Coworkers Communication Styles

How to Navigate Your Coworkers’ Communication Styles?

It’s easy for conflict or misunderstandings to occur when people have different communication styles. We can easily see examples of this intercultural communication, when people from diverse backgrounds come together and misunderstand one another.

In the workplace it can help us to understand the characteristics and tendencies of different coworkers communication styles. So you can effectively interact with someone who has a different background, culture and/or style and be more productive as a team.

Why is it important to understand communication styles?

workplace communication styles

Because knowing how to communicate with people with different communication styles is critical for promotions, sales, negotiation, job interviews, working relationships and team members.

Communicating face to face is not that same as shooting off an email to someone or having WhatsApp chat where you can easily hide your feelings. Digital communication gives you the luxury to take your time and think how to respond.

In real time Face to face communication nonverbal communication quickly comes into play as well as verbal and of course the words you speak.

The basis of the breakdown of communication style comes from 3 well known personality assessment tools MBTI, DISC and Insights discovery. All 3 claim to originate from Carl Jung research and theories. While these tools are valuable and I have used them in professional settings. These tools do have serious limitations because people’s personalities are far too complex. You can’t simply put a personality neatly into boxes as some people try to do with these tools.

What these tools try to measure is an indication of personality traits such as assertiveness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extroversion. By identifying these personality traits you increase the chance that you identify someone’s communication style at work. For example, people with high self-esteem are less likely to remain silent at work.

While I acknowledge that personality assessment tools like MBTI, DISC, Insight Discovery, Predictive Index are all useful because they give you a glimpse towards a person’s general tendencies. However, they don’t give you a complete 360° vision of the person. These personality assessment tools only provide you with an orientation.

A Further, limitation is that generally you can’t stop your colleague in the hallway and ask him to answer a personality assessment!

In my past, I used graphology as a covert tool to get a glimpse of an individual character’s tendencies. And to better understand who and maybe what I was dealing with.

As I previously stated, people are far too complex to put into 4 simple boxes. But the purpose is to give you a “general” birds eye view of basic workplace communication styles.

The various personality assessment tools can get quite complex with many variables. So I have tried to bare bones simplify it for you here

Your communication style is how you interact with others and it influences how you communicate in the workplace and at home.

Lets examine further

What are the 4 types of communication styles in the workplace?

1. Passive workplace communication style

Passive communicators are typically quiet, they avoid the limelight and don’t like to be the center of attention. They typically avoid taking a position on something and are reluctant to assert themselves. They have a tendency to hide their emotions or rarely express their feelings. This makes it difficult for you to know when they are uncomfortable or if they need help with an important project.

How can you identify a passive communicator? Well, his non verbal communication might include?

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Body Language bad posture
  • Fidgeting

Other behaviours might include:

  • Easy-going attitude
  • difficulty to say no
  • Soft voice
  • Unnecessarily Apologetic

How can you communicate better in working relationships with a passive communication style coworker?

Try being polite but direct.

Have one-on-one conversations with passive communicators , private interactions are often more comfortable for a passive communicator than in a  group.

Ask for their opinion and allow the passive communicator plenty of time to think over their answer.

Your objective is for the passive communicator to open-up and share answer.

  • Apply active listening
  • Try to use general language.
  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Avoid “yes” or “no” questions.

Be patient even with long silences, passive communicators can take their time thinking through a response.

If you’re a passive communicator, it’s important to work on your communication skills.

Look for opportunities where you feel you can comfortably speak up. If it’s important and you’re uncomfortable speaking up in group settings, then request a personal one-to-one meeting. But it’s good to start the habit of speaking up even if you have to force yourself. Do this at least now and again just so you can start to build the habit and improve your communication skills.

True, sometimes it’s better to have certain communication in writing. But if you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills you must practise with people face to face or in a group. you’ll experience over time that openly sharing your thoughts creates opportunities for positive interactions. Remember you only grow when you step out of your comfort zone.

2. Aggressive communication style

Aggressive communicators tend to express their thoughts, feelings and dominate conversations at the expense of others. Aggressive communication styles often lack empathy towards others and have a rugged individualistic attitude.

