After reading this guide, you will know about the many different communication styles, which will lead to a better understanding of how people communicate.
This will help you improve communication between your employees, enhance the training, hiring, and many other processes in your organization.
As you engage with this article and think about the communication styles you encounter in your organization, and the styles that you wish to see more of, it is worth thinking about how communication is a large part of both management styles and conflict management styles.
These three concepts are foundational when it comes to good management and creating a successful business environment.
By learning more about them, and applying them in your organization, you can create a dynamic, positive environment, leading to better business outcomes.
Some situations will call for certain styles, or you might find that one style is particularly effective with one employee, while another works better for someone else.
Styles can be combined, and people use styles different than their default one based on who they are communicating with.
There is no point in inflexibly using only one style to communicate with every single person you encounter throughout the workday, though some styles are generally more effective than others.
This is considered to be the most effective communication style.
A person using this style is confident in their convictions but makes sure that they do not belittle or steamroll others in the conversation.
They do not resort to manipulation or pushing limits, rather they seek compromise and consensus through active listening and clearly expressing their wants or needs.
Assertive communicators tend to have naturally high self-esteem, and they do not veer into passive or aggressive communication.
A hallmark of assertive communication is the use of “I” statements, such as “I feel as though you interrupting me during the client meeting undermined my expertise,” rather than “You need to be quiet during client meetings since you insist on interrupting constantly“.
This style of communication is recommended in most business settings.
Calm, measured, and positive, many situations can be handled, and problems solved, by proactively using assertive communication.
This communication style can be hostile, threatening, and comes from a place of wanting to win at all costs.
An aggressive communicator behaves as if their contribution to the conversation is more important than anyone else, and the content of their message is often lost because of the tone of their delivery.
This type of communication can result in people feeling belittled, steamrolled, and intimidated.
In some cases, they may reactively push back at an aggressive communicator, not because the communicator is incorrect, but simply because the delivery of the message is so unpleasant that they instinctively disagree.
This type of communication has been observed in some business leaders, who can control their style enough to come across as bold, rather than domineering, but that takes skill.
In day-to-day operations, this is not a style that will endear someone to their colleagues, and it is advised that this style is avoided in most cases.
This type of communication is also known as the submissive communication style. Another way of describing it is the “people-pleaser” type.
This type of communication is self-effacing, conflict-avoidant, and easy-going.
That’s not to say that a passive communicator is always happy – in fact, this style of communication can lead to resentment building up over time because the person is unable to clearly communicate their opinions, needs, and wants.
Passive communicators tend to step back and let other, more assertive or aggressive, people lead the way.
They can find it difficult to effectively express themselves, and want to avoid confrontation at all costs. This can directly lead to their good ideas never being heard, or for miscommunications to come up.
In business, this style of communication can be used in reaction to aggressive communication, especially when handling a client or other person with whom other styles of communication are not working.
However, within a team or department, managers should work to help passive communicators access a more assertive style, so their valuable insights and ideas do not get passed over.
This style of communication, like the name suggests, combines aspects of both passive and aggressive communication styles.
The passive exists on the surface, while the aggressive simmers beneath.
Outwardly, the communicator seems sweet and easy-going, but they are operating from a place of anger and resentment.
This bubbles up and can be shown through using sarcasm, being patronizing, starting rumors, or gossiping.
Their frustration comes out through these indirect routes, but they will have the same effect as someone who is straightforwardly aggressive; colleagues will not want to work with them.
This style tends to be very toxic in the workplace, spreading discontent and resentment throughout the team or department.
There are no times that this style of communication is appropriate in a business setting. If there are communicators in your organization that default to this style, it is key that they are helped to readjust to a less disruptive style.
This style of communication uses cunning, deceit and influence to control the outcome of the conversation, and thus the actions of the people around them.
Manipulative communicators rarely say what they mean, instead they will bury their real goals within layers of obfuscation to get their way without the other person even realizing it.
This style is often characterized as insincere and patronizing, and when people realize that they have been played by a manipulator, they will not respond well to that person in future communications.
While some manipulation could come in useful in a customer-facing role where there is a need to calm down an irritated client, this style will lead to some clashes within teams or departments if one employee is using it consistently.
Where possible, a manipulative communicator should be steered into assertive communication.
Manipulator knows what they want to achieve and has clear goals, they are just not taking the best path to get there. By prioritizing everyone’s needs, not just their own, they could achieve better results without upsetting colleagues.
These styles focus more on how the speaker communicates information within the conversation.
Each person will have a preferred method of communication, and endeavoring to use it can help make sure that you are effectively getting your message across.
No matter what your style is, you can adjust it to fit these four types, depending on the style of the person you are communicating with. It may take some practice, but it will make you a much more effective communicator.
An analytical communicator favors data and hard numbers.
They want quantifiable information and disregard emotional statements as too vague or unimportant.
This means that they would prefer a statement such as “this quarter, sales are up 8.2%, and we are going to exceed our projections by 1.4%” rather than one like “we’re killing it on sales this month!“.
