Types of communication styles
What are your goals? Do you want to rise up the ranks at your company, or branch out and start your own business? Are you focused on becoming a better provider for your family?
No matter if your goals are related to your career, family, health or finances, you have to realize one important thing: You’ll never get what you want unless you learn how to unlock the power of communication styles.
Being a powerful communicator doesn’t mean you speak the loudest or most often; rather, you are getting your message across clearly and also taking in the messages you’re receiving from the people around you. You rely on deep listening tactics, such as maintaining eye contact and reading nonverbal cues, and you’re aware of the different communication styles and which one you naturally use.
So what is a communication style, and how can you leverage yours to launch your career to the next level? When you can identify your own communication style and those of others, you’ll not only maximize your own communication but also increase your ability to build rapport and influence others.
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What is a communication style?
Communication styles are the characteristics and patterns we fall back on when we communicate with others, both verbally and nonverbally. Everyone operates on patterns – our daily rituals, our inner self-talk and our habits are all patterns. These patterns are all learned, including communication. No one is born knowing how to give an amazing TED Talk. Our communication styles are influenced by our personalities, experiences and beliefs about the world.
Some styles are toxic while others are healthy and positive. It’s essential to understand the different communication styles so that you can change yours if you’re stuck in a negative pattern.
Different communication styles
Now that we’ve answered the question “What is a communication style?,” it’s time to identify your own. There are four main communication styles that most of us fit into.
Of all the types of communication styles, aggressive communicators are the most recognizable. They’re the loudest person at the party. They talk over others and it seems to always be about themselves. They make intense eye contact and feel like they’re crowding your space. They speak in commands and never seek consensus. These people may get their way in the moment, but ultimately aggressive communication is a losing style because you never truly connect with others.
The passive communication style is the exact opposite of aggressive. These are the quiet “wallflowers.” They slouch, turn away and don’t make eye contact. They are agreeable and unable to say “no.” It’s not that they don’t have emotions and opinions – they’re not able to express them due to limiting beliefs that tell them their own thoughts don’t matter. While this may not seem bad, passive communicators often have built-up resentment that can pour out at any moment.
When the resentment of passive communication styles comes out, you get the passive-aggressive communicator. These people often “joke around,” but are actually saying hurtful things. They avoid conflict at all costs. They roll their eyes and use sarcasm frequently. Rather than expressing their emotions, they expect others to read their minds and get upset when there’s a lapse in communication. Passive-aggressive communication is no way to go through life.
Assertive is the healthiest type of communication style. Assertive communicators are able to recognize their own emotions and express them in a healthy, confident way. They use “I feel” statements instead of being accusatory. They let others speak and listen deeply when they do. They have a healthy ability to say “no” and take time for themselves. And they respect the opinions of others. It’s easy to see why the assertive communication style is the most effective in relationships and at work.
Metaprograms and communication styles
In addition to the different communication styles, our patterns of communication also include metaprograms. These are the different ways that people process information and they are the key to unlocking influence and getting what you want at work. These powerful internal programs influence our thoughts and directly affect our behavior. Once you understand the six different metaprograms, you can get a better read on your audience and immensely improve your communication style, which ultimately helps you to not only connect with others, but achieve your goals.
Moving toward or away
Human behavior can be divided into two categories: Those who avoid pain and those who pursue pleasure. Which one are you? Are you moving toward something or away from something? Imagine two people who book train tickets for their next journey. The first person bought a train ticket to get to their destination because they’re extremely afraid of being in an airplane – they’re avoiding pain. The second person decided to travel via train because they want to enjoy the journey. They’re looking to gain pleasure from taking in the local scenery and enjoying a good book during the ride.
As you look at the types of communication styles, ask if those you’re speaking to are moving toward or away. A rule of thumb is to ask what that person wants. If they start listing things they don’t want – they don’t want to fail, they don’t want to be stuck in the same dead-end job – or talking about what they do want – a family, to succeed at their job – then you’ll know how to direct the conversation.
Internal and external frames of reference
What drives you? When you accomplish a goal, is it enough for you to tell yourself you did something amazing, or do you seek validation from those around you? Everyone looks at the world from either an internal or external frame of reference. Internal people are able to evaluate whether they did a good job or not themselves, while external people seek praise elsewhere.
When matching your communication style to someone who has an internal frame of reference, appeal to the things they know about themselves. Tie your communication to a personal fact you already know about that person. Those with an external frame of reference want to hear more about what their peers think about a given program or decision.
How people sort themselves
We all sort ourselves in two distinct ways: we either self-sort or sort by thinking about others. Self-sorters look at an interaction or decision and think, “What’s in it for me?” Someone who sorts by thinking of others responds to questions by wondering how it will affect those around them.
Both categories have their strengths and weaknesses. If your primary role involves hiring people, you need to think about these different communication styles during interviews. Is a self-sorter the right fit for a team-oriented position? Do you think they’ll stay with your company for the long run? Or does someone who thinks about others appeal more to your business and its future growth?
Matching or mismatching
When presented with new information, people can think of a variety of ways to interpret it. No matter how many references come into their mind, they will always do one of two things: match or mismatch. Matchers look for sameness in the world; they want to understand how things relate to each other.
Mismatchers, on the other hand, see how things are different. If you’re looking to be persuasive with someone, you want to see things through their eyes and adjust your communication style in a way they can relate to, whether it’s via matching or mismatching.
Have you had a relationship, be it romantic or platonic, in which you had to repeatedly let that person know you were there for them? Even if you told them every day that you wanted to support them, they consistently needed the reassurance. There are other people in your life who developed a deep bond with you on the day you met. The connection was established immediately and they knew from the start that they felt comfortable trusting you.
Part of establishing trust, or being able to convince someone, is sensing the different needs of different people. If you’re selling someone a product, and they trust you immediately, you know you’re going to be able to do your job. On the other hand, if you sense you’re with someone who needs more convincing, turn to the other metaprograms and see if you can use one of them to identify their communication style and develop a bond.
Possibility vs. necessity
The last metaprogram that dominates the different communication styles is the principle of possibility vs. necessity. Some people are driven by possibility; they make choices based on what they want to do and are hopeful about pursuing the unknown. Those who make decisions based on necessity do things because they feel they have to. People who are driven by a feeling of necessity are trustworthy and predictable. Both types of people have their virtues, but in order to get your message across to either one, it helps to identify who is who.
The key to getting what you want out of life is not only working toward your goals, but in communicating with those around you. Your message will resonate more intensely if you’re able to decipher which communication styles people rely on. You also can’t underestimate the power of body language. When you’re speaking to someone, think about your presence. Are you maintaining eye contact? Are you establishing a connection by leaning in and creating a welcoming space? Make it a habit to deliver firm handshakes and to stop fidgeting.
All of these nonverbal modifications, and a deep understanding of communication styles, will help to establish yourself as someone who is confident, smart and capable. Once you’ve refined your communication skills, you can utilize them to help you reach your goals.
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