Do you often struggle to connect with certain people, no matter how hard you try? Maybe you aren't speaking the same "language." Yes, that's right! Every individual has a unique communication style that influences how they express themselves and perceive information from others.
In this blog, we'll explore the 5 communication styles and explain how to adapt to each, so you can build stronger relationships and enhance your overall communication skills.
Let’s get right into it.
What are communication styles?
Imagine a world where everyone speaks the same language but with a different accent, pace, volume, and gestures. That's exactly what communication styles are all about - the unique way we express ourselves and perceive information from others.
Whether you're a person who likes to get straight to the point with a straightforward tone or uses vivid expressions and gestures to emphasize your thoughts, your communication style sets you apart and makes you one-of-a-kind.
Every style consists of a multifaceted combination of verbal and nonverbal elements contributing to the overall message. Our facial expressions and body language can speak volumes, even when we're not saying a word. They can reveal our emotions, intentions, and even our level of confidence.
What are the 5 communication styles?
There are five types of communication styles. These are:
- Passive aggressive communication style
- Aggressive communication
- Submissive communication
- Manipulative communication
- Assertive communication
Why should you know your peers’ communication styles?
A workplace is a diverse environment. You’ll come across people with different communication styles. Some may prefer direct communication, while others may be more indirect and prefer to avoid confrontation.
While entering a new workplace, focus on analyzing the behavior of your peers and the way they communicate. That will help you predict how they would react in certain situations and ensure that the communication never escalates to a point where it becomes a problem. The more you understand your peers' communication styles in the workplace, the healthier relationships you can build.
Pay attention to how they respond to feedback, handle conflicts, and express their opinions. This will give you insight into their communication preferences and how they handle stress.
5 communication styles and how to adapt to them
As mentioned earlier, there are five communication styles. Let’s look at them in detail and start with the first one.
Passive aggressive communication style
Passive-aggressive communicators never express anything directly. They hide everything—their feelings, frustration, and opinions. Even if they convey dissatisfaction, they will do it subtly with a hint of sarcasm. These people can be tricky to read, as they speak ambiguously.
- Never speak directly.
- Use sarcasm or irony to mask their true feelings.
- Exert a sense of control over others.
- Never willing to take responsibility for their actions.
- Always prove to be unreliable.
- Talk behind other people’s backs.
- You avoid meeting deadlines because you feel your contributions are overlooked and then make silly excuses to get away.
- Make subtle hints of your dissatisfaction towards your team members but never truly open up about them.
- Being consistently late or not showing up to meetings or events you know your colleagues will be at.
- Being critical or dismissive of others' ideas or contributions while not offering constructive feedback or suggestions.
- Laugh at inappropriate times.
- Rolling eyes at people subtly.
- Avoid shaking hands while greeting someone.
- Sit/Stand with an asymmetrical posture. Example, one leg coming out of the chair while sitting, or one hand always kept at the waist while standing.
How it sounds to others
When someone uses passive-aggressive communication, it can come across as insincere, with hidden negative messages disguised as compliments or jokes. This can be difficult for the listener and can create a hostile atmosphere.
How to change your passive-aggressive communication style
If you are a passive-aggressive communicator, you’d know it. It’s safe to say that it’s not healthy for you and anyone around you. You can take these steps to change your style:
- Acknowledge when you're being passive aggressive, and take a moment to pause.
- Start taking responsibility for your actions instead of avoiding them.
- Talk to people directly and positively. Don’t be sarcastic. Even if you have a problem with someone, try to talk it out.
- Appreciate everyone’s ideas; even if you disagree, give proper reasoning to back it up.
How to deal with passive-aggressive communicators?
- Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself whenever you feel it is needed.
- Be very open about your discomfort with their behavior. Tell them to speak directly whenever you feel they are being sarcastic.
- Reach out to your seniors or colleagues for help if they refuse to change their behavior.