When communicating with this type of person, do your research first! Lay out the numbers, then follow up with your request.
The upside of this is that an analytical communicator is good at looking at issues logically. There won’t be any problems with emotions getting in their way. If an analytical communicator is not performing well, you could bring them the numbers that show where they are lacking, and they will accept that they need to improve in those areas.
The downside is that they can be perceived as cold or emotionless. They may make colleagues feel uncomfortable, or dismiss those who do not communicate in the same way. This can cause some issues within teams who have disparate styles of communication, such as personal communicators. They also might take too much time analyzing, calculating, and checking details, leading to a slow response time to issues, and resulting in lost opportunities.
An intuitive communicator is all about the big picture.
This is the type of person who doesn’t like getting bogged down into the nitty-gritty details of a project, they prefer to get the general overview.
They are quick to see the broad picture and can easily leap to the conclusion, sometimes offering great insights as to how best to complete a project.
When you communicate with this type of person, give the Cliff’s Notes version: “This new marketing project is going to use a new algorithm to target potential customers with even more precision!” rather than “First, we are going to A/B test the new algorithm, next we are going to develop three levels of tailored content, then we are going to deploy the project, then we are going to use these metrics to measure our success.“
The upside is that this type of communicator understands ideas quickly, and is already proposing solutions to possible challenges. They don’t need to have their handheld, they are already off and running. They can often come up with out-of-the-box ideas and enjoy challenging themselves and others.
The downside is that this impatience can lead to mistakes. Intuitive communicators hate having to sit through the boring details, but by skipping that, they risk missing crucial information. They also will chafe at communicators who need to explain ideas or projects step-by-step, like functional communicators.
The functional communicator lives on the other side of the spectrum from the intuitive communicator.
They prefer to walk through the steps of the process, outlining each one until they reach the conclusion and can tie it all up in one neat package.
They are detail-oriented, good at understanding which processes will be the most helpful to ensure success, and they can be trusted to create functional timelines, allocate tasks, and run projects.
When speaking with a functional communicator, make sure that you are prepared!
They will want to know the full details of the project, you don’t want to get caught up with metrics, feelings or big picture thinking, you must instead come with the project laid out and ready to inspect.
Using a sentence like “We want to create an improved user manual. We would like you to write the outline, consult with the developers, hire a technical writer, and edit the finished product.” will serve you much better than “Don’t you think the user manual could use some improvement? Can you take care of that?“
The upside of a functional communicator is their detail-oriented mind will be sure not to miss any important steps. They find it easy to focus on implementing projects and have a native understanding of what it will take to accomplish. Their thorough nature will make sure that the project runs successfully.
The downside of this is that their dogged focus on the process, improving each step and stage, can sometimes lead to them losing sight of the big picture and not accomplishing the actual goals of the project.
Their plodding, step-by-step style can also bore the audience, especially if a functional communicator is paired with an intuitive communicator. These two styles are a bit like oil and water; neither appreciates the other’s communication very much. However, if done well, a functional communicator can take on the minutiae of a project while the intuitive communicator deals with the big picture.
The personal communicator is opposite to the analytical communicator on this spectrum of communication styles.
They prefer to use emotional language and value the human connection, seeking to know how their colleagues are feeling as well as what they are thinking.
This type of communicator tends to be a diplomat, helping solve conflicts and seeking peaceful solutions to inter- and intradepartmental issues.
For this type of communicator, you want to lean into the emotional component. Something like “Do you feel like our customer success team is feeling burnt out recently? Their numbers have dropped. Please explore this further, and see if they are feeling like they need more support.” will net you much more success than “Our customer satisfaction scores have dropped 11% this year and we are not in line to meet our targets. We need to find and fix that problem, bringing the scores back up this quarter.“
The upside to this style is that a personal communicator will effortlessly build deep bonds within their team. They are focused on building cohesion and often will step into a problem-solving role when others are having difficulty in their communication.
The downside to this style of communication is that it might become too emotional for other communicators. Analytical communicators especially will not appreciate this approach, and may well disregard what personal communicators say, which can lead to hurt feelings or resentment.
All of these communication styles exist on a spectrum. People will rarely be 100% of one style, rather they will have primary and secondary, and sometimes even tertiary, styles.
A person might be primarily analytical, but secondarily functional. You will see people switch between styles as necessary, based on the situation, the person they are speaking with, and many other factors.
In general, you will find that having a mix of all of these communication styles will result in a better team.
Each style offers its own advantages and disadvantages, and having a solid mix of all four will ensure that you don’t have massive blind spots.
If you had a team of only analysts, then you will find yourself behind schedule as your team checks and rechecks data but never takes action. The same goes for a team of only intuitives, your big picture would be perfect but your process to get there would be incomplete, abandoned by your team as uninteresting and unimportant.
When you have all of those people in the team, you can have your ideal mix of people who generate ideas, analyze them, implement them, and help to solve problems if needed.