someone's communication style, I try to ask them directly how they prefer to communicate.

Bad answer: I usually just ignore people with different communication styles than mine. It's easier to just focus on people who are on the same wavelength.

Explanation: The bad answer shows a lack of inclusivity and a disregard for the opinions and perspectives of others.

Good answer: In order to work effectively with people who have different communication styles, I try to stay flexible and adaptable. I'm willing to adjust my own communication style to better fit the needs of my colleagues, and I'm also willing to learn from them and try to incorporate new approaches into my own communication style. Additionally, I believe it's important to maintain a positive and collaborative attitude towards my colleagues, as this can help build better working relationships and result in more productive outcomes.

Bad answer: I tend to get frustrated when people don't communicate in the same way that I do. So, if someone has a different style, I'll probably just avoid working with them as much as possible.

Explanation: The bad answer shows a lack of professionalism and a poor attitude towards collaborating and building relationships with colleagues.

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