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5 common communication styles in the workplace and how to deal with them

Posted by Shivali Anand

September 10, 2021    |     4-minute read (787 words)

We each have our own individual communication style, and that can make it difficult to clearly express ourselves to others or comprehend what a colleague or customer is really saying. These differences can foster misunderstandings and hard feelings at work. 

But if you get a firm grasp on how communication styles vary in the workplace, interacting with colleagues becomes much simpler. This blog offers a toolbox of methods for identifying and working with the five most-prevalent communication styles you’re apt to encounter at work. In the end, this will improve productivity and business outcomes.

How to engage with the classic communication types find in most workplaces

  1. Assertive communicators
In a professional setting, this is often considered the most effective type of communicator. Assertive communicators are self-assured yet not dismissive of other people's viewpoints. They can convey their point without being offensive. They excel at verbal and nonverbal communication, speaking clearly while maintaining direct eye contact. Assertive communicators ask listeners for feedback in a subtle way, such as, "I'd want to understand your ideas surrounding the client presentation since I don't think I got it right," or "I felt your revisions made the write-up more general."

 Tips for dealing with an assertive communicator:
  • Being a good listener.
  • Allowing them to think freely.
  • Coming up with solutions and confidently expressing them.
  • Being as precise as possible.
  • Clearly stating your points.
  1. Passive communicators
Passive communicators want to remain unseen to avoid conflict. They take a step back to maintain the peace and enable others to lead. But in so doing they may be hiding their true feelings and not speaking up for themselves. Their body language is the opposite of that of confident people. They may hunch their shoulders, keep their head down and avoid eye contact. This is not a desirable approach, especially for leaders and managers, because it is likely to be perceived as disinterest. This technique, on the other hand, may help win minor conflicts. A passive communicator may appease customers who are primarily interested in pursuing their own ideas.

Tips for dealing with a passive communicator:
  • Engage in one-on-one conversations with them.
  • Allow them to express their thoughts and wants.
  • Try not to disregard their ideas.
  • Be patient and don’t expect quick results.
  • Ask open-ended questions to keep them interested.
  1. Aggressive communicators
Aggressive communicators, marked by a craving for control and even hatred, do not believe in standing on the sidelines. They are usually preoccupied with their own opinions and pay little attention to other people's thoughts and feelings. To make sure they are heard, aggressive communicators may resort to a loud, hostile tone of voice. It's relatively uncommon for people with this communication style to order others around or dismiss their ideas outright. Aggressive communicators prefer to use dismissive statements such as, "It's a bad idea," or "I'm right, and you're wrong." An aggressive communicator can create a hostile work atmosphere if not managed appropriately.

Tips for dealing with an aggressive communicator:
  • Never retaliate if they are aggressive.
  • Establish clear expectations and explain why their behavior is unacceptable.
  • Emphasize the importance of listening to others' viewpoints.
  • Give them advice on how to control their rage.
  • If the situation becomes too harsh to handle, contact HR.
  1. Manipulative communicators
Manipulative communicators are skilled at influencing others with underhanded, indirect or deceptive tactics. If they aspire struggling for the same role as a co-worker, for example, they may attempt to feign disinterest or to discourage the other person from pursuing the position by saying something like, "This organization couldn't pay me enough to take that job." Colleagues frequently interpret this communication style as condescending and pushy, leading to resentment. But their capacity to influence others makes them beneficial in challenging customer situations, even if their conduct isn't ideal.

Tips for dealing with a manipulative communicator:
  • Be careful and vigilant.
  • Try to remain unmoved.
  • Maintain a firm, confident stance.
  • Be polite yet stern.
  • Stay on topic, and don't go off on tangents.
  1. Passive-aggressive communicators
On the surface, passive-aggressive communicators seem laid-back. However, they are typically unhappy and irritated behind the calm veneer. Sarcasm, subtle comments and the silent treatment may be deployed to communicate their underlying anger. When they don't get their way, people with this communication style may become cynical and gloomy or behave aggressively. They may search for methods to put people down, such as saying things like, "I'll figure it out myself like I usually do" or "Let's work on this if it makes you happy."

Tips for dealing with a passive-aggressive communicator:
  • Have face-to-face interactions.
  • Try to figure out what motivates them.
  • Do not retaliate by using similar behavior.
  • Define your boundaries.
  • Keep your cool.
  • Keep them engaged so they don't feel undervalued.

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