What's your communication style?
Before you can improve your communications, you need to know what your communication style is. There are four:
Passive – Passive communicators seem indifferent, often yielding to others. This non-confrontational attitude can lead to miscommunications at best, and built-up resentment at worst. These communicators often assume that people don’t care about how they feel. In truth, by not sharing their feelings, they are not giving others the opportunity to support them.
Aggressive – A booming voice and controlling manner are characteristic of an assertive communicator. Prone to interrupt others, the goal of this communicator is not to engage but rather to dominate. These communicators are quickly triggered and don’t often leave room for other people’s opinions or ideas. The only time their conversations are inclusive is when they are assigning blame.
Passive-Aggressive – These communicators may appear passive at first, but the resentment they feel from their passive style betrays them in their indirect or subtle personal attacks. These communicators tend to express their feeling by ignoring others, secretly sabotaging people or perpetuating (or even starting) gossip.
Assertive – An open communication style, assertive communicators are clear in their own needs but not dictatorial. Assertive communicators consider other people’s needs while maintaining their own boundaries. These communicators own their feelings, often expressing themselves with “I” statements (e.g. I feel bad when you don’t call) and are quick to self-evaluate before assigning blame.
Most of us have moments of each of these styles, but there is likely one style that is our go-to. To get a better understanding of your style from a trusted source and discover areas for improvement you can get started on this week, complete the exercise below.
Pen and journal or paper
Day one, 15 minutes to send emails
Day two, 30 minutes to read emails + writing
Day three, 15 minutes to write out your action steps
You may have a strong sense of which communication style best describes you, but also recognize that you occasionally exhibit behaviors from all them. To get a better idea of where you need to focus your improvement efforts select 3 to 4 friends who you know will be constructive and supportive and whose opinions you trust and value.
Send an email to each of the friends you’ve selected (not a group email) asking them to help you with a personal development project. Explain the communication styles and ask them to give you an example of when you exhibited behaviors of any or all of them. Encourage them to share anything that comes to mind immediately and not to toil too long. An email template has been provided for you in the Exercise Resources below.
Don’t hover over your inbox – wait until the next day to read the responses. When you get return emails, do not respond except to acknowledge receipt and say thank you. Read all of your emails and make a note of any commonalities. In your journal, list the common behaviors and anything that shows up as a pattern. Think about the examples your friends shared. Can you remember what triggered your behavior? Write about the triggers and any other feelings you have about the examples provided. When you’re done writing, put your journal away.
After a day, come back and read what you wrote in your journal. After reviewing your entry, complete the following sentences: “I need to work on…”
Then, list three things you are going to do in the next seven days to address this area for improvement. If you discovered multiple things you would like to work on, list three things you are going to do in the next seven days for each.
The four communications styles listed above are the traditional styles most assessments consider. However, more recently, there have been a number of business writers who have reframed the way we think about communication styles.
For a different look at communication styles, check out some of the work done by business writer, Mark Murphy. He and his team identified four fundamental communications styles specifically for the workplace: Analytical, Intuitive, Functional and Personal. (See Mark Murphy's Forbes article here)
Research these communication styles and Murphy’s definitions of each, then answer the following questions in your journal:
How does looking at your communication style from a workplace vs. a psychological lens impact the way you evaluate your own communications?
After evaluating your communication style using both the traditional communication styles (Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive and Assertive) and the more modern styles proposed by Murphy (Analytical, Intuitive, Functional and Personal) what have you learned about your communication style?
There is no right or wrong answer. The writing in your journal is for your own personal development. We encourage you to discuss what you've discovered with your own cohort and/or circle of trusted colleagues and friends. Perhaps you will encourage one of them to begin their own communication skills development journey! And please feel free to share any of your findings on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #SkillStories