Well, you probably guessed this one already. Aggressive communicators use aggression to intimidate and control others around them. Almost everyone dislikes this behavior as it leads to a toxic environment and relationship breakdowns.
It's easy to identify people with an aggressive communication style, as they hardly ever try to hide it.
- Always speak in an unnecessarily loud and harsh manner.
- Bullying people around to assert their dominance.
- Unwilling to listen and accept negative feedback.
- Constantly interrupt or talk over others.
- Use threatening or aggressive body language, such as pointing or standing too close.
- Make personal attacks or insult others.
- You reject your colleagues’ ideas and often belittle them for even coming up with something you consider ‘stupid.’
- Your team failed to meet a deadline, and your manager called everyone involved to understand the issue. You immediately started blaming others for not doing their job correctly without hearing them out.
- You often raise your voice and use aggressive gestures when speaking to your team members, intimidating them and making them feel uncomfortable.
- You consistently make demands and ultimatums, expecting others to comply without considering their priorities or schedules.
- Looking at everyone with an ‘I’m better than you’ look.
- Frequent use of aggressive gestures such as pointing fingers or clenched fists.
- Using aggressive posturing, such as leaning forward or standing over others.
How it sounds to others
An aggressive communicator often comes off as demanding, intimidating, and very uncomfortable to talk to. It creates a very hostile work environment for people around, forcing people to stay quiet.
How to adjust your aggressive communication style
You will find that people often avoid interacting with you if you are an aggressive communicator. If they do, they keep the conversation very short.
An aggressive communication style can push people away from you and stop you from building meaningful relationships in the workplace. Consider taking these steps to change your style:
- As soon as your aggression builds up, try to control it.
- Try to be humble and polite with everyone.
- When someone speaks, let them finish. Don’t interrupt.
- Keep your body language and facial expressions in check. (Don’t point fingers at people. No one likes that.)
- Even if you disagree with someone, don’t disrespect them. Politely present the reasoning for your disagreement.
How to effectively work with an aggressive communicator?
- If you feel that someone is being aggressive, point it out immediately; tell them it's unacceptable, and they should be respectful.
- If they cut you off while speaking, tell them you are not finished, and politely ask them not to cut you in between again.
- If they tell you that their idea isn’t good enough, ask them why. They must give you a proper reason for it. You deserve to know.
- Chances are if they are aggressive with you, they are with others too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Submissive communicators give in quickly and find it hard to voice their opinions. They almost always put the needs of others before their own, as they feel it would please people the most.
Submissive communicators would give their all to avoid any potential conflict. The word 'no' doesn't exist in their dictionary, as they agree to everything they are asked to do. These types of communicators are usually dominated by those who have aggressive or manipulative communication styles.
- Always apologizes for one thing or another.
- Never make any decisions.
- Always avoid taking responsibility.
- Not very good at taking or receiving appreciation.
- Giving in to others' wants and ignoring one's own needs.
- Find it difficult to express emotions and desires.
- You already have enough work that seems impossible to complete within the deadline. When your manager tries to give you more work, you reluctantly accept it instead of telling them you do not have the bandwidth.
- A team member suggests a new idea for a project. Instead of providing constructive feedback or sharing your thoughts, you stay silent and let the conversation pass without expressing your opinion.
- You are unhappy with your salary, but instead of discussing it with your employer, you complain to your friends and family and blame them for not giving you a raise.
- You don't provide any inputs during meetings. You sit quietly and let others make the decisions.
- Almost non-existent in a group, sitting quietly in a corner.
- Don’t maintain a confident body posture.
- Avoid eye contact while speaking.
- Never say ‘no’ to anyone.
- Always run away from situations of conflict.
How it sounds to others
People often take advantage of those with a submissive communication style. These people are often seen as pushovers; others try to bend them to their will, knowing they won’t protest.
On the contrary, some people might also feel frustrated by their lack of participation, especially in projects where all minds need to brainstorm together.
