Common communication styles: Communication in the Workplace

Common Communication Styles: Communication in the Workplace

Good communication is at the heart of any successful business. This is particularly true in a world where team members are becoming increasingly dispersed, due to the rise of remote and hybrid work. In order to enable collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation, business leaders need to invest in the right tools and processes to bring people together.

However, before you begin searching for the right technology, it’s worth developing a clearer understanding of the most common “communication styles” in the modern workplace.

After all, everyone has their own way of connecting with others. Leaders with a deeper understanding of how their teams manage communication, can more effectively pave the way for a strong company culture, better efficiency and improved teamwork.

What are Communication Styles?

Our communication styles refer to how we generally share thoughts and feelings with others. Different situations often call for specific communication styles. For instance, if a business leader needs to provide instructions to a team, they would take a more “assertive” approach to communication, perhaps sending a clear list of instructions to each employee.

Alternatively, in day-to-day conversations, we may adapt a more “passive” communication style, simply absorbing information presented to us without any specific urgency.

Communication styles are dynamic, they can be adapted to suit different scenarios and types of employees. In some cases, professionals may combine multiple styles of communication into one conversation, based on the flow of the discussion.

What are the 4 Types of Communication Styles?

For the most part, communication styles are broken down into four primary categories. However, some experts believe there is an additional communication style worth mentioning (we’ll come back to that later). Let’s take a look at the four most common styles.

1. The Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communication style

The assertive communication style is considered to be one of the most effective, as it concentrates on conveying information in a confident manner, without being overbearing or aggressive. A person with an assertive communication style is clear in their meaning and convictions, but they don’t attempt to steamroll a conversation or take over a discussion.

Assertive communicators don’t manipulate or talk over others, but they do make sure their voice is clear and heard. A hallmark of assertive communication is the use of “I” statements.

For instance, an assertive communicator may say “I believe we should do this next…” rather than stating “this might be the right next step…”.

Assertive communication is often recommended in most business settings, as it’s calm, measured and often handled positively.

How to encourage assertive communication: 

  • Help employees to speak with confidence: Give every employee respect when they say their piece, and ensure everyone feels heard. Don’t belittle genuine opinions.
  • Open the door to multiple forms of communication: Allow assertive communicators to decide how they want to connect with a colleague. Private messaging and video conferencing can be extremely useful for an assertive communicator.
  • Look at verbs: Watch out for employees using  uncertain terms like “could” or “should”. Encourage them to stick to assertive verbs like “will”. “I will take the lead on this project” rather than “I could lead this project.”

2. The Aggressive Communication Style

Aggressive communication style

The aggressive communication style can be helpful in some situations, but it’s often perceived as hostile and threatening. Unlike an assertive communicator, an aggressive communicator doesn’t use positive language, or address concepts from a team perspective. They focus mainly on achieving their own goals, and often believe they’re right, and other people are wrong.

The biggest problem with aggressive communication is it often limits listening. Aggressive communicators speak in loud and demanding voices. They attempt to dominate and control others with blaming, intimidation or criticism.

Too much aggressive communication in the business landscape can lead to problematic relationships between employees, as well as HR disputes. It can also mean that other employees become more “passive” in their communication style, to avoid altercations.

How to reduce aggressive communication:

  • Create a culture of listening: Ensure everyone in your team has the same opportunity to speak. Messaging apps can be extremely useful for placing everyone on the same page.
  • Minimize harassment: Monitor signs of aggressive behavior in your communication apps and platforms. Speak to employees who appear to be overtly harassing others.
  • Turn down the volume: Modern communication tools like Brosix are often quite effective at fighting back against aggressive communication styles, as they ensure everyone has a space to maintain an equal voice. Messaging platforms don’t permit one person to speak over another.

3. The Passive Communication Style

Passive communication style

The passive communication style is unfortunately one of the most common in business settings. Although passive communicators rarely end up in altercations with other colleagues, they also rarely share their genuine input, which can prevent a business from evolving.

Passive communicators simply absorb what’s going on around them, and agree with what’s being said to keep the peace, even if they don’t believe a suggestion is correct. Frequently, passive communication can lead to built-up resentment and misunderstanding in a company. In many situations, even though passive communicators don’t speak up for themselves, they still feel isolated or unhappy in the workplace, because they aren’t heard.

The most common reason passive communication reigns in a business environment, is because professionals don’t feel comfortable speaking up for themselves. Consequently, business leaders should focus on creating a safe, convenient space for communication, where everyone can talk freely.

How to reduce passive communication:

  • Encourage everyone to speak up: Ask everyone to take part in group meetings and conversations. Pay close attention to people who tend to hang back and stay quiet.
  • Listen: Make sure you listen to employees when they say no, or tell you they can’t do something. Don’t punish employees for being truthful or honest.
  • Break the ice: Bring people together regularly for culture and community-building conversations. A chat room can be an excellent place to support smooth conversation.

4. The Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

Passive-aggressive communication style

Passive aggressive communication can be difficult to understand on the surface. Most of the time, these professionals act a lot like passive communicators, failing to make their voices heard when given the opportunity. However, they may make a lot of sarcastic comments which can make them appear aggressive to other employees.

