Ever think about your communication style? Maybe you’ve stepped back after someone told you that you were being passive-aggressive or longed to be assertive. Or maybe, just maybe, you haven’t thought of this!
Knowing your communication style might be more important than knowing your blood type (maybe). We spend most of the day communicating – and if you do it well, you can and will rise in your career, no matter what position or field you are in.
I was coaching a woman who was vying for a promotion at her work. One of the most stressful things for her was interpersonal communication. She felt like she just couldn’t figure out her coworkers and how to communicate with them, and this was leading to a lot of miscommunications and misunderstandings. She knew that she had to work on this area not only because it caused her a great deal of strife at work, but it also was brought to her attention by her manager: if she wanted the promotion, she had to be able to connect to the other folks she worked with.
Diving in, she started like many people, saying, “But I’m just not good at this!”
Ah! No one is unless they’ve been working on it.
We started to not only categorize her communication style, but also the styles of the people she worked with. There are four main communication styles:
You’re yielding to everyone else. You don’t often express yourself. Maybe you’re misunderstood a lot, avoid confrontation and have a lack of eye contact. You find it hard to say no; people say you’re easy to get along with because you go with the flow, and you’d rather keep the peace than speak up.
You’re loud, controlling, intimidating, and dominating. You have intense eye contact, get what you want with threats, criticism, attacks, and blame. Commands are your thing, as are rude questions and a lack of listening. You might think that you need to get your way, no matter what.
You’re bits of the last two. You’re passive on a surface but building resentment that leads to muttering, indirect communication, and difficulty hiding anger. Lack of communication is your MO – rumors behind someone’s back, the silent treatment, and a lot of veiled aggression.
You’re open, but not overbearing. You can express your needs AND care about others. You aim for both sides to “win,” and you care about the rights and well-being of others. “I” statements are often present, as you own your thoughts and feelings and don’t blame other people.
+Understanding your communication style as well as the communication styles of other people around you is crucial to good communication skills. Sure, we strive to be assertive communicators, but do you go into passive or passive-aggressive land when you’re dealing with people at work? Maybe you tap into aggressive when you are frustrated or angry, and you really would LOVE to be assertive, but you can’t figure out the difference between being direct and abrasive.
Here’s something to remember, no matter what: you can’t change how someone else communicates. You can only change how you respond to their communication. Spending hours on figuring out your communication style in multiple situations and emotions can only go so far. When you’re tapping into other communicators, here is a good rule of thumb:
When you’re communicating with PASSIVE communicators, it often helps to ask them to get back to you. You can give them some time to think, and a less confrontational response by using email communication versus in-person communication.
If it’s an AGGRESSIVE communicator, you’ll need to come in as directly as possible, and be prepared to ask them to stop doing what they are doing. Here’s another person that might be better dealt with over email, as you can craft your response after a bit of thought – and a bit of their cool down.
With PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE communicators, you want to treat them with the care of a passive communicator and the directness of an aggressive communicator. Ask them clearly what they want, and when they say it, go with it – if you leave spaces for their snarky comments, that’s all you’ll have to deal with.
Finally, ASSERTIVE communicators. Give them a high five and model your communication after their direct and empathetic style.