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Communicating Effectively During Early Career Transitions: Using Self-Reflection

By Lachelle Fiscus Zuhkle & Karin Leak Mussman

In order to successfully deliver a message, understanding one’s own communication style is essential, followed by an analysis of the communication styles and needs of one’s targeted audience. Effective communicators can adjust their natural style to best address the needs of others.

Self-reflection is a critical component of successful communication early in a career. Consider the following questions regarding your own communication style. Encourage others, such as members of problem solving teams, to use the self-reflection questions as well.

  • In my own communication, what are the specific strategies I have used that have been effective?
  • If I have successfully resolved a conflict, what communication strategies did I use? If I was not successful, what could I do next time to more effectively communicate my message?
  • Do I generally solve problems immediately and directly, or do I prefer to think and analyze the situation first?
  • What are some communication strategies that I have observed in others that I would like to incorporate into my own style?
  • How do I like to receive information? How might others want messages to be delivered?
  • How, if at all, would I need to change my communication style to deliver a specific message? Or to target a specific audience? Or in conflictual relationships?

After personal reflection and seeking feedback from others, a more formal measure of individual communication styles may be beneficial. For a sample of resources to identify the communication styles, the following websites and print resources include brief assessments and descriptions of the styles.

Communication Styles Handout

Communication Style Inventory

Personal Styles Assessment

Cultural Competency Self-Assessment

People Styles at Work: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better

  • Robert Bolton & Dorothy Grover Bolton
  • Identifies one of four styles with detailed descriptions of each
  • Includes background information of the importance of understanding differences in communication styles
  • Includes reference to adapting one’s style to match the need of the audience

How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life

  • Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton
  • Identifies Top 5 of 34 strengths (includes code for online assessment) and detailed descriptions of each
  • Focuses on using personal strengths in one’s communication and to increase positivity at work
  • Provides tips and methods for praising colleagues

After completing the self-refection and formal assessments, put the information learned into action. The above questions and resources can be used to guide discussion within school teams. If multiple members use the same assessment, common language and terminology provide a foundation for discussion about styles. Engaging in dialogue about communication styles within teams leads to understanding of personal styles and is important because it:

  • Reduces negative emotionality between team members through an increased understanding of personal styles; allows people to understand that comments are not personal attacks, but their mode of delivery
  • Frames healthy discussion about communication with team members in a respectful way
  • Limits conflict between team members by first addressing how messages are best delivered and received based on personal preferences
  • Elicits a greater level of tolerance when members can openly address distinctive personality traits (e.g., direct, reserved, aggressive, unemotional) prior to conflict
  • Fosters a positive work environment, greater understanding of others, and collaboration

The NASP website has numerous resources available for early career practitioners at http://www.nasponline.org/earlycareer/index.aspx.


Lachelle Fiscus Zuhkle is a school psychologist with Millard Public Schools in Omaha, NE.
Karin Leak Mussman is a school psychologist with the Westside School District in Omaha, NE.