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Don't Let Miscommunication Ruin Your Projects - Discover How to Improve Your Communication Style

career advice how to communicate how to grow a design business improve communication with clients managing interior designers Jul 26, 2023
Learn how to better communicate with interior design clients - behind interior design

Good communication is key to any successful interior design project. Clients need to be able to communicate their vision and needs clearly, while designers must be able to listen effectively and ask the right questions. 

When there's a breakdown in communication style, projects can quickly become derailed – wasting time, money, and energy for both parties involved. To prevent this, interior designers at all levels of experience must evaluate how they communicate with clients so that we meet expectations accurately every time. In this blog post, we'll discuss some practical tips on how you can better hone your communication skills so that no project ever gets derailed by miscommunication again.

 

Understanding Different Communication Styles

It is important to understand the different communication styles. You may think you are a good communicator, but your client may feel differently. This misconception may lead to a disastrous project which no one wants. 

Communication styles refer to how individuals express themselves and interact with others. Understanding these styles can help improve interpersonal relationships, teamwork, and overall communication effectiveness. 

 

Here are the four primary communication styles:

Assertive Communication:

Assertive communicators express their thoughts, feelings, and needs openly and respectfully. They use "I" statements, maintain eye contact, and speak confidently. Assertive communication is considered the most effective and healthiest communication style as it respects both the speaker's and listener's rights and feelings.

 

Aggressive Communication:

Aggressive communicators often assert their opinions without considering others' feelings or rights. They may interrupt others, use harsh language, or even resort to verbal or physical threats. This style can lead to conflict and damage relationships.

 

Passive Communication:

Passive communicators avoid expressing their thoughts and feelings, often out of fear of conflict. They may allow others to infringe on their rights or disregard their needs. This style can lead to feelings of resentment or misunderstanding.

 

Passive-Aggressive Communication:

Passive-aggressive communicators express negative feelings indirectly rather than addressing issues directly. They may express their discontent by using sarcasm, denial, or subtle actions. This style can create confusion and mistrust as the communicator's words and actions may seem contradictory.

Each communication style has strengths and weaknesses, and people may use different styles in different situations. However, striving for assertive communication, where both your own and others' rights and feelings are respected, is typically the most effective approach.

 

The Pros and Cons of Each Communication Style

Each communication style comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. It is important to recognize the differences as this will allow you to adapt better when talking with a different style from your own. 

Assertive Communication:

  • Pros: Promotes understanding, respect, and healthy relationships. It allows one to express their feelings and needs appropriately.
  • Cons:It may be misunderstood as aggression, requiring skill and confidence to implement effectively.

 Aggressive Communication:

  • Pros: Allows expression of feelings and needs and usually gets the point across.
  • Cons: Damages relationships, creates resentment, and may lead to loss of respect from others.

 Passive Communication: 

  • Pros: Temporarily avoids conflicts and makes others feel important.
  • Cons: Leads to personal dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and unmet needs.

 Passive-Aggressive Communication:

  • Pros: Temporarily avoids direct conflict while expressing discontent.
  • Cons: Creates confusion and distrust and fails to address issues properly.

Now that you understand communication styles better let's talk about how your body helps and hurts your communication.

 

What Your Body Language is Communicating

Body language is a crucial component of effective communication. It constitutes a significant part of the message we convey to others and can either reinforce or contradict our verbal communication. 

When our body language aligns with our spoken words, it enhances our credibility and helps us build stronger connections. On the contrary, inconsistent body language can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. 

For instance, crossing your arms while stating that you are open to others' ideas could signal defensiveness, contradicting your verbal message. Hence, being aware of and mastering your body language can significantly improve your overall communication effectiveness.

Paying attention to body language is a skill developed with practice and mindfulness. First and foremost, start with self-observation. Notice your natural postures, gestures, and expressions in different situations. Self-awareness is key to understanding your non-verbal cues and how people might perceive them. 

Secondly, observe others around you. Try to interpret their body language. Are their gestures relaxed or tense? What does their posture suggest? Are they maintaining eye contact? The practice of observing and interpreting can help you understand underlying messages and emotions that are not expressed verbally. 

Lastly, when in conversation, ensure that your body language aligns with your words. This alignment not only makes your communication more effective but also helps you to build credibility and trust. Remember, mastering body language is a continual learning process.

Practice consistently; over time, you will become more adept at using and understanding body language effectively.

 

Listening Is Key to Understanding Communications

Often, we think communication is just talking, but it is as much about listening as it is about talking. Listening is an integral component of effective communication, serving as the receptive aspect of interpersonal interactions. It enables us to understand the perspectives and feelings of others, fostering empathy, mutual respect, and trust. 

