A few days ago I saw the most bizarre video.  Two computer monitors were set up side by side, with a man oddly resembling Mr. Rogers appearing on the left monitor, while a Ms. Cleo look alike appeared on the right.

What followed was something I had never seen any thing like before.

The two digital humans are called Cleverbots.  They are sophisticated programs designed solely for the purpose of fooling us into thinking they are human.

The way programmers make these Cleverbots human-like is by giving them the ability to carry on conversations with us.  You can ask them questions, call them names, or compliment their outfit, and they will respond accordingly.

But what happens if you make two of these Cleverbots talk to each other?  If you watched the video you quickly noticed some awkward, hillarious, and bitter moments between the two.

Strangely enough, the fact that these Cleverbots struggled communicating may be the most “human” aspect about the program.  I’ve had my share of awkward and ineffective conversations before, so I could understand effective communication isn’t easy, even for robots.

So what can we take away from Ms. Cleo and Mr. Rogers awkward first date?

1.  People Aren’t Robots (We Have Communication Tendencies)

What I mean by that is every person is different, while robots for the most part are built to be standardized; same parts, same assembly, same programming.  Still, some people communicate the same way with everyone we meet.

Here’s a good example.  We all know “that guy” who goes up to you, gives you a hug after meeting you for two minutes and then talks your ear off the rest of the night.  We might feel comfortable or enjoy a bubbly personality like his, but then he goes up to Suzie later that night and does the same thing with her.

Suzie is freaking out.  She is not used to people being in her space.  All she can think about while he’s chatting her ear off is how to get away.

The same thing happened with our robot friends.  Rogers and Cleo stumbled right out of the gate repeating greetings and getting frustrated with each others’ lack of listening skills.  I think Cleo prefers getting straight to the point while Mr. Rogers wanted to get to know more about her first.

2.  Effective Communication Involves Adapting Your Communication Style

Do you ever notice how you prefer to work?  Do you enjoy change or stability, working as a team or being a leader?

Just as your work behavior differs, so do communication styles.  In order to be an effective communicator it helps to be aware of others’ communication styles.

So how do you know how someone prefers to communicate?

DISC and Communication Styles

DISC is a science we often use with our clients to help them understand more about themselves as well as those they interact with on a daily basis.  I’ve written a crash course on DISC if you want to learn more about what DISC is.

To better understand how DISC works and relates to communication I have made a rudimentary diagram using paint.  Please go easy on me.

In its simplest form we fall between being extroverted or introverted, task oriented or people oriented.  So for example, if you are an introverted task oriented person you would probably be a C according to DISC theory.

It just so happens that each of these styles have communication preferences to go along with them.  So if you are about to go in a meeting with your boss who is focused on tasks and is very active, you may want to look at the tips for communicating with a D.

Below are a few examples of how these styles tend to prefer to be communicated with.

Communicating With the High D
  • Be clear and to the point
  • Present facts logically
  • If you disagree, take issue with the facts
  • Provide a win/win opportunity
Communicating With the High I
  • Allow time for relating or socializing
  • Ask for their opinion
  • Be stimulating, fun, fast, moving
  • Talk about goals
Communicating With the High S
  • Break the ice. Start with personal comments
  • Be non-threatening and patient with them
  • Provide guarantees and assurances
  • Give them time to think
Communicating With the High C
  • Prepare your case in advance
  • Be straightforward and direct
  • Allow them their space
  • Give them specifics
So How Do You Prefer to Be Communicated With?  What Style Are You?

I’m meeting many new people here on the blog and would love to know how to be a better communicator with each of you.  What style do you see yourself as?  Do the corresponding tips feel accurate?

image courtesy of jthomasshaw

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42 thoughts on “How Bickering Robots Taught Me to be a Better Communicator

  1. Well, I’ve done the “color charts” before but yours seems to be a little different in it’s definitions.

    I’m a nurturer, I want to help people yet I have that fun, bubbly personality. So in the “color chart” I’m a yellow and a blue. But the way the DISC chart is set up, I believe I’m an I and an S. Not specifically just one or the other.

    I’ve always found this type of thing interesting but haven’t mastered how to quickly identify who is what in order to adhere to the conversation and not scare them off. But hey, I’ll get there. You know I’m still a work in progress.

    Thanks Bryce, your headline got me real curious so I had to come see what you were up to today.

    Adrienne :-)

    • Bryce Christiansen

      I can see that in you. You probably are an S, they are the team players, good listeners, and patient. Depending on the situation you probably are an outgoing individual as well.

