Communication Strategies: Flexibility

Flexibility is a quality of thinking and behaving in which you vary your messages based on the unique situation in which you find yourself. It's one of the essential skills of interpersonal communication.
One measure of flexibility asks you to consider how true you believe certain statements are——statements such as

·         “People should be frank and spontaneous in conversation” or

·         “When angry, a person should say nothing rather than say something he or she will be sorry for later.”

The “preferred” answer to all such questions is “sometimes true,” underscoring the importance of flexibility in all interpersonal situations. 

As you can appreciate, flexibility is especially important when communicating your feelings, be they positive or negative. It’s especially important in emotional communication because it’s in times of emotional arousal that you’re likely to forget the varied choices you have available. And of course this is exactly the time when you need to consider your choices. The greater your flexibility, the more likely you’ll be to see the varied choices you do have for communicating in any situation.

Increasing Flexibility. Here are a few ways to cultivate interpersonal flexibility.

<  Realize that no two situations or people are exactly alike; consider what is different about this situation or person and take these differences into consideration as you construct your messages.

<  Recognize that communication always takes place in a context; discover what that unique context is and ask yourself how it might influence your messages. Communicating bad news during a joyous celebration, for example, needs to be handled quite differently from communicating good news.

<  Become aware of the constant change in people and in things. Everything is in a state of flux. Even if the way you communicated last month was effective, that doesn’t mean it will be effective today or tomorrow. Realize too that sudden changes (the death of a lover or a serious illness) will influence what are and what are not appropriate messages.

<  Appreciate the fact that every situation offers you different options for communicating. Consider these options and try to predict the effects each option might have.


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