When we actively listen, we not only hear the words others are saying but also catch the nuances in their tone, pace, and volume, providing a deeper insight into their true emotions and intentions. This deeper understanding can help us respond more accurately and appropriately, improving the quality of our interactions. 

Furthermore, active listening signals to the speaker that we value their thoughts and opinions, making them feel heard and respected. This connection strengthens the relationships, improves teamwork, and reduces conflicts, thereby enhancing overall communication effectiveness.

Enhancing your listening skills involves several practical steps. 

  1. Focus your attention on the speaker and avoid distractions, be it your own thoughts or environmental noise. 
  2. Maintain eye contact to signal your interest and engagement. 
  3. Respond appropriately to what is being said, either through verbal affirmations like "I see" or "go on" or non-verbal cues like nodding. 
  4. Avoid interrupting the speaker and give them time to express their thoughts fully. If you need to clarify something, wait for a natural pause. 
  5. Practice empathy by understanding the speaker's perspective and feelings. Doing so can help you respond more accurately and sensitively. 
  6. Provide feedback or summarize what you've heard to confirm understanding. Over time, these practices can significantly improve your listening skills and overall communication effectiveness.
  7. Avoid jumping into the conversation with your own similar story. Although you are trying to connect with the other person, they may see it as if you want to take over the conversation. 
  8. Ask questions when appropriate. Questions and answers will help you gain clarity and tell the other person you are genuinely interested in what they are saying. 

Remember, effective communication is not about talking but understanding and being understood. So, listen actively, speak clearly, and be open to feedback.

 

Tips for Managing Disagreements and Finding Common Ground

Inevitably you will disagree with your client, manager, or co-worker during projects. Although this topic can be its own article, it seems a miss not to address some quick tips to help you prevent a communication breakdown. 

Regarding conflict resolution, the first step is always to maintain open communication. It's crucial to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their viewpoints, even if they may contradict others'. 

Secondly, try to understand the underlying issues at the heart of the disagreement rather than focusing solely on the surface-level argument. Understanding the issues entails empathizing with the other party and seeing the situation from their perspective. 

Thirdly, use assertive yet respectful language to articulate your thoughts and feelings. Avoid accusatory statements and instead use 'I' statements to express how you feel. 

Lastly, strive to find a compromise or a solution that satisfies all parties involved. A solution might not be easy and might require some degree of negotiation, but it's a crucial part of resolving conflict amicably and constructively.

If conflict is hard for you, you are not alone. Addressing a difficult situation isn't easy; however, it is imperative for a relationship to grow. Take a few minutes to gather your thoughts, give yourself a pep talk, and then use your assertive voice to overcome the conflict. In other words, put your big girl pants on and get it done. 

 

How to Be a Better Communicator

Now that you better understand communication styles, I have a few more tips to help you enhance your communication with your clients. 

  1. Be Open-Minded: Be open to other people's ideas and opinions, even if they differ from your own. This demonstrates respect and willingness to consider different perspectives.
  2. Clear and Concise: Be clear and concise in your communication. Avoid using unnecessary jargon or complex language. The simpler and more direct your message, the easier it is for others to understand.
  3. Non-Verbal Communication: Pay attention to your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These non-verbal cues can often convey more than words.
  4. Active Listening: Effective communication starts with listening. Pay full attention to the speaker, avoid interrupting, and show empathy. This shows respect and ensures that you fully understand their perspective.
  5. Ask for Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback on your communication skills. This can help identify areas for improvement that you might not be aware of.
  6. Practice Empathy: Try to understand the other person's point of view. This can help you respond in a way that acknowledges their feelings and needs and fosters a deeper connection.
  7. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence: Understanding your emotions and those of others can significantly improve your communication skills. It helps manage and express your emotions effectively and better understand others.
  8. Public Speaking and Presentation Skills: If you're uncomfortable speaking in public, consider joining a public speaking group or taking a course. Improving these skills can boost your confidence and ability to articulate your thoughts clearly.
  9. Written Communication Skills: Good written communication is as important as verbal communication. Practice writing clear, concise, and grammatically correct sentences. Also, ensure your tone is appropriate for your audience and context.
  10. Continuous Learning: Communication is a skill that can always be improved. Attend workshops, read books, or take courses to continue developing your communication skills.

As an interior designer, your communication skills are absolutely critical to the success of each project you undertake. By learning to identify the various communication styles, and adapting your own accordingly, understanding the importance of body language, being a better listener and actively practicing verbal communication techniques can only help you maintain successful relationships with clients as well as ensure that all projects stay on track.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach for perfecting communication, having the basics down will most definitely help get you started on the right track.

If you found this helpful, be sure to join the Behind the Design Community, where we are helping interior designers build stronger careers and businesses.

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