Communication During Stressful Times

The last few weeks have seen a rapid and intense workplace focus on adjusting to the dangers of COVID-19. This has led to major event cancelations, self-quarantines, and organizations preparing their people to work from home. That’s a lot of disruption in a short amount of time! As always, clear, effective – and yes, calming communication can make a very positive impact on your workplace.  Here are a few tips for easing the concerns of colleagues simply by flexing to their innate behavioral styles. 


Based off the DISC Behavioral Model, here are the four basic behavioral style categories you and your colleagues represent. Keep in mind that most of us are a combination of two or three of these styles: 

Style Traits

EagleParrotDoveOwl
Results focusedFunHarmonyAccuracy
DirectSocialPatientDetails
DecisiveOptimisticSincereSystematic
Bottom lineExperimentalLoyalAnalytical
What Stresses Eagle Styles:
  1. Distractions
  2. Falling behind
  3. Loss of control

When communicating with your Eagle colleagues in stressful situations, lean towards efficiency by focusing on the top priorities that both of you share. Eagles process stress by focusing their energy on problem solving and solution centered conversations.  What can we actually do, improve, focus upon, make progress with given our circumstances? Talking about issues outside an Eagle-style’s control or ability to impact is a distraction that only adds to their stress. Avoid tangents, ambiguity around important subjects, and digging too deep into the weeds.

What Stresses Parrot Styles:
  1. Disapproval
  2. Perfectionism
  3. Negativity

When communicating with your Parrot colleagues in stressful situations, let them ‘talk it out.’ Parrots are relieved to find common ground with others, which leads to lots of thinking out loud and sharing of opinions to build or strengthen rapport.  While being a patient listener is healthy to a Parrot-style, helping them stay focused on tasks is great way to channel their energy towards progress. Avoid being overly formal, focusing on micro-implications, or not providing room for creative brainstorming.

What Stresses Dove Styles:
  1. Conflict
  2. Sudden Change
  3. Disappointing others

In times of abrupt change, Dove’s internalize the stress energy from those around them, adding significantly to their own internal anxiety. When communicating with Dove styles give them time to open up about how they are adjusting to the new situation. Dove styles typically prioritize other people before themselves, so be careful not to unload tasks on them simply because they say “yes”.  Inquire about what’s on their plate first. Avoid using an aggressive tone or making demands for quick responses. Essentially, communicate with them, not at them.

What Stresses Owl Styles:
  1. Trading quality for speed
  2. Haphazardness
  3. Emotional decision making

Owl styles place great importance on established, proven processes to ensure quality outcomes. Owl style anxiety rises when stressful situations bring about rapid changes in how work gets done. When communicating with this style, lead with facts and analysis based upon verifiable sources. Plan on taking time to convey your perspective with a patient, methodical, approach that includes room for lots of questions. Avoid emotionalism, ambiguity, or offering opinions based solely upon what others have said.

Stressful periods like COVID19 are a great opportunity to focus on the fundamentals of how we communicate with our colleagues. When we match the moment, not the mirror, communication improves, drama stays low, and our collective experience improves. 

Dan Silvert

Velocity Advisory Group

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