How to adjust your submissive communication style
If your communication style is submissive, you will often find yourself in a situation where you’re doing something you didn’t want to. You might also feel you could have avoided this situation if you had spoken up. Here are a few points you can try -
- Try to be open about how much work you currently have.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help or support when needed.
- Try to voice your opinions and ideas more often. (You might feel that people aren’t interested in what you have to say, but they are.)
- Practice assertiveness in your communication by saying ‘no’ when you need to and clearly stating your boundaries.
- Work on building your confidence and self-esteem.
How to communicate with a passive communicator
- Constantly encourage them to speak up during meetings and get-togethers.
- Ask them how much work they currently have before giving them another task.
- They might just agree with everything you say, so double-check to ensure they are indeed on board.
Manipulative communicators use their communication skills to control and influence people to get what they want. They’d use flattery to maintain a healthy image or spread rumors behind your back. All this to get their way.
- They will always do things or use situations to gain an advantage.
- They will try to change the subject as soon as they feel caught.
- They may use emotional manipulation to gain sympathy or manipulate others into doing what they want.
- They may use fear or intimidation to control others and maintain power over them.
- They may isolate their targets from friends and family to increase their control and influence.
- Your entire team is working on a project, and it’s stuck because you haven’t finished your part. So, you manipulate the situation by blaming someone else.
- A new employee joins your team, and you instantly notice their submissiveness. You try to befriend them and influence them to get your way.
- You and your friend are competing for a promotion, and you use flattery and compliments to win over the decision-makers, hoping to gain an advantage over your friend.
- As a manager, you use fear and intimidation to control your employees and get them to work longer hours, even if it is against your company’s policies.
- Point fingers at others in an aggressive manner.
- Maintain a dominant posture while standing or sitting.
- Use intense eye contact to intimidate or control others.
- Lean into others or invade their personal space during conversations.
How it sounds to others
Team members often dislike manipulative communicators and show discomfort whenever they are around. They often doubt their intentions and feel violated if manipulative communicators don't mind their business.
How to adjust your manipulative communication style
A manipulative communication style won’t help you for long. As people get to know you more, they keep finding new ways to avoid working with you or even cutting you off entirely.
Besides, it won’t help you make any long-term healthy relations in the workplace. Try making the following changes in your behavior:
- Keep your intentions clear and practice open communication.
- When you work in a team, there’s no individual victory. If your team wins, you win too. Stop looking for ways to gain personal advantage.
- Try not to manipulate or gaslight people to have more control over them. For example, getting your peers to do your work without telling anyone.
- Listen actively and try to understand the perspectives of others.
- Be transparent and honest in your communication.
- Avoid using language that is deceitful or condescending.
- Seek common ground and work towards finding solutions that benefit everyone.
How to effectively deal with a manipulative communicator
- Set strict boundaries and do not let anyone cross them.
- Learn to recognize the signs of manipulation, such as flattery, guilt-tripping, or playing the victim, and avoid falling for their tactics.
- Try to maintain your composure when they use their tactics, and do not give in. That’s what they want.
- If they try to change a topic, point it out and ask them to give you proper clarification on the subject instead of avoiding it.
- Speak up and assert yourself when they try to manipulate you or others. Confidence and clarity are the keys to dealing with manipulative communicators.
- Keep a record of any instances of manipulative behavior to build a case if you need to escalate the situation.
- Reframe negative thoughts and recognize your strengths and value, to build confidence and resilience against manipulation.
Assertive communication is widely considered to be the best communication style. These people seek to establish mutual understanding and want everyone to cooperate healthily. They take the long route to do things right by everyone.
This communication style strikes a perfect balance between not speaking up for yourself and being too pushy. It's the sweet spot where you can confidently express your thoughts and feelings while still being respectful and considerate of others.
Assertive communication helps build strong connections with others and keeps conflict at bay. It leads to positive and productive interactions, making everyone's life easier.
