Learn how to communicate like a pro by changing your style!

Do your professional interactions go south quickly? Do you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, or resentful when you speak to your team about challenges? Does it feel as though your opinions and needs are pushed aside by bigger personalities?

If you're already screaming “yes, yes, and yes,” we hear you loud and clear. But do your colleagues? Learning about the core communication styles in the workplace, and how you can change yours, is the answer. So, what are the 4 types of communication styles and why do they matter? We've got you covered with everything you need to know.

Communication style 1: aggressive 

The aggressive communication style is defined as “expressing your feelings and opinions strongly and as they occur.” To put that into layperson terms, it means that you don't give pause between experiencing an emotion and sharing that with whoever is around you.

Of all the types of communication styles, this one can be seen as the most confrontational. For example, it often manifests as attacking, berating, threatening, or criticising. When you use this approach in the workplace, it won't get you far and could end in a disciplinary. 

Aside from being extremely direct and accusatory, this communication style often comes with a side dish of anger. You may get visibly annoyed when you're not getting your own way. Let's take a look at some of the phrases an aggressive communicator may use:  

“You've messed up this presentation. What's wrong with you?”

“I'm not leaving this meeting until you admit that I'm in the right!”

“You've missed a deadline again. You do this every single time.”

Communication style 2: passive

Next up in our list of the types of communication styles, we've got passive. People who gravitate towards this approach tend to be indifferent. You may be a “people pleaser” or perhaps a peacekeeper - always looking for the least confrontational approach. 

While you're unlikely to have arguments with your colleagues, you may equally find that they don't respect your opinions. You may find that people walk over you or fail to see your opinion - often people think that you're not putting it forward at all. You may use phrases such as: 

“I don't mind. You decide what deadline works best for the team!”

“It doesn't matter if you can't follow the guidelines.”

“I'm easy here - I will honestly just go with the flow.”

Communication style 3: passive-aggressive 

While passive-aggressive people may appear to “go with the flow,” they often build up a level of resentment towards those around them. This can bubble up to the surface, leading to not-so-nice remarks and comments. Alternatively, people who use this communication style may speak behind others' backs or secretly sabotage them to get their own way.

When we're talking about different communication styles, passive-aggressive is one of the most disruptive in a workplace. For instance, someone who chooses this style may start to spread rumours about their colleagues, be difficult to work with, or have a problem accurately sharing information. This individual may use the following types of phrases: 

“We can do it that way but I'm not sure that management will like it!”

“No worries! It's just that I'd cleared my schedule Thursday but we can do Friday.”

“Oh, I didn't know that you'd made a plan. No, I'm sure that will be fine.”

Communication style 4: assertive

Assertive communication is “expressing your point of view in a way that is clear and direct, while still respecting others.” That means telling people what you need from them without any anger or conflict. Your intent should be clear and direct, but never aggressive. 

As you might imagine, it's a hard line to walk. However, if you master the art of becoming an assertive communicator, you can ask for what you need without causing conflict. You can express your needs, desires, opinions, and emotions in a neutral way. That doesn't mean that you'll always get your needs met, but it does lead to healthy communication. With that in mind, here are some of the phrases that an assertive person may use: 

“Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I don't have time for this task.”

“Let's agree to disagree on this one and move on.”

“Next time, please let me know if you're not going to make the deadline.”

How to be assertive when communicating

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that assertive communication styles are the most effective. When you want to get your point across without ruffling any feathers, this is the way to go. If it's not your natural style, what can you do about it? We've got you covered. Here are some simple tips that will help you to become more assertive: 

Learn to say “no.” When you don't have the time to do something or really can't do that favour, be upfront and say “no.” The alternative is agreeing to an unmanageable task, resenting it, and becoming passive-aggressive or aggressive.

Pause before you respond. If you tend to be an aggressive communicator, you need to put some space between you and your emotions. When something (or someone!) has really got your goat, take a moment to breathe before you respond. 

Take ownership of your opinions. Assertive communicators are in control of their own mind and mean what they say. Rather than using passive statements - such as “it might be better if” - take ownership and say “I believe it's better if…”

Respect others when speaking. The main difference between being assertive and being aggressive is respect. When you're speaking with others, make sure that you are properly listening to them and taking care to understand their perspective.

Be polite but not a pushover. If you want to be an assertive communicator, a little politeness will go a long way. However, that doesn't mean that you need to undersell your point of view. Be clear about what you want, but polite when asking. 

The takeaway 

Understanding the communication styles in the workplace can help you to identify yours. The good news is that these styles are not static. You can absolutely change your approach for the better. If you aren't an assertive communicator - and you struggle to collaborate with others - switch things up. Reflect on the tips that we've shared in this guide.

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