Aggressive communicators may react impulsively, speak before thinking. This communication style in the workplace can negatively affect relationships, decrease employee engagement and productivity.

It’s true that a person with an aggressive communication style might command respect in certain leadership situations. However, they often are intimidating and that can be counter-productive for co-workers who respond better to a calm approach.

These most common non verbal communication signs of an aggressive communicator:

  • Invading personal spaces [not respecting other people personal space]
  • Presenting an overbearing posture
  • Using aggressive gestures
  • Overly intense eye contact
  • Interrupting others while they’re speaking

Here are some tips if you are working with an aggressive communicator:

  • Try to Remain calm and assertive when dealing with aggressive communicators.
  • Try not to allow the nature of an aggressive communicator to intimidate you.
  • Focus on actionable issues in your conversation with the aggressive communication style.
  • In workplace communications always keep conversations professional
  • Direct the conversation away from emotions and/or personal issues.
  • Know when you should walk away and walk away if they over step boundaries.
  • For example, if the aggressive communicator becomes clearly too demanding and you’re no longer making positive progress.

If you use an aggressive communication style, you may experience that you struggle to form strong relationships at work. If you learn more positive communication skills it may help you overcome some of your aggressive communication style and tendencies. Trying to reduce stress in your life will help. A great way you can combat stressors by engaging in exercise, practising mindfulness or meditation training.

3. Passive-aggressive communication style

It’s true that a person with an aggressive communication style might command respect in certain leadership situations. However, they often are intimidating and that can be counter-productive for co-workers who respond better to a calm approach.

These most common non verbal communication signs of an aggressive communicator:

  • Invading personal spaces [not respecting other people personal space]
  • Presenting an overbearing posture
  • Using aggressive gestures
  • Overly intense eye contact
  • Interrupting others while they’re speaking

Here are some tips if you are working with an aggressive communicator:

  • Try to Remain calm and assertive when dealing with aggressive communicators.
  • Try not to allow the nature of an aggressive communicator to intimidate you.
  • Focus on actionable issues in your conversation with the aggressive communication style.
  • In workplace communications always keep conversations professional
  • Direct the conversation away from emotions and/or personal issues.
  • Know when you should walk away and walk away if they over step boundaries.
  • For example, if the aggressive communicator becomes clearly too demanding and you’re no longer making positive progress.

If you use an aggressive communication style, you may experience that you struggle to form strong relationships at work. If you learn more positive communication skills it may help you overcome some of your aggressive communication style and tendencies. Trying to reduce stress in your life will help. A great way you can combat stressors by engaging in exercise, practising mindfulness or meditation training.

4. Assertive communication style

The assertive style is the most productive type of communication in the workplace. Assertive communicators tend to have a higher level of understanding of “empathy” towards others. They share their thoughts and ideas confidently and they tend to be respectful and polite.

Assertive people typically like to take on new challenges. People with assertive communication styles understand their own limitations and know when to say “no”. As a result, they protect their boundaries without behaving aggressive or defensive.

Because of their higher level of empathy and emotional intelligence, coworkers with assertive communication styles, have a natural ability to make others feel comfortable.

People will often seek out individuals with assertive communication style because they know they can easily facilitate a productive conversation and tend to be very good a resolving conflicts.

You identify Assertive behaviour:

  • An Attitude of let’s Work together
  • Sincerely enjoy sharing healthy ideas and feelings
  • If you apply active listening, you’ll discover their voices are steady, clear and have a special quality
  • Have Good posture
  • All embracing gestures
  • Warm eye contact

If you’re lucky enough to have someone with an assertive communication style on your team, often placing them in positions of leadership can be productive. People with assertive communication styles can help deal with other individuals on the team with passive, passive-aggressive and aggressive communication styles quite effectively.

To summarise, obviously different people communicate differently because if a multitude of reasons. People’s cultural background, family history, their life experiences, and even genetics seems to have some influence on attitude and psychology. And of course this spills over into a person’s communication styles in the workplace.

Personality characteristics might be the default setting you start out with but that’s not to say nor provide an excuse people can change. Therefore if people are motivated they can most definitely learn to adapt their communication styles and improve. It comes down to motivation.

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