Human communication is an innate ability that develops during the first months of a person’s life. Before learning a verbal language, infants as young as a few months old begin to manifest the need to communicate through contact and socialization with their parents (1). However, as we become adults, we find it difficult to maintain listening and pay attention to our partners. Evidently, this can interfere with our relationship with others (2).
In the workplace, we have the opportunity to deal with people who are all different from each other, and with different styles of communication from each other. The encounter between the various types of communication could sometimes create misunderstandings. For this reason, each of us should learn or improve our ability to adapt to our partners, so that the dialogue is effective, and the message gets across.
- Communication skills allow us to express exactly our needs and our emotions in the best possible way. At the same time, they allow us to establish connections and learn about the needs and emotions of others.
- Communication is a process of an exchange of information between two people. The conversational partners must conform to a set of socially accepted rules so that the message can be successfully transmitted without alterations.
- Each individual chooses a particular communicative style and very often, the meeting of two very different styles can impair the transmission of the message.
9 essential tips for adapting your communication style to each type of colleague
As noted, communication style varies from person to person. Each individual has a predominance toward a communicative style that directly corresponds to their character and personality traits. What can make the difference in the communicative exchange lies precisely in your approach and your ability to change your style depending on the person in front of you. Below, you can find a series of tips that will help you become a successful communicator at work.
1. Analytical communication style
When an analytical communication style predominates in the personality of the colleague you want to approach, you should always keep in mind that this person relies on empirical data and objective statements for all his/her decisions.
Although these individuals may appear cold and detract from the more emotional aspects of conversations, they are actually easy to approach.
Here’s what you may want to consider before initiating a conversation with an analytical communicator:
- Prepare the conversation in advance. Structure and organize it well according to the points to be explored.
- Present empirical data and numbers to support your thesis.
- Determination and firmness in presenting information will help you send your message clearly and without equivocation (3).
2. Personal communication style
The colleague who prefers personal communication is one who is dedicated to taking care of the personal connection with others. These people are empathetic and before even talking about a certain work topic, they want to know the emotions and point of view of the interlocutor. To meet the communication needs of this category of colleagues, we recommend:
- Show empathy. Through your tone of voice and gestures, you can show your interlocutor that you care about his/her feelings and emotions (3).
- Avoid coldness in communication. Try to establish a connection with the other person by caring enough to ask for his/her opinion.
- Prefer face-to-face conversations. Avoid written channels, where the tone of voice and body language cannot be exploited.
3. Intuitive communication style
These people like to have a general overview of the issue, without spending too much time on details. They tend to be people who prefer to save words and get straight to the point (3). They are schematic and prefer to interact with visual elements.
In most cases, they are very creative and use informal language and approach. Below, you can find some tips on how to approach this category of colleagues correctly:
- Make use of visual elements. Prefer graphics and images to present your ideas.
- Use informal and brief language. Remember that they want to get something at the end of the conversation and do not like to waste time.
4. Functional communication style
This communication style is typical for thinkers. This category tends to focus on objective analysis and rational connections between elements (4).
They love details and want to be aware of all the steps in a process, so what can we do to make communication with these colleagues effective?
- Prepare conversations in advance. Exactly as we would do with more analytical people, the information must be clear.
- Don’t rush. These interlocutors are big thinkers and need time to analyze the information and then make a decision.
- Provide lots of details. The more precise you are, the easier it will be for you to present your thesis.
|Analytical communication style||Personal communication style||Intuitive communication style||Functional communication style|
|Prepare the conversation in advance||Demonstrate empathy||Visual elements||Organise conversations in advance|
|Empirical data||Avoid coldness in communication||Informal language||Don’t rush|
|Determination and firmness||Face-to-face conversation||–||Provide details|
5. Passive communication style
These people express their intentions passively. They often remain silent and express themselves in a vague and indecisive manner. This frequently causes their interlocutors to misinterpret their words (3).
In addition, they may have difficulty expressing their thoughts or taking certain positions. How can this category of colleagues be managed?
- Opt for a one-to-one conversation. Very often, these peers get upset in the presence of many people. A one-on-one confrontation could facilitate communication.
- Use different channels of communication. Sometimes a written conversation can reduce tension and make the passive communicator feel more comfortable expressing his or her opinion.
- Be patient. Let them take their time to process their thoughts.
6. Passive-aggressive communication style
Unlike the passive style, in the passive-aggressive style, the careful choice of words used by the interlocutor does not correspond to his real intentions.
Contact with these people can cause a feeling of frustration, confusion, helplessness, or manipulation.
