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communication styles


Thinking about communication styles, communication forms the backbone of human interactions, and its mastery gives its master the keys to unlocking the doors to meaningful connections. To achieve this, it is important to understand communication styles and where best to apply them for effective communication.

In this article, we will be looking at communication styles, the four main types, and some tricks to becoming a better communicator.

But before we get into it, it’s essential to ask, who is an effective communicator anyway?

Who is an effective communicator?

An effective communicator can convey a message thoroughly and is concurrently responsive and receptive to other’s input.

Effective communicators speak clearly, directly, and with plain and easily understandable language. Effective communicators are usually open to the suggestions of others.

Some common characteristics of effective communicators include:

They contribute actively to their workplace

Effective communicators are mostly central to work operations as they know the company’s objectives and are equipped with new communication styles to function. They are also good listeners and know when to take direction from other’s suggestions.

Others trust them

Being effective communicators mean they speak honestly, listen attentively, and usually the go-to individuals for advice. They are great conversationalists because they value the input of others.

They express themselves freely

Individuals with effective communication skills have a good understanding of the necessity to be direct and honest in their ideas and opinions. And even when they disagree with others, they remain respectful of other team members.

They have their communication style

Effective communicators ensure their input is memorable, such that listeners are more likely to remember their ideas and opinions. To achieve this, they make use of communication styles that suit the situation. Communication styles include such aspects as inflections in speech, body posture, humor, etc.

They can make complex topics simple

The ability of effective communicators to make complex topics appear simple to enhance understanding in their listeners. Irrespective of the field of study, nature of the idea, or complexity of the concept, effective communicators know how to make it simple for the unlearned in that particular field to comprehend.

assertive communication

What are Communication Styles?

The various ways people communicate with others are termed communication styles, and there are four principal types of communication styles: passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, and assertive communication styles.

Having a perfect understanding of the various communication styles can enable you to develop better relationships and improve existing ones. Your ability to connect with others will define your ability to navigate through difficult conversations.

Sometimes, our communication seems to work flawlessly and, at other times, may fail woefully. Communication breakdown happens as a result of patterns and habits stemmed from our communication that may get in the way. These habits are what we refer to as communication styles.

Now, suppose you’re working to be a better leader in exhibiting pristine leadership qualities. In that case, enhanced communication skills are topmost on your bucket list as they can shape the atmosphere in your work environment. Better communication also means a better cultural environment at home, the office, school, and the community.

So, what are the four primary communication styles? Read on to find out in this article.

The Relationship Between Communication styles and Connection

Our communication styles can help us build meaningful connections. Why are connections important? Because they are a crucial necessity for success at any venture in life. Some reasons why meaningful connections are essential include:

  • Our physical and mental health depends a great deal on the types of connections we have. Solid and stable connections will positively impact our well-being, while poor social connections will negatively imprint.
  • People with meaningful interpersonal connections with others are less likely to fall into depression and anxiety
  • People with strong and meaningful connections are more likely to live longer than those with more poor connections.
  • Our ability to communicate effectively and connect with others can positively affect career success and performance at work.
  • Our ability to connect with others creates a stable and healthy family environment.

Creating a connection requires sustained conversation, and sometimes conversations can go so south. We may say some things that suddenly push people away or changes the atmosphere from warm and loving to hostile or even awkward. At other times, the conversation can almost seem like you waved a magic wand. With everything going effortlessly well, with clear understanding and respect in the conversation, such instances are bound to create lasting connections.

Life is about connecting with others. As the saying goes, you can’t live out as an island. Meaningful connections, when rightly achieved, can make life brighter and more fulfilling.

group talking

Behavior Traits and How They Influence Communication Styles

As we interact with others, science fields like Social and Neuro-sciences have shed more light on what exactly goes on:

  • The behavior patterns people exhibit become more stable over time.
  • People develop impressions about others based on verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
  • Their perceptions of others determine the behavior patterns people exhibit towards others.
  • Assertiveness and responsiveness; are the most critical dimensions of human behavior.

Over time, our seemingly scattered behavioral patterns become habitual and may not always reflect our ever-evolving thoughts and emotions. As such, what we say may not always be exactly what we mean.

Our communication may sometimes give others a wrong impression about us or what we’re trying to communicate. These all impact how others perceive us and respond to our interactions.

Likewise, our interactions and habitual behaviors are sometimes misjudged by others who fail to understand what we’re trying to convey. This will always lead to misunderstandings, and it can be pretty frequent.

To solve this, we must understand the different communication skills and the best style suitable for specific scenarios.

The Four Main Types of Communication Styles

People develop behavioral patterns, verbal and nonverbal, which become habits that can influence how we communicate.

