We have all heard our mothers say, “I can’t read your mind.” Yet often in the workplace, we expect customers and colleagues to know what we are thinking. Everyone processes information at different rates. For example, I am a fast reader. While visiting the Minidoka Internment Camp and reading the interruptive signs, I realized that the people I was with did not read through the boards as quickly. I needed to practice patience, waiting for the slower readers to absorb the same information. The most significant cause of arguments, disappointments, and misunderstanding is that we do not adequately communicate.
Effective communication is not easy. It is assumed that leaders are excellent communicators, but that is not true. Just like any other skill, we need to learn how to be effective communicators, and then we need to practice daily.
Communication is all-encompassing; written, verbal and non-verbal communication. Perhaps early in your career, you were the shy, quiet communicator who never said much. An introvert is a passive communicator. As you get to know your team, you might become more comfortable speaking up and moving to an assertive communicator.
There are four different communication styles. We need to learn about the people we work with and associate with. Depending on the situation, people can move between the various communication styles. It is our job to learn how to read people and know how to respond to them based on their communication style at that time.
4 Basic Communication Styles
|Communication Style||Tendencies||Best way to communicate with them|
|Passive||Cannot say no, poor posture, easy-going attitude, no eye contact, soft voice, apologetic and fidgety||Initiate one-on-one conversations. Ask for their opinions, and ask open-ended questions.|
|Aggressive||They frequently express their thoughts and opinions by interrupting others. Have no personal space boundaries, often have an aggressive posture, and maintain intense eye contact.||Be calm and assertive, keep conversations professional and steer away from personal issues and emotions. Finally, know when to walk away.|
|Passive – Aggressive||They may smile even when they are upset. But, on the other hand, they use sarcasm, may mutter under their breath, and may give the silent treatment.||Make explicit requests so there is no room for misinterpretation by having clear, honest lines of communication. Ask them for their feedback and try to get them to commit to taking on a task to help solve the problem.|
|Assertive||They share their thoughts and ideas confidently; they are respectful and polite. They know their limitations, strengths, and weaknesses and make friendly eye contact.||Encourage them to share their ideas and place them in leadership positions to help enlist and get the buy-in from the others.|
In the work environment, the four communication styles have different names.
Workplace Communication Styles
|Style||What you Should Know||How to work with them|
|Direct Analytical or dominant||These people are direct, no-frills communicators. They like hard facts and are focused on the end result. They can be blunt and are more likely to give commands. However, they struggle with small talk and emotional decision-making.||Be clear and concise. Avoid unnecessary details. Do not take their bluntness as personal criticism.|
|Functional Analytical||These people like processes, precisions, and details. They analyze a project from multiple perspectives. They also enjoy learning and demonstrating new skills. They thrive with clear expectations and firm deadlines, as well as working independently.||Expect them to ask many questions. They are uncomfortable with small talk and emotional decision-making.|
|Collaborative Harmonizers||These people are steady and intuitive. They focus on people over the end results. Their goal is to find a solution that works for everyone. They are loyal, stable, and excellent at thinking about the big picture. They like to get everyone’s feedback.||When working with a collaborator before you listen before issuing directives, they want to know they are heard. Therefore, they will require multiple follow-up conversations along the way to ensure they are on the right track.|
|Influencer “People Person”||These people build interpersonal relationships and are great collaborators. They are visionaries focused on the ‘why .’They prefer informal meetings and engage in small talk. They are comfortable expressing their feelings.||Enable them to collaborate and maximize their potential. They may need help developing practical solutions. They can struggle with focusing on the details, so you will want to give them short timeframes to get things done.|
Check out this cool online quiz if you don’t know your communication style.
To become more effective communicators, we must be honest about our communication styles. Not everyone fits into the same box all the time.
By: Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA
August 30, 2022