      As far as mastering what styles others are, we are finishing up an online product/assessment tool that will do just that.

      I’ll have to keep you posted.

      I appreciate the compliment on the headline also. They take a lot of work as you already know.

      Good to see you again,

      Bryce

  2. Wow Bryce, that is pretty cool. I think I am an I. Sure hopes that helps us communicate, but I didn’t see any where where you told us what you are. Now I will ask the question, are you a D, I, S or C?
    Thank you, because it is very important that we know how to communicate with others. We have to be sensitive to the person they are to really build a good relationship with them,.
    Blessing to you,
    Debbie

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Well Debbie,

      How rude of me. I am an I as well with some C depending on the work I’m doing.

      So if I have this right you are magnetic, persuasive and optimistic. You also probably enjoy mingling with others and enjoy the company of others.

      All great qualities for a blogger like yourself.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Bryce

      • That pretty much sums up me. Sometimes I only use the persuasive when I believe it is important. Guess as a blogger I should work on that. Dude I never said I had everything right. LOL
        Blessing Bryce
        Debbie

      • OOPS, I left and forgot to tell you thank you for letting us know that your are and I. Hope you appreciate the U turn I had to make to get back here. LOL
        Blessing to you AGAIN!
        Debbie

        • Bryce Christiansen

          Hehe,

          Nothing wrong with being persuasive. As a blogger it’s an important quality.

          .Glad you came back.

          Bryce

  3. Bickering robots; that was too funny. Towards the end it sounded like they were beginning to take things personally. :-)

    Knowing how you and others work is key to getting business done smoothly. I had a situation this past Spring that illustrated your point exactly. I was dealing with someone who I initially perceived as making things harder than they were, when in fact, she was just being herself. Here personality type was to take things slowly, going over every detail from multiple angles where my personality type is to get the project done as quickly as possible.

    Once I realized that was the way that she worked, I was able to let go of my frustration and I started dealing with her differently. More specifically, instead of charging her by the project, I charged her by the hour–that way, she could take as long as she wanted.

    As far as my communication, I think I fall into the category of “C”.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Good to see you again Lisa,

      That takes some major recognition to see things the way you did with the other worker. It’s not easy to understand how others work and to then learn how to adapt and coach them.

      So Lisa, I also am high on my C as well as my I. If I have this right, you probably are careful, are tactful, open minded and look into details.

      As an athlete you probably pay close attention to your times, and analyze your routines.

      You’ll have to let me know if that’s true.

      Bryce

      • Yes, that about sums it up. :-)

  4. I think I might be a little of C and D. I’ve not done this before Bryce, I will need to take some time off and try and understand clearly, do some self assessments and then get back to this form. its an interesting system, as it allows you to find our where you are and if you need to improve or not. Loved the post as always, your blog has officially become my personal and career development guide Bryce.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks so much for the nice compliment. I owe you for sharing those links today on your site :).

      This was seriously a SUPER SIMPLIFIED version of DISC and the assessments we run so I’m very happy that it still was able to make an impact.

      If you are interested in these kind of things you should download a sample assessment here. I’d download the Trimetrix HD one.

      http://balancedworklife.com/free-resources/disc-assessments-samples/

      See if this is something you would like to have for yourself or your team.

      These assessments have become the foundation for much of the coaching and development we provide for teams inside of Dell, CA, and many others.

      We also have a bunch more DISC related blogs in the category Understanding Yourself.

      I’m here to help Eddie, glad you are finding my articles helpful.

      Thanks,

      Bryce

      • Thanks Bryce, I will check out the resources.

  5. I’m definately a type C personality, which makes on-line discussions perfect for me. And living in The Big City (no, not NY) was convenient too because most people just ignored me and I rarely was expected to offer more than an empty but compulsory, “Hello, how ya doin?”

    But, moving to East Tennessee was a major culture shock. Here, most everyone is a high I type. Conversation is an art form. A simple wave and “hello” as you pass is an insult that could get the dogs sicked on you. It took me a while, but I’ve developed enough to get by in most circumstances when I MUST go out into the world, but most of the time, I just knock around our property here and confine my discussions to the Internet.

    Thanks for a very educational post.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Allan, you make me laugh.

      I sure hope you come back. You definitely have the C style down, and NY is probably a great fit for your style :)

      VERY GOOD examples of adapting your communication styles. Notice how C and I are on clear opposite sides of eachother? The opposite side can be a difficult situation to adapt to.