Generally, the main communication styles that people use are:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Assertive

Passive Communication Style

Those who use the passive communication style usually have a hard time expressing themselves and often give in to others. Such lapses in communicating with others will often lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and built-up resentment.

The passive communication style has some characteristics that often give away its users:

  • Difficulty in making eye contact
  • Inability to refuse demands or requests, to say “no.”
  • Go with the flow type attitude
  • Poor posture

Passive communicators often use phrases like:

  • “It doesn’t matter that much.”
  • “It isn’t a big deal.”
  • “I just want everyone to get along.”

aggressive communication

Aggressive Communication Style

On the extreme polar end of the passive communication style is the aggressive communication style. Aggressive communicators usually tend to dominate conversations. They often are bossy, issuing commands and asking questions rudely while failing to listen to others.

Aggressive communication style users can be selfish, making things all about them. Those in authority using this communication style are more of bosses than leaders.

Aggressive communication style users have some traits in common:

  • They talk over others
  • Poor listeners frequently interrupt others.
  • Controlling or demanding
  • Point fingers often
  • They use intense stares and glares
  • They often frown
  • Criticize, intimidate or even threaten others

Some phrases associate with this type of communication style include:

  • “It’s my way or the highway.”
  • “I can’t be wrong. I’m right, and you’re wrong.”
  • “Because I said so.”
  • “I’m the boss.”

Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

A Passive-aggressive communication style blend that appears passive superficially but with underlying resentment expressed in more subtle and indirect ways is called the Passive-Aggressive communication style.

Here’s how you can identify the passive-aggressive communication style, as its users have the following characteristics:

  • They use frequent sarcasm
  • Their words don’t often align with actions
  • Facial expressions and spoken words are often a mismatch
  • They have difficulty acknowledging emotions

Some phrases that give away passive-aggressive communication style include:

  • “Fine, whatever.”
  • After saying something rude, sarcastic, or severely damaging, “I was only joking.”

Assertive Communication Style

The assertive communication style provides the most effective and healthy way to express yourself. This style is a proponent of open and honest dialogue, taking into consideration the needs of others.

The assertive communication style has some associated vital behaviors:

  • The ability to confidently express desires and needs
  • Encourages balance in conversations in which every participant has a chance to speak
  • The unashamed use of “I” statements (ex: I feel worried when others fail to respond to my messages.)
  • The ability to say “no.”
  • Healthy maintenance of good eye contact

You may recognize the assertive communication style through phrases like:

  • “I am responsible for my happiness.”
  • “I respect the opinions and expectations of others.”
  • “We all have the right to self-expression honestly and respectfully.”

So far, you can quickly tell why the passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive communication styles can cause problems when building genuine connections and interactions with others. The failure of the aggressive communication style to listen to others, the failure of the passive-aggressive communication style in shying away from any conflict, and the fear of expressing oneself as is the setback of the passive communication style greatly hinder communication and connection building with others.

Communication styles are fluid, and most often, more than one style can be applied by the same individual. You may rely on a passive communication style with family members and take up more aggressive approaches at work with colleagues. Communication styles can also change over time as we grow and learn from the experiences of life.

communicaton styles family

Which type of communication style to use

From all this, it is essential to point out that words may not always have the intended impact thereof, and it takes a great deal of skill and practice to have the desired impact. Such skills can be learned and improved upon.

The assertive communication style thrives in an atmosphere that requires both the listen and the speaker to express themselves respectively and openly. Such a communication style requires an open, honest and direct speech, without any aggression.

Here are some tricks to better your conversations with more assertive communication:

  • Express needs and wants with confidence
  • Be confident to use “I” statements
  • Sustain comfortable eye contact
  • Be apt to listen when the other person is speaking
  • Learn how to say “no.”

I’ll like to mention here that it helps to know the various communication styles to quickly recognize your dialogue partner’s communication style. This knowledge will enable you better decode what the person is trying to communicate, thus reducing the risks of misunderstanding in communication. Such knowledge will also enable you to know how to respond better.

Words often fail to describe our complex emotions and dynamic thought patterns accurately. Words often try to quantify abstract and intangible things. We ascribe meaning to the words, the sequence, and the timing to describe what stirs within us. But then, our inner feelings, perceptions, processing, attitudes, and others remain invisible.

Understanding these concepts is difficult, let alone trying to express them clearly. That’s why self-awareness is crucial. You must have an intimate knowledge of yourself before you can even begin to express what you think and feel to others. For this, various self-assessment and personality indicator tools like the DISC profile exist to help you know yourself.


