Before we can discuss why “Squares” need empathy, we should probably discuss what a “Square” is. Many professionals in the tech industry relate to Square communication styles for many reason. But if I tell you what a Square is I will have to explain what a Squiggly Line is. I would also have to tell you the other styles of communication in the workplace and why empathy for squares is so important for your teams and your end users.
Are you an independent worker who enjoys digging into the data? Are you analytical, love to seek understanding of things so you have limitless knowledge, and are you great at problem-solving? You value intelligence, competence, innovation, vision, and knowledge. You are very clever, and you are calm under pressure. Maybe one of your favorite statements is “If it takes you more than a few minutes you are doing it wrong”. Well, then you just might be a “Square”! That out-of-the-box thinker that can come up with multiple ways to get things done. You are great in the tech world, it’s where you belong, congratulations. You have found your tribe.
What about the rest of the people in your organization? These are your colleagues that that like to color outside the lines who are ok with not having a plan to follow. They don’t necessarily need data because they go with their gut feelings. They enjoy creativity in their work and constant change excites them. Those my dear Squares are the Squiggly Lines. Different from Square and Squiggly Lines there are those that like to start a meeting with asking, what everyone did over the weekend. Yeah, they take up a lot of valuable meeting time, but they like people to connect before the work begins. If you know one of these communicators, they are probably an Exclamation Mark. The last style of communicators is the one that you might enjoy the least working with. They are what I like to call the Bold Line. Although they are a respecter of time and you can count on them to start and end a meeting on time, it annoys you when they say, “we’ve always done it that way, why change now?”
You are probably thinking about all the ways these communication styles infuriate you at times. So, I will save my words and get right to the point. You need all these communication styles on your team and here’s why.
Each of these communication styles can teach you something about the values and behaviors of your end-users. You see a “Bold Line” values routine, family, tradition, and dependability. They are loyal and very committed. You need someone like this on your team because when a project gets tough or you run into some bumps in the road, their resilience will shine through. They can take reinforced or redirected feedback because they never want to compromise the integrity of the work. They may not have the skill you have, but they have the will! They also think about your end users, who want a dependable product and may not need the bells and whistles.
Then you have your “Exclamation Mark”, which takes a holistic approach to managing processes and people. They value their teammates and their customers. They are trustworthy, authentic, and always the optimist. If a conflict arises on a team, they are the go-to mediators, their positive energy allows people to gravitate towards them. If you have an angry customer or end user, have no fear the Exclamation Mark will handle the situation with care and patience. As the most empathetic of all the communication styles, you could learn a lot from them. So, the next time they take a little extra time at the beginning of a meeting or on a call with a customer, just know they are constantly trying to build inroads. Their desire to make connection points helps prevent and mitigate future conflict.
Last but certainly not least is the “Squiggly Line”, they value freedom, creativity, adventure, flexibility, and camaraderie. They are natural charmers and get along well with all types of people. They are some of the most resourceful people and carry great influence. People will generally do things for them because of their infectious personalities. Do you need someone to fund a project. We know you have all the data because of your Square communication style, but a Squiggly Line can sell ice to an ice maker! So put Squiggly Line in front of that venture capitalist! When you get annoyed during the times when their attention span is a little short, think about your end users and how you can make your product keep their attention. Also, Squiggly Lines will remind you to have some fun. All work and no play, my dear Squares, is never a good thing.
Because you value logic and have a deep desire to understand things you are critical of yourself and others. You don’t like to waste time, so you are not the best at small talk but enjoy conversations with what you deem as intelligent people.
Now, that you know some things about yourself and the other communication styles as it relates to how you prefer to communicate. How can you have empathy for others?
- You must try to remove your bias about others especially when listening. Think about what they value.
- You are curious by nature, so show curiosity and compassion when you interact with the other styles.
- Take yourself out of the equation and urge clarification to not sound condescending.
- Acknowledge in certain situations we encompass a bit of each of these styles whether at work or home.
- How do you balance each other’s talents and strengths?
- Empathy requires you to release stereotypes, and try to understand the values of the other styles
- Don’t try to correct their behaviors find a way to collaborate that works for everyone.
- Remember, Empathy is a Verb!
In the end, you find that you start to create this culture of empathy that allows you to show understanding, allows you to be introspective, and more importantly, allows you to leave the best possible memory with the person you shared an interaction with. Be it a teammate or the end user, you are now taking action that shows them that Squares can be empathetic. Showing empathy towards other styles allows them to show empathy for Squares.
President & Principal Consultant
TG8 Solutions Insight
Creator of the Communication Indicator Assessment