Communication Styles: How and Why We Talk to Each Other

By Gail Heaton

Conversation is the essence of relationship maintenance; it’s how we let others know how we are faring in the relationship, what we want out of it, and what we hope to contribute to it. Most parents assume that the type of communication already existing in their family prior to fostering or adoption will be of a quality able to withstand the upcoming changes to the dynamic of the family. What
many families experience though, is that even in the most openly communicative families, the changes that adoption and fostering bring can be more unsettling than the resident children are able to say. They’re going to need extra support to express themselves in healthy ways.

A good place to start is discovering what kind of communicator your child is. Is he or she an open book and shares their inner life freely? Maybe they’re tighter lipped and don’t offer much information, even when prompted. Are they somewhere in the middle?

Pay attention to whether there are there certain topics your child will freely talk about and others that they are hesitant about. What about you? Are there topics that you’re more comfortable discussing, and some you’re hesitant to approach?

How comfortable a child feels expressing themselves can vary greatly, even within the same family; this is influenced by the child’s temperament, something they are wired with from birth.

Some children are just more direct in their communication style, whereas others are more passive. One simple way to pinpoint where your child is on this spectrum is by answering these questions:

  • Do they typically start
    interactions with others?
  • How do they typically
    respond when others start an interaction with them?

To make it simple, you can look at how often your child initiates and responds during interactions most of the time to see which of the following three basic categories he or she falls into.

  1. Sociable
  2. Reluctant
  3. ‘Do My Own Thing’

These three communication styles will vary depending on the situation and depending on the people your child is interacting with, but in most cases, you’ll find that one communication style fits your child best, most of the time.

1. Sociable Communication Style:

Children with sociable communication styles are the ones who readily and eagerly draw attention to themselves. They are the ones who start interactions and conversations with others. They light up with excitement when other people start an interaction or talk with them.

Some sociable children will almost always be this way, but others who are sociable still have times and situations where they are less so, such as with people they do not know very well.

2. Reluctant Communication Style: 

Children with a reluctant communication style are the ones who rarely start interactions or conversations with others. These are the ones who take time to “warm-up” to people, especially those they do not know well. But even with those they do know well, they aren’t likely to initiate conversations or interactions on their own. 3. Doing My Own Thing Communication

Some children prefer to spend a lot of time playing on their own. They might appear uninterested in interacting with others, whether with adults or peers.

Children who have this style may initiate interactions to get something they need or want but will less likely do so out of pure desire to interact with others for the enjoyment of it.

Can you guess which child usually gets the larger share from parents and others? The sociable ones! And it makes sense too. These kids initiate more interactions on their own. Human nature being what it is, when someone initiates an interaction, more people will respond positively (for example, the baby that smiles and coos at everyone gets more attention positive
from others). Sociable children will make new friends on the playground at the park, they are ones who get the most positive attention in school because they are the ones answering the most questions. They are also more
likely to get those spontaneous interactions with you throughout your day together.

Now think about the children who aren’t actively seeking interactions. The adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is true, isn’t it? When someone isn’t interacting with you, you are less likely to pay attention to them.  Children who rarely start interactions end up having fewer conversations with parents and others throughout the day. And for the child who seems to not care less about interacting, the conversations they most often have with a parent become mainly
about the ordinary parts of life: are you hungry/have you done your school work/are you ready to go?

Here’s the big take away: Your child with a reluctant or ‘doing my own thing’ communication style often needs extra support to express themselves in general.

Which communication style fits the people in your family? Do you have ways to combat the reluctant communication style? Share in the comments!

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