      Thanks for the kind comments and for sincerely adding to the discussion :)

      Hope to see you again in the future,

      Bryce

  6. The video was really funny! I enjoyed how you have used the bickering robots to illustrate your point. I definitely can relate to that happening many times in my life when both parties are talking but not relating to each other.

    I am more like a C or a S when it comes to doing my work. I guess it will be hard to be fast-talking or be too task-oriented in a therapeutic environment.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Welcome Evelyn,

      I’m glad you took the time to stop by and even watch the video. I thought it was funny too.

      Yeah, it sounds like you are getting this down. The S are great at helping others and listening to their clients. The C probably comes out in making sure everything is taken care of in your business and keeping that eye out for details.

      Thanks again for the comment. Hope to see you again in the future.

      Bryce

  7. Hi Bryce,
    I enjoyed the video. It was hilarious. They seemed to talking at one another rather than with each other.
    I’d never heard of this communication chart. It turns out I’m an “I” and the style to communicate with me makes sense. Thanks for this great information.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks Angela,

      It’s good to meet a fellow I. Being outgoing and gifted with the ability to communicate and be persuasive is very useful in the internet world.

      Thanks for helping me learn some new things on your blog today. I really appreciate your comments and expertise.

      Thanks,

      Bryce

  8. Hi Bryce,
    Your point No2 is a great one. You do have to be ‘flexible’ with communication, same as ‘learning’. We are all different.Great vid, thanks.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Hey David,

      Welcome to the blog. I’m glad you watched the video. Sometimes I post videos in the blog and people think I just want them to see the pretty picture that displays on the screen.

      The adapting part of communication is the tough one. So many of our clients want to learn their communication styles so they can have their team adapt to them.

      They are still missing the point then, aren’t they?

      Thanks for coming by, I hope you stop by again.

      Bryce

  9. Hey Bryce,

    This is something we were taught about in college (I took psychology) but one thing that I know works well with those who have difficulty communicating is to make them feel comfortable.

    I would definitely agree with the points listed here; all hold true and relevant according to the discussion. Flexibility is so important, only if you are able to adapt to the changes in the other person’ way of talking will you be able to hold on to the talk! :)

    Hope you have a lovely weekend!

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Good to see you again Hajra!

      That would have been interesting to learn in college. I got a minor in communications but we never looked at DISC.

      I like your addition about making others comfortable. Nothing is worse than being in an awkward position when you need to communicate. Those first couple of moments can set you up either for failure or success.

      Great points, I hope you enjoy your weekend as well.

      Bryce

  10. This is a really interesting article. It was hilarious to watch those robots argue with each other… So much like us.

    As far as the DISC assessment goes, I’m usually a C. I’m rather “thinky” and introverted most of the time, and I can say that the steps you gave for communicating with a C are fairly accurate. Give us our space and let us be!

    I have a friend who is absolutely an “I” and it can be hard to communicate with her sometimes. Occasionally, when I’m feeling especially drained or tired, I will pretty much shut off all external activity. For whatever reason, she reads my lack of body language as anger. It’s so interesting to see such diversity and to see how we all interact.

    Of course, sometimes my alter ego comes out and I behave very I-like as well, which I suppose comes from interacting with so many extroverted, feeling types. Nevertheless, I come from the opposite end of the spectrum, even when I was a kid. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. :P

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Good to have you back Fred,

      Sorry I was a complete idiot when you first were coming by. I missed out on seeing your site and hearing some really amazing stories. I promise I won’t make that mistake again.

      You definitely have your style down Fred. I’m glad you shared your experience about your “I” friend. Trying to communicate with someone on the opposite side can be extremely difficult to do, especially if you aren’t adapting your behavior.

      I am a High I and C style. In my free time I desire nothing more than to be out with friends. I enjoy large groups, playing party games, and cracking jokes.

      However, at work and when it comes to the serious business, I am fairly detailed, working precisely, and getting everything checked off my list.

      I know, I have an odd style, but I like it.

      Keep true to yourself. Have a good weekend Fred.

      Bryce

  11. Hey Bryce,
    I remember playing with the boxing robots when I was a kid. I would say that my communication style is a High D.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Weren’t those great?

      I work with many D’s. They are great leaders and visionaries.

      Good to know.

      Thanks for coming by Justin.

      Bryce

  12. Dia

    Hi Bryce,

    Communication is very crucial in our life, the more we learn how to communicate with each one bases on his/her personality, the more successful we become at the art of communication. This is a funny commercial by the way ;) Thanks for sharing

    • You’ve got it Dia, personality plays a big part in communication. Glad you enjoyed the video too.

