One of the main issues when speaking to users/customers/students/staff/etc. is a mismatch in communication styles, goals and levels of technical knowledge. They would like their problems solved in a way that does not affect their dignity when asking for help on things they might not understand. We, however, would like to resolve their issue and submit a ticket. This is where we experience a conflict.
Speakers: Campus Help Desk
Communication Style: Goals and Outcomes Oriented/Direct
Level of Technical Knowledge/Awareness: Highly Skilled
Goal: Answer Questions, Troubleshoot Problems, Submit Tickets
Audience: Callers into the Help Desk
Communication Style: Varied
Goal: Solve Problems, Submit Tickets, Ask Questions
Level of Technical Knowledge/Awareness: Varied
Ideally we would like to offer some amount of technical instruction as we troubleshoot so that they might be able to understand the problem if it happens again. They might see our methods of this instruction as a negative reflection of their intelligence. So how do we bridge this gap?
Communication accommodation theory (CAT) is a theory of communication developed by Howard Giles. It argues that “when people interact they adjust their speech, their vocal patterns and their gestures, to accommodate to others.
When two speakers have a common goal -they like each other, both parties will adjust their communication styles towards each other. Each will use the others' vernacular (IT Support Person vs. LAN Manager). When their goals are opposite it diverges (correcting each other, interrupting).