4 Basic Communication Styles
Science confirms many obvious claims like doing homework leads to better grades; women are attracted to musicians and adapting to the communication style of your audience improves communication.
Are you familiar with Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages? They help you know the best way to show you care about people because we don’t all attach the same value to the same displays of affection. Love languages include spending time together, physical touch, gifts, doing things and actually saying nice things.
Communication Styles are similar in that they help you know how to best engage a person in your message, but are completely different from love languages. A person’s communication style indicates what they listen for when you are speaking.
Think about it. When you listen, you are listening for something in particular. It could be listening for what’s in it for you, listening for what the other person is feeling, listening for the bottom line or listening for the reason you are speaking in the first place.
We are all listening with an intention in mind.
These are the 4 Basic Communication Styles; there are also common hybrid variations. These styles tell you broadly, what people are listening for.
What are you listening for?
You may be thinking, “Laura, I’m listening to hear what is being said.” Not so fast, young grasshopper. We all have specific aspects of a message that we listen for, such as…
– what’s the bottom line of this?
– what is the emotional state of this person?
– why is this person not doing something else right now?
– what is behind this message (underlying factors)?
– why is this person so repetitive?
– is this going to affect my upcoming performance review?
– does this relate to a key client?
– and so on.
Here’s are 4 buckets of things people tend to listen for, depending on their particular communication style.
Action Oriented: these communicators are not interested in what you did over the weekend or how your puppy potty training is going. They want to know the bottom line and how it affects them. They are listening for next steps or impact.
Process Oriented: this communication style attracts the people who keep the company on track. These communicators want to know context and get information in chunks. A vomit of words makes them nauseated. Quite literally. They want to how you came to your conclusions.
People Oriented: as expected these are your “people people,” those who ask about your new grandbaby and show you photos of their trip to the beach with the dogs. To successfully reach this communication style, remember “friend first, business second.” They are listening for relationship building opportunities.
Idea Oriented: innovative people often have an idea focus. They are constantly dreaming up ways to do it better or differently. Trouble is, they can be less skilled at articulating their idea. Quite a few idea-oriented communicators lack structure in their messaging and can run on and on. They are listening for the underlying ideas in what you are sharing.
Of course we need ALL styles of communication.
In Mixonian Institute business communication workshops, whether for leaders or subject matter experts, there are always more people with the “people” communication focus. Not only that, but there are usually strong hybrid groups such as “people/process” or “people/action”.
Common Crimes of Communication
What happens when people