What’s your communication style? How do you get your message across and obtain the information you need?

There are 3 Communication Styles. According to Ruth Sherman, a consultant, communications expert, author and speaker, those 3 styles are:

  • Aggressive,
  • Passive, and
  • Assertive

There are 4 Communication Styles. Communications expert and New York Times best-selling author Mark Murphy has identified 4 types of communication styles: 

  • Analytical,
  • Intuitive,
  • Functional, and
  • Personal

There are 5 Communication Styles. Psychologist and speaker Claire Newton posits that there are 5 types of communication styles:

  • Assertive,
  • Aggressive,
  • Passive-aggressive,
  • Submissive, and
  • Manipulative

But, wait, there’s more! Well-established formal personality and behavioral assessments, such as the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory and the DISC assessment are used by professionals all over the world to glean information that is designed, in part, to help their subjects improve the ability to communicate effectively. Each of those assessments is based on a different model of human behavior and interaction and uses terminology unique to that model.

So, who has the answer? Is there a right way to communicate?

It is safe to say that there is no one “right” way to communicate that is effective all the time. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses depending upon the setting, the topic and the parties involved. Instead, this dizzying array of theories, models and descriptions of communication styles demonstrates the different ways of approaching a particularly complex topic and the continued fascination of humankind with creating harmonious relationships with those around us.

What Is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is about more than the simple exchange of information. In a 2015 article co-authored by Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Melinda Smith, M.A., the writers emphasize that effective communication is also about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. “It’s not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood.”

Why Effective Communication Matters

Communicating effectively is so important, say Robinson, Segal and Smith because it:

  • allows you to grow and nurture professional relationships,
  • makes it easier for you to work with others and make decisions as a team,
  • helps you solve the inevitable challenges that will arise, and
  • enables you to communicate unpleasant messages without creating conflict or undermining trust.

In other words, learning to communicate effectively is a springboard to better relationships, better work product and lower stress.

Flex Your Style for the Most Effective Communication

It could be argued that, since there is no one “right” way to communicate, there’s no point in spending time learning about your style of communication. After all, each style has its own strengths and weakness and no one can truthfully say that one is always better than the other.

On the contrary, it’s helpful to be cognizant of those strengths and weaknesses so that you can adjust your communication style to the situation at hand. Not every communication style is appropriate for every situation. Like you, those around you have communication preferences and it pays to be aware of them so you can work seamlessly with others.

If you’re resistant to the notion that you can change your approach, consider this:

  • There’s no need to change your personality, values, likes or dislikes. You are not changing YOU, you’re just tweaking your approach so that you can be more effective, which helps you achieve your goals.
  • Perhaps without even realizing it, you already adjust your style naturally in certain situations. Think about how your behavior changes whether you are at a business meeting, a funeral, hanging out with your friends or speaking to a toddler. It’s not a huge stretch to consciously adapt your approach to accommodate others’ preferences and ensure your communication is fully received and understood.

Start by considering your own style of communication as well as the two or three people you work with the most. Making the effort to compromise your approach to communication may reduce the chance that you have to compromise on something you consider truly important.

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