- Always promoting a healthy environment in the workplace.
- Don’t shy away from expressing feelings and concerns.
- Even in disagreements, they never raise their voice or use a disrespectful tone.
- Take full responsibility for their actions while being honest whenever they fail.
- Encourage open and honest dialogue and actively listen to others.
- Are open to feedback and criticism and work on it.
- Can compromise and find mutually beneficial solutions.
- A team member fails to meet a deadline for a task tied to your workflow. Instead of scolding them for falling short, you listen to their problems and work together to get the work done.
- You disagree with a coworker about a project, but instead of avoiding the issue, you schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns openly and honestly.
- Your team has been under stress due to a heavy workload, but instead of complaining, you offer to help others with their tasks and create a positive organizational culture.
- In meetings, you actively listen to everyone’s opinions and try to see how effectively they can be incorporated into the workflow, promoting an open and inclusive work environment. (Especially for those who exhibit signs of a submissive communicator.)
- Relaxed and confident body language, avoiding nervous gestures like fidgeting.
- Always maintain eye contact while someone talks to them.
- Never show signs of aggression or discomfort through their facial expressions.
How it sounds to others
Their tone is firm but respectful, and their body language is open and approachable. Assertive communicators are not afraid to express their opinions and stand up for what they believe in, but they do so in a way that is not aggressive or dismissive of others.
This creates an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, where everyone feels heard and valued. People are drawn to their energy, and they build a positive and productive work environment that inspires and motivates others.
How to become a more assertive communicator?
Assertive communication is the most effective and positive communication style. People would not just love you but also want to acquire your character traits. When you encourage people to work together and listen to their problems to find a solution, you inspire them.
Here’s how you can become one:
- Listen actively to others and clarify their message to understand it better.
- Know what you want and your values so you can express them clearly.
- Stand up for yourself and share your thoughts and feelings honestly.
- Have confident body language, like eye contact and open gestures.
- Speak with conviction, using "I" statements instead of blaming others.
- Handle conflicts respectfully and constructively, looking for compromises and common ground
- Continuously evaluate and improve your communication style.
How to work effectively with an assertive communicator?
- Be honest and straightforward with them. They appreciate honesty and respect, so if you have a problem, voice it calmly and rationally.
- Don’t play games or manipulate them. They are good at detecting insincerity and will not be pleased if they feel they are being played.
- Give them credit for their contributions and acknowledge their successes. They put in the effort, and they deserve recognition for it.
- Compromise and seek common ground. They are solution-oriented, so be willing to listen and find a mutual solution.
- Maintain open lines of communication. Regular check-ins and open dialogue will keep the relationship healthy and productive.
How to improve your communication style
If you feel the need to improve your communication style, don't worry - it's possible to become more assertive. Out of the five communication styles, four of them tend to have a negative effect on relationships and interactions. But, assertiveness is considered the most positive and effective way to communicate. Here's how you can work on being more assertive:
Understand your values and goals: Take some time to figure out your goals and what's important to you in different situations.
Speak your truth: Be confident and honest when sharing your feelings and ideas. Avoid being aggressive or passive.
Use confident body language: Stand tall, make eye contact, and use open gestures to show confidence.
Avoid passive language: Use "I" statements instead of blaming or pointing fingers at others.
Handle conflict positively: Seek compromises, address concerns respectfully, and work towards finding common ground.
Keep improving: Regularly reflect on your communication style and make changes as needed.
Listen actively: Pay close attention to others and try to understand their point of view before sharing your thoughts.
By following these steps, you can gradually become a more assertive communicator and improve your relationships and interactions.
Communication is the cornerstone of every relationship. With a deeper understanding of how we convey our thoughts and emotions, we have the power to elevate our relationships to new heights. By delving into our own unique communication style, we embark on a journey of self-discovery and have the opportunity to craft more meaningful and impactful connections.