Passive-aggressive communication styles can often be very toxic in the workplace, as they tend to spread resentment and discontent across teams and departments. Many passive aggressive communicators will complain about a person or idea behind-the-scenes, rather than talking about how they actually feel in front of everyone.

While many other forms of communication can seem appropriate at times, there are no instances where passive-aggressive communication is beneficial for anyone involved. If people in your organization communicate in this way, they may need to adjust their behavior.

How to reduce passive aggressive communication:

  • Pay attention to what’s going on behind the scenes: Make sure you’re monitoring not just group chat sessions, but individual conversations, for signs of passive aggressive activity.
  • Support open communication: Ensure everyone in your team feels as though they can be honest without any repercussions. This should reduce passive aggressive behavior.
  • Deal with passive-aggressive actions: Encourage employees to report passive-aggressive behavior to leaders. Supervisors and managers can speak with passive-aggressive communicators to get to the core of the problem.

What is the Manipulative Communication Style?

While most forms of communication will fall into one of the four categories listed above, there are instances wherein you might notice another kind of communicator: the manipulator. The manipulative communication style is one of the most problematic in a business environment. It doesn’t necessarily evolve aggression, or passive behavior, but it can spread unease all the same.

Manipulative communicators rarely say what they’re actually thinking. They instead use guile and deceit in order to control the outcome of conversations. This style of communication is often seen as insincere and patronizing by most members of staff.

When employees feel they’ve been “manipulated” by another colleague, their trust in that individual will dwindle, and they may avoid connecting with them in the future.

It can be difficult to handle a person with a manipulative communication style, as it’s not always clear that someone is being manipulative until their behavior is highlighted by someone else.

Some strategies you can try to help manage manipulative communication include:

  • Encouraging honest communication: Push everyone in your team to be direct about their wants and needs as openly and honestly as possible. Don’t reward manipulative behavior.
  • Watch for signs of discontent: Look out for signs of employees avoiding communication with other members of staff. Ask them why they’re withdrawing from this individual.
  • Steer employees towards assertive communication: Rather than responding to manipulative communicators with criticism, use patience and encourage them to speak more openly in the future. Highlight how their behavior is harming them, and the business.

What is the DISC Model for Communication?

Over time, most business leaders develop a clearer understanding of how the people in their organization tend to communicate. The more you know about your team’s communication styles, the more you can steer people away from passive-aggressive, passive, and aggressive behaviors, towards a more assertive style of communication.

However, it can also be helpful to use assessment tools to glean a deeper understanding of your employees. The DISC profile is a common personality assessment used to identify the style of communication a person is most predisposed to. Millions of people have already taken the quiz in the past. Essentially, the assessment consists of four quadrants:

  • D: Dominance/Driver: Communication styles with a focus on results, the bottom line, and achieving a specific outcome. This is associated with aggressive and assertive communication styles. The key is to push employees towards assertive, rather than aggressive behavior.
  • I: Influence/Inspirational: Communicators with an influential or inspirational communication style focus more on building relationships and persuading others. This kind of communication is often associated with manipulative, or assertive communication.
  • S: Steadiness: People with a steady communication style are consistent and calm in the way they communicate. They focus on cooperation, honesty, and reliability. A high level of steadiness is important in an assertive communication strategy.
  • C: Conscientiousness/Contemplative: People who are contemplative are often better at listening to others, which can be ideal in an assertive landscape. However, they can also fall back and fail to voice their thoughts, making them a more passive communicator.

Asking employees to take the DISC profile assessment can provide them with a deeper insight into their own communication strategies, strengths and weaknesses. Based on the findings of each assessment, you may be able to provide individual guidance to each employee on how to overcome certain blind spots or issues with their communication process.

How Brosix Supports Assertive Communication

In most business environments, an assertive communication style is the most effective. It helps to ensure everyone can have a clear voice, and share their honest opinion. However, it can be difficult in a standard business setting for a business owner to consistently cultivate assertive communication. One option could be to provide business users with the right tools.

An easy-to-use instant messaging platform, like Brosix, for instance, can level the playing field for communication, helping everyone on your team to be more open and transparent. Passive communicators can avoid speaking to people in person if they are somewhat introverted, but still have a voice when it comes to making key decisions.

Aggressive communicators can be monitored, and their volume or hostile behavior can be reduced through the use of careful chatroom administration. Even passive-aggressive communicators are less likely to be a problem in an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts in the same, unique space. Companies can even use video and voice chat to listen for signs of passive-aggressive behavior or manipulation, so these issues can be followed up correctly.

While developing the right style and strategy for communication in your workforce may take time, starting with a comprehensive, holistic platform where everyone can talk freely and safely is an excellent start. Contact Brosix today to find out how you can start harnessing the most fruitful communication style.

Radina Skortcheva

Radina Skorcheva is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Brosix, specializing in Content marketing and SEO. Besides her passion for digital marketing, she likes traveling and spending time with her family. Connect with her on LinkedIn at @radina-skorcheva