The DISC Model

The first level of distinction with regards to determining your communication style is deciphering how you make decisions.  The DISC Model provides an unbiased personality assessment tool for assessing human behavioral patterns.

The DISC model consists of four quadrants:

  • Dominance/Driver: This quadrant emphasizes results and the bottom line.
  • Influence/Inspirational: This emphasizes relationships and one’s influence on others.
  • Steadiness: This quadrant emphasizes cooperation, honesty, and reliability.
  • Conscientiousness/Contemplative: This emphasizes competence, quality, and one’s expertise.

The DISC profile assessment tool unveils a great deal about yourself. Your social results reveal your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for greatness. This can help identify your biases, blind spots, and unfulfilled needs, often reflecting lousy behavior.

Communication style assessment tools help you develop self-awareness, an essential aspect of ineffective communication, and developing healthy connections.


The Relationship Between Communication Style and Success

Pristine communication and success go hand-in-hand.

When we think of a successful person, two fundamental characteristics quickly come to mind. First, successful people have a sense of comfort with themselves and a high degree of self-awareness. Such confidence also reflects in their sense of purpose in life.

Second, successful people have good communication skills. They have an effortless time relating with other people and can quickly connect, set other people at ease, and communicate in such openness, inspiring trust in the conversation.

Having understood the four primary communication styles, it is imperative to develop self-awareness and unveil your personal needs and behavioral tendencies. This will allow you to employ an assertive communication style with confidence.

Without communication, you can’t achieve your goals in life, be it in business, family, health, or finances. Until you learn to communicate effectively, you’d always fall short of your expectations. Effective communication doesn’t mean dominating in a conversation or being the loudest voice heard, having the last say, or avoiding conflicts. Effective communication is all about understanding your needs and how to effectively express those needs while simultaneously valuing the input of others.

How to be an effective communicator

  1. Know your purpose

There are different types of speech, like persuasive, informative, instructive, etc., knowing the purpose for communication helps to be effective. Having the intended purpose for communication goes a long way towards ensuring efficiency in communication.

  1. Identify your audience

Knowing who you’re addressing is the next step to stepping up your communication game to the level of effectiveness. You should know who you’re talking to choose the communication styles better to use. Communication hinges on several factors like age, social status of the audience, etc. As such, the type of audience would declare the communication approach to employ.

  1. Have a plan

If you intend to engage the audience as you communicate, it’s vital to have a plan. Anticipate any possible reactions from what you’re going to say and how you’d react thus comments. You should anticipate some reactions and prepare beforehand how to address those concerns.

  1. Listen actively

When you can listen attentively to what others are saying, you can better comment on what is being said. As such, it is essential to maintain proper posture in listening and eye contact and minimize movements. Also, you should periodically make gestures that indicate you’re following up on what is being said, including some verbal expressions.

  1. Be clear in your speech

Several factors go into being clear in your speech, such as your tone, volume, and pacing when it comes to effective communication. Ensure that your tone is appropriate for the audience; be formal when it calls for it and be casual when it’s appropriate. When it comes to volume, this depends on the number of people you’re addressing and the distance separating you from them. For a larger audience, a louder volume is expected than a few individuals in a room. Also, be sure to use a sufficient pace for the audience to understand what you’re saying.

  1. Use appropriate body language

Communication goes beyond the words we speak but encapsulates our body language. As such, it is crucial to regulate such aspects as body posture when standing or sitting. Also, maintain eye contact when communicating with a smaller group of persons and avoid any forms of distractions, especially from your phone, except in emergencies.

  1. Be approachable

Effective communicators don’t only keep up good skills in sustaining conversations but ate approachable for new conversational threads. Their ability to listen to others’ inputs makes them more open to conversation, encouraging their audience to step upo with new ideas, suggestions, and corrections, knowing such input would not be overlooked.

  1. Avoid uncontrolled emotion

Emotion can sometimes spill into communication, especially when, for example, you’re speaking about something you’re genuinely passionate about, and it’s easy for those emotions to affect your communication. Generally, it is safe to avoid such emotions as anger or frustration in your communication, especially in a formal setting. Be objective in presenting that viewpoint, as it would allow the audience to process your ideas objectively and find more appropriate ways to respond.

  1. Avoid Interrupting others

In conversation, there is an appropriate time to respond and an appropriate time to listen attentively. Effective communicators know when to respond and when to stay mute. It is imperative to allow others to air their minds before you present your viewpoint. This shows you’re respectful of the other’s opinions and are considering them.

 To wrap things up

Investing to better your communication can change your life. So, take conscious steps today to improve relationships and build trust as you create meaningful connections with others. Here’s a great blog post on using effective communication styles to run team meetings.

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