This is the first in a two-part series about communication skills in the workplace. Part I discusses how people speak. Part II discusses how people think.
Being able to communicate effectively in a work environment is key to your professional success and the success of your company. However, a lot of us don’t take the time to understand the way we communicate, much less how those around us communicate.
James Humes, a notable author and presidential speechwriter once said, “The art of communication is the language of relationship.” And this holds especially true in the workplace, as we may have to build and maintain relationships with people who have very distinct ways of communicating.
So, are you interested in learning how to communicate more effectively at work? If so, then you can watch the short video below or read on for more detail about a system that you can use to be a more effective communicator.
Here are some additional facts that emphasize the importance of communication:
- 93% of the impact you say is NOT based on the words you use.
- 86% of the time, people will trust what they hear in the tone of your voice over your actual words.
- 14% of each 40-hour work-week is wasted due to poor communication between staff and managers.
Surprised? Well, don’t worry. You can work on understanding and improving your communication skills in order to put your best foot forward in any situation!
Before we get into the different communication styles, It’s important to note that communication is made up of various factors besides the words we use. Other factors we should pay attention to when referring to communication are the way a message sounds, body language, and personal space.
Now, onto communication styles.
We all have a communication style based on different characteristics of our personalities. Some of us are very direct, others are very expressive, some of us are highly assertive, and others are less assertive.
The problem is we communicate in our preferred style. In other words, if our preferred style is to be very direct, then we communicate in that style – even if the person we’re talking to doesn’t like to be communicated with in that style. Although it’s great to express ourselves in the way that is most reflective of our personality, when it comes to building effective relationships in the workplace, this may not be the most coherent method.
Dr. Eileen Russo developed a matrix which highlights the different styles based on a spectrum of expressiveness and assertiveness. The X Axis of the chart shows llow expressiveness on the left and leads to high expressiveness on the right. The Y Axis shows low assertiveness at the bottom and high assertiveness at the top.
Each of these traits combine into certain styles in each quadrant – direct, spirited, systematic, and considerate. If you’re highly assertive and are not very expressive, you’re in the direct quadrant.
If you have low assertiveness, but are very expressive, you’re in the considerate category. If you have both low expressiveness and low assertiveness, you are systematic. Conversely, if you are highly assertive and highly expressive, you are spirited. You get the gist?
I’ve described the different communication styles in more detail below for a more holistic understanding of each one. *As a disclaimer, the examples listed were placed in each category based on how I’ve seen them communicate with others. If you disagree, let me know in the comments where you would place them instead.
The 4 Communication Styles
1. Direct (High Assertiveness & Low Expressiveness)
People who fall into the Direct category tend to be clear speakers with an air of confidence. They are good decision makers and tend to be highly efficient when it comes to completing tasks.
Examples of people who exhibit this communication style include Steve Jobs, Margaret Thatcher, and Whoopi Goldberg.
2. Spirited (High Assertiveness & High Expressiveness)
People who fall into the Spirited category are great storytellers who are able to generate enthusiasm in the people who surround them. They are also highly creative thinkers who express themselves through being visually and vocally energetic.
Examples of people who exhibit this communication style include Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones, and Seth Grayson from House of Cards.
3. Considerate (Low Assertiveness & High Expressiveness)
People who fall into the Considerate category usually focus on building authentic relationships and being active listeners. They are approachable and reliable, and tend to be seen as great team players.
Examples of people who exhibit this communication style include Nelson Mandela, Marie Kondo, and Aragorn from Lord of the Rings.
4. Systematic (Low Assertiveness & Low Expressiveness)
People who fall into the Systematic category are very precise communicators and are able to remain calm and collected under times of pressure. They are also good listeners who seek information and are very well organized.
Examples of people who exhibit this communication style include Denzel Washington, Angela Merkel, and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter.
Understanding your own communication style is key to seeing how you come across to others and also helps you adjust the way you interact to resonate better with your colleagues.
It’s important to understand which style is your style. But, it’s more important to understand your co-worker’s style. By understanding if they’re direct, spirited, systematic, or considerate, you can adapt your communication style to match the way they like to receive information.
So, how do you identify someone’s communication style?
Although there is no definitive way to tell, you can observe their behavior over time. Pay attention to all of the aspects used in communication (words, the way messages come across, body language, and amount of personal space). And, of course, how expressive and assertive they come across.
How to Communicate with the Different Styles
- Direct (High Assertiveness & Low Expressiveness)
When communicating with a direct person, try focusing on the goals and objectives of the conversation while being direct with your word choice. Use facts instead of opinions and keep everything concise.
- Spirited (High Assertiveness & High Expressiveness)
When communicating with a spirited person, you’re going to want to give your personal opinions and inspiring ideas. Brainstorm together, be upbeat, and make sure to take your time on whatever you’re working on.
- Considerate (Low Assertiveness & High Expressiveness)
When communicating with a considerate person, make sure to focus on the relationship you have built together and be supportive of their feelings. Don’t be confrontational, as this can be intimidating. Instead, be relaxed and use a more informal approach.
- Systematic ( Low Assertiveness & Low Expressiveness)
When communicating with a systematic person, try to focus on facts instead of opinions, and be precise in your speech. You’re also going to want to be organized in whatever ideas you’re presenting, but make sure you give them time to process the information.
As a bonus tip, you can gage what communication style someone might have by their handshake. A direct person will have a firm handshake. A spirited person will have an enthusiastic handshake. A considerate person will have a gentle handshake, and a systematic person will have a brief handshake.
You can also take a look at a person’s workspace. If it’s cluttered, you may be dealing with a spirited person. Whereas an organized space indicates a systematic style. A considerate person might display personal photos, and a direct person may display their accolades proudly.
Of course, these tips are subjective, but I suggest you try them out and see what you think!
Whew, that was a lot! There’s so much more that goes into interacting with others than you might think. But, on the bright side, knowing this information can make things so much easier with the people that you work with and hopefully improve the dynamic of the office on a greater scale.
Remember, there’s low expressiveness and high expressiveness; and low assertiveness and high assertiveness. These combinations lead to certain communication styles which are direct, spirited, systematic, and considerate.
If you want to improve your communication skills at work, understand your co-worker’s personality and communicate to them in that style.
Also, if you liked the video above, make sure to subscribe to Jamie’s youtube channel for similar content.
What do you think is your communication style? Take a guess in the comments below!
About the Author: Francheska Rossi is a recent graduate from Emory University and marketing intern who is actively looking to land her first job in a marketing department or an ad agency. If you’d like to reach Francheska, you can send her an email at email@example.com or connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/anna-francheska-rossi