With communication barriers costing organizations roughly $62.4 million in productivity per year, determining which communication style you or your coworkers fall under can guide your approach to working together, remove resistance between teammates, and keep projects moving forward without a hitch.
The 4 archetypes of communication styles
People communicate in a variety of ways but we can break it down into 4 behavioural styles: Directors, Socializers, Thinkers, and Relators. As outlined in The Platinum Rule by Anthony Alessandra, you can display traits of more than one type, but there’s usually one style that is dominant in every person.
At a glance, you’ll see that each style has its pros and cons impacting how effective you can be in a given business setting.
Directors can be seen as assertive and strong-willed, preferring clear and to-the-point responses over long-winded ones. While their strengths are being bold and influential, they can be perceived as demanding or domineering.
When collaborating, Directors can benefit from softening language, giving others time to speak, and providing their team with time to come to conclusions.
Think…Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada
Socializers are energetic and love being involved. Their spirit can energize teams but can also derail them especially if involvement isn’t necessary. What’s important for Socializers is being present and feeling seen and included in the process.
With a tendency to be conversational and friendly, it’s important to keep Socializers accountable and committed to tasks. Presenting them with broad facts, general updates, and verbalizing your opinions to them can create the sense of participation they crave. They may not be task-oriented or knees-deep in the nitty-gritty but rather appreciate being in the loop.
Think…Michael Scott from The Office.
Thinkers are methodical often needing time to process information. As a result, they may appear passive or disinterested. Their strengths are being detail-oriented, skilled at connecting the dots, and being driven by the “why”. Commonly perceived as introverts in the workplace, they can be powerful additions to your team.
Providing reference materials before a meeting or, creating opportunities to share ideas after meetings instead of on the spot are some ways to be inclusive of Thinkers on your team.
Think…Chidi from The Good Place
Relators want to please and support and are highly considerate. They are emotive and empathetic which enables them to build rapport. However, their tendency to please can make them conflict-avoidant. A common occurrence can be slowed decision-making as a result of their desire to include others in the process or, evaluate everyone’s feelings.
Therefore, relators may feel more at ease in less risk-averse or, steady environments. Reassurance like knowing they are on the right track, creating feelings of mutual agreement, closeness and anchoring them to the end goal are some ways to effectively work with Relators.
Think…Boyle from Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Communication Styles in Relation to Each Other
Another way to think about these 4 styles is by placing them on scales of directness to indirectness or, supportive to controlling.
Direct speakers are more likely to take charge, be fast-paced, or come across as aggressive while indirect speakers will tread with caution.
Supportive speakers are more people-oriented in their interactions compared to those who are task-oriented, placing them on the controlling side of the scale.
Now that you have some foundational knowledge of the communication styles, let’s uncover how you can leverage this information.
How to leverage your understanding of communication styles in the workplace
We all face challenges when working with people. In fact, YOU may be a difficult person to others at one point or another.
Don’t let this framework limit your perception of people but rather think of it as a tool to help guide your stakeholder relationships and improve communication. After all, companies with leaders who are effective communicators have 47% higher returns.
Understand your shortcomings to improve communication
Starting with yourself, identify what your dominant communication style may be. Are you more of a Director, Socializer, Thinker, or Relator? Knowing what type of communicator you are can identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Armed with an awareness of your tendencies or preferences, you can work on altering the aspects of your style to be productive while working with others.
Be adaptable to build better relationships
Once you recognize your style, you can begin working on adaptability. This doesn’t mean foregoing who you are but rather working towards being a better collaborator through cognitive, emotional, and personality adaptability.
For example, if you are working with a Socializer, then appeal to their preferences by opening a meeting with conversation before getting down to business. Or, if you find yourself working with a Director then appeal to their time-sensitive nature by reducing small talk and being a bit more straightforward. Like Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory, a slight tweak to your style of communication can go a long way in building your relationships.
Expand your definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion
We know how diversity training is essential to business. The conversation of DEI often revolves around somewhat visible factors like gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or age. Communication style is a quintessential part of how people show up every day and is influenced by a variety of factors that make up who we are.
One of the principles of workplace psychological safety notes that people shouldn’t feel rejected by others for their differences. Creating an inclusive work environment means that we also honour various communication styles. With an understanding of this, you can promote workplace inclusivity and cooperation.
Ultimately, it’s about becoming an effective communicator for growth
Effective communication promotes understanding, collaboration, productivity, relationship-building, and trust. That sounds like a bunch of buzzwords but quite literally every aspect of your job no matter your title or seniority. By learning about communication styles, you can instill acceptance in your team and improve communication across your organization.