Have you ever noticed how different people at work react differently to your attempts at communicating with them? Some take the time to listen and offer to help, while others instantly see the conversation as a matter of results and deadlines. Some need to hear persuasive arguments, while others would prefer to get your communication in writing to “think about it”.
These are some examples of the way the four different styles of communication, as described by Dr. Tony Alessandra, can behave in the workplace. Everyone has a primary communication method that may or may not work well with others’. Knowing your own primary communication style and understanding the other three can help you craft clearer messages that can be better understood by your colleagues, superiors and subordinates.
The four communication styles
The four communication styles are based on a combination of these temperaments: people-oriented, task-oriented, direct and indirect.
The first type is people-oriented and indirect: the Relator.
The Relator is someone who cares about others’ feelings more than tasks or effectiveness. A Relator generally prefers happy employees, sometimes at the cost of their productivity. Relators are usually easy-going, but they can be frustrating to work with if you’re more of a goal-oriented person.
If you’re a Relator, you like to make other people happy. However, some co-workers prefer to know what they have to do rather than talk about their feelings. Make sure you provide these people with clear instructions and expected results.
To communicate with a Relator, slow down your pace and don’t use logical arguments to sway them. Instead, give them time to think about the problem and make a decision. Asking for a Relator’s ideas and opinions is a good way to get him or her talking. With a Relator, you should seek mutual agreement on goals and deadlines.
The second type is people-oriented and direct: the Socializer.
The Socializer also likes to relate to other people, but they prefer a more direct and fast-paced approach. They’re the kind to organize the weekly happy hour or the best birthday parties for the boss. They definitely like to have fun, and will generally avoid tasks that require them to be alone.
If you’re a Socializer, you like to be around people and talk as you work. You work well in teams, but you prefer a fast-paced work environment. However, you must realize that some people may prefer more quiet spaces and some time to themselves. Acknowledge others’ people needs for time to make decisions and for working alone on a problem.
To communicate with a Socializer, you should talk in an enthusiastic and fast pace. Make sure you relate with them on social terms as much as professional terms. Even a few minutes chatting at the water cooler can make all the difference. You should always have them confirm agreements and to-do lists in writing because they can quickly forget what they discussed the day before.
The third type is task-oriented and indirect: the Thinker.
Thinkers take a slow approach to work and problem-solving. They tend to prefer working alone and put great importance on thoroughness and precision. They approach life from an analytical, logical angle, often at the cost of human feelings. They are slow to make decisions because they like to analyze all the relevant data before committing themselves.
If you’re a Thinker, you prefer working alone, ideally with a door you can close. You’re a data nerd and like to build spreadsheets and visual documents to help you conceptualize problems and make decisions. You focus on getting thing done, but you want them done the right way, which makes you slow and cautious. Remember that some people prefer emotional motivation to rational arguments; try to relate to people on personal terms rather than exclusively with data, goals and objectives.
To communicate with a Thinker, bring plenty of data with you. Focus on proof rather than emotional argument, and give him or her plenty of time to make a decision. Keep your voice soft and slow-paced. Follow oral information with written documentation, and make sure to adhere to deadlines. Try to steer away from asking them for decisions that involve risks.
The fourth type is task-oriented and direct: the Director.
The Director is well-known for getting results, but he or she tends to do so at the expense of the feelings of others in the organization. Directors are generally aggressive and competitive and are definitely more comfortable in management positions. They like to shape their work environment to suit their needs and help them get results, but they can often push away slower-paced colleagues.
If you’re a Director, you definitely like to get things done, and quickly. You’re decisive and direct, and you can be counted on to make split-second decisions. However, you find it hard to relate emotionally with other people and you get frustrated when they don’t keep up with your tornado pace. You need to consider that some people are emotionally invested in their work and like to know their colleagues personally before they trust them. Others also don’t do well with direct orders and prefer a team leader to a drill master.
To communicate better with a Director, avoid emotional arguments and long explanations. Speak in a fast pace and make eye contact. Get straight to the point and focus on results and objectives. Consider their viewpoint and show how your ideas will move his or her project or objectives forward.
Flexible communicators are good communicators
Communicating well with others in the workplace doesn’t mean you have to completely change your own communication style. Instead, you can make subtle changes to your voice tone and pace and to the contents of your communications to better suit the expectations of others.
Most important of all, you should always make sure the person has understood your message by getting them to confirm it in their own words. This way, you ensure that all information has been clearly communicated.
How have you learned to communicate better with colleagues, superiors and/or subordinates at work? Which style are you, and how do you think you could improve your workplace communication? Share your experiences with us in the comments!