It can be a real challenge to communicate with these people, but here are some tips for dealing with them:
- Stay calm. First, it is essential not to get caught up in negative feelings and to speak clearly with your partner.
- Ask for his/her opinion. This can help reduce misunderstandings and generate a more honest conversation.
- Make clear requests. This tip will also help you leave no room for misunderstandings.
7. Aggressive communication style
People in this category tend to be direct and blunt. They very often interrupt their interlocutor at the expense of giving their opinion and like to be at the center of the conversation. Even their tone of voice reflects their desire to dominate conversations.
Here are some tips for communicating better with these colleagues:
- Keep your cool. First of all, don’t be intimidated by your interlocutor, constantly keep in mind the goal of the conversation.
- Set limits. If the interlocutor interrupts or invades the communicative space, rephrase the sentence reminding him/her to respect your turn to speak.
- Assertiveness. Feel free to express your opinion and contradict the interlocutor, always keeping calm and professional.
|Passive communication style||Passive-aggressive communication style||Aggressive communication style||Assertive communication style|
|Individual conversation||Staying calm||Staying calm||Active listening|
|Different channels of communication||Ask for their opinion||Set limits||Ask without fear|
|Patience||Clear requests||Assertiveness||Empathetic and direct|
8. The solution: the assertive communication style
This style of communication is considered the most versatile and suitable for all situations.
Being assertive means being balanced, not being afraid to make requests, as long as they are reasonable and respect other communicators.
Assertive people can be clear and direct, without neglecting the emotional aspect of relationships with colleagues.
They apply active listening and are not afraid to admit their limits and ask for help in times of difficulty.
9. Principles of assertiveness in communication
Assertiveness involves an internal dialogue focused on problem-solving in the moment. To address the different levels of communication seen above, you should always start with the following questions:
- What do I want to get out of this situation?
- What do I think others want from this conversation?
- What can I say or do to get the result I am looking for and preserve the dignity of everyone involved (4)?
Professor Dalton Kehoe explains that answers to these internal questions are communicated to the other person through a firm but pleasant tone of voice, direct eye contact and appropriate facial gestures. In addition, a confident body posture and controlled body movements will enhance communication (4).
Why are communication styles so important?
Adapting your communication style to different categories of colleagues may seem like a difficult task.
However, remember that each response is subjective and varies according to the type of interlocutor we have in front of us. As a person and as a colleague, being able to adapt your style to that of others will make your life much easier.
It will allow you to deliver your message effectively. Knowing your interlocutor’s style will make it easier for you to predict their responses in order to find an agreement that satisfies both parties. It will also increase the chances that your colleagues will understand all your instructions and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
Learning effective and assertive communication
If you want to learn some communication techniques that you can use in both family and work life, we recommend this Udemy course. It is organized in video lessons and you will be awarded a certificate at the end.
Effective and assertive communication
With this course, you will be able to improve your communication skills and learn how to resolve conflicts in the work environment. In addition, it will give you the tools to enrich your interpersonal relationships with those around you.
Learning communication in the 21st century
As we have seen, communication is an innate process that changes and evolves throughout our lives. However, it is not only the passage of time that influences its change, but also factors external to us.
Workplace communication in the 21st century
Technology has brought about so many changes in the way we communicate. Everything has changed drastically and the channels of communication have become innumerable. With this Coursera course, you will learn how to adapt your style to the new communication channels of the 21st century.
There are many communication styles and each person is different. Each individual has a set of beliefs, culture, prejudices, and thought patterns. The combination of these factors directly affects the communication style. However, the most important thing to remember is, above all, that each person is different from ourselves. In the workplace, as well as in other places, we will always have to deal with people who differ from our style of thinking.
The sole responsibility for the effective transmission of the information rests solely with us. If we want to improve communication and want to start getting the desired results, we will have to learn to adapt and become more aware of the communication styles of others.
But, foremost, we will have to go on a journey of introspection and analysis to get to know how our personal communication style works.
1. Muriel James, Dorothy Jongeward. In: Born to win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments. Penguin Publishing Group; 1978. p. 70-. 
2. Ian Tuhovsky. In: 21 Days of Effective Communication: Everyday Habits and Exercises to Improve Your Communication Skills and Social Intelligence. Createspace Independent Publishing Platf; 2018. p. 7-.
3. Elizabeth Kuhnke. In: Communication Skills For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2013. p. 124-. 
4. Dalton Kehoe. In: Effective Communication Skills. THE GREAT COURSES; 2011. p. 24-.