  13. I’ve always found the DISC model to be one of those nice and simple, but highly effective models that tends to be useful … time and time again.

    • Thanks for commenting J.D.

      DISC is a great tool. Because it is simple it is easy enough to teach others how to understand their work styles and then learn how to utilize their style’s strengths.

      Great to have you here. I really appreciate it.

      Bryce

  14. I always believe that better communication starts with understanding of human predilections. We humans tend to be selfish with our own opinion, and with such we close our ears to the reason of others. If we could discard our ego and see the person of the other, then and only then we would really start to listen. :-)

    • Hi Walter,

      Welcome to the blog. I really appreciate your time reading and leaving a comment.

      Thanks for the addition. You really understand the art of listening.

      Good to have you here.

      Bryce

  15. Hi Bryce,

    The robots in the video were almost humans :). They were infact married couples :).

    Other than jokes, I think the talking robots will forever remain Geek fantasy :) ( or at least for a long time). The human communication, evolution is a really complicated task shaped by millions of years and also then our past experience. I dont think we could ever generate such complicated equations to create a humanoid. The person needed to maintain such a thing will bring his or her biases into the code. I think it is going to be a fallacy. I would love to though being proved wrong because humanoids may eventually be useful in many ways.

    I think I am more “I” (yellow) type of person but I am trying to move towards C( blue) because of the added value it gives to me . I have seen that chart before and it is going to be really helpful to people who wants to have much better understanding of how humans work. It surely did for me :).

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. I really appreciate it and have a great day :)

    • Hi Ashvini,

      Good to see you again. I love the marries couple comment. It’s so true.

      Glad you found the post useful. Have a good Monday.

      Bryce

  16. Bryce,
    Wonderful article. I love the way you depicted with DISC to address the communication channels. I strongly believe, meaningful communication has deep connections with your wisdom. When I watch the video, it made me to laugh and, immediately mind incline towards artificial intelligence and semiconductor based brain in future. Sounds funny though :)

    Everything science! After 50+ years human neuron architecture could be readable and able to store as memory ram and you could schedule your meetings,answers,discussions with your prototype robots using per-schedule protocols. Human interaction may require only for mission critical issues.

    However, from DISC chart I fall under I and few from C as well. Thanks for sharing the terrific article.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Hi Manickam,

      I’m so glad you came by the blog and shared your comments.

      Although I think it would take some incredible effort to make a computer as engaging and believable as a human, I do think it would be possible to put them to work on straightforward conversation roles such as customer service or basic tech support.

      As for your DISC, you and I are fairly similar. I am high on both I and C. I really enjoy being with people and helping them as an Influencer.

      At the same time, I have to be pretty precise in the work I do and make sure I take a careful look at the details.

      Great to have you, hope to see you again.

      Bryce

  17. I love that video, Bryce. What a powerful commentary on our own mechanical nature. How many of us go through the day blithely and automatically repeating the same old thoughts and reactions to life? Our Counterfeit Self is a mechanical robot that destroys the beautiful world that you dream of experiencing. Our identification with this mechanical robot causes us to forget our Authentic Self. It is our unconscious reactions that cause the recurring problems that destroy the contents of a beautiful world.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Hey Rob,

      Thanks for the great comment as always. I really like your thoughts on our Counterfeit Self. Sometimes when I’m being lazy or tired, I turn my counterfeit self on auto mode.

      It’s the same reason we say things we don’t mean to when we communicate out of anger or resentment.

      Great addition Rob.

      Bryce

  18. Hello Bryce! I was intrigued by your communication post and of course, the robots. They cracked me up! Thanks for the entertaining example. Is it possible to be different letters in different situations? I find that in my art work and with those I don’t know well I am a C, while in my blog and my social circles I am more of an I. Or maybe I just put on an act, I’m not so sure! I saw you respond to one reader that you will be coming up with an assessment tool for others – wow, that would be very cool. Because it is difficult to tell sometimes. Very interesting information. Great blog – I am in good company of Versatile Bloggers! Have a great weekend. ~ Suerae

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks for coming by Suerae,

      I appreciate your comments. That’s funny you asked, because I happen to be the same way. I’m high I and C as well. One thing the DISC assessments we use shows is an adapted style and a natural style.

      The adapted style is how we are at work, your art for example while our natural style is how we are around friends and family, your I style. We generally have a mix of all four, but a few of them will come out more dominant than the others.

      Excellent question. Thanks again for stopping by Suerae :)

      Bryce

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