Are you a closed communicator?

Since the retirement of Alex Ferguson life has not been easy for Manchester United supporters …. but hope sprang anew when Jose Mourinho was appointed as their new manager. It started so well. Then we came across Manchester City. The atmosphere, as always against our ‘noisy neighbours’. was bouncing. The chanting was lively, colourful and noisy, and it is pretty much impossible not to be drawn into it. The communication style, though, is interesting and almost all observations were what we could call “closed”.

What do I mean when I say closed communication?

‘Closed’ means a statement that prevents, or makes difficult, any possibility of dialogue or discussion because of its finality, or because of the nature of the language used.
As I’m sure you will understand, many of the football observations are inappropriate to repeat on here.  They related, with varying degrees of venom: the referee’s eyesight or weight; the parentage of many of the opposing team’s players; the seating in their stadium and its use and an infinite variety of other taunts. Similar chants are, of course, thrown back by the City fans.
Some of the chants are genuinely distasteful and offensive but the majority are amusing, sometimes witty, and very much a part of going to a football match. But what does this have to do with interviews or securing a new role?

Surprisingly closed styles of communication can be a part of our everyday interactions.

While it may be acceptable, or even appropriate, at a football match it may be less helpful when talking to interviewers or colleagues. According to James Borg, in his very readable book, ‘Persuasion‘, there are three types of closed communication:
Firstly, the definitive: “It’s the best restaurant in the country”; “All politicians are crooks”;  ”All murderers should be given the death penalty.”
We all tend to use these type of statements but they leave no room for discussion – any listener has to either go along with your view or disagree. The tone would be entirely different if the statements were to begin with, “In my view…”, or, “I believe…”
The list of options for changing a definitive is probably endless, but these new statements are likely to be open and encourage, rather than discourage, dialogue.
A second type of closed communication is the exaggeration: “You never take me out to dinner”; “You’re always late to work”; “You only ever speak to me when you want something.”
Dialogue is again likely to be the major casualty of these statements, which could very easily be softened to encourage discussion.
Borg’s third category of closed statement is forceful: “You must attend this meeting”; “It should be done this way and by…”; “You have to make sure…”
Again these can be softened by phrases like,  ”I believe…”; “Maybe it would be helpful if…”; “Perhaps you could consider…”
Naturally there are times, although I suspect that they are rare, when closed communications that discourage dialogue are necessary and appropriate. A commander on the battlefield, in the heat of combat, would be forgiven for shouting, “Get your head down, Private Funk!”. Any crisis which requires autocratic leadership

Be particularly cautious about making closed statements to an interviewer.

I would wish to keep dialogue open as much as possible, thereby respecting difference and valuing diversity. It’s also worth considering the valuable addition that dialogue can offer in helping your own learning.
In short, you are much more likely to be attractive at interview if you express your views in a way that allows the interviewer to have a different perspective without having having to to argue with you. Keep the closed, provocative, and absolute statements to the football terraces, or similar environments, and enjoy the opportunity to have a dialogue instead.


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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