Understanding Communication Styles

Understanding Communication Styles

Kerrie Helmi

People have vastly diverse communication styles, and not all are compatible. That is, how one says something may not be the best way to communicate to a person or group. Or you may hear what someone says, but not necessarily what they mean. Basically, everyone may interpret the same message in very different ways, possibly resulting in conflict or failure of communication.

I have worked in client situations where someone was about to lose their job because they couldn’t get along with another person. When diagnosed, it became very clear that the main problem was different communication styles. I helped them understand their different styles and how that created miscommunication. Then I coached them how to accept the other person’s style and how to flex their own styles. The situation improved to the point where everyone was successful and developed positive working relationships.

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There is a straightforward assessment tool called “What’s my Communication Style?” available through HRDQ which can be used in group coaching or training. It highlights four basic styles, with the main differentiating factors being assertiveness and expressiveness.

The styles are:

- The Direct style (high assertiveness and low expressiveness) characterized by a decisive tone and an emphasis on the bottom line.

- The Spirited style (high assertiveness and high expressiveness) which has an animated style and can be very persuasive.

- The Systematic style (low assertiveness and low expressiveness) characterized by a precise speaking style with an emphasis on facts.

- The Considerate style (low assertiveness and high expressiveness) that features people who listen well and use supportive language.

Understand you may need to flex your style in certain situations and with certain people. For example, if your boss has a very direct style, learn to approach meetings with her with a similar direct style…get straight to the point. Think about your personal communication style and the styles of those you work closely with. Are styles getting in the way of business success? Given the importance of communication and the impact it has on your success, paying more attention to it is a vital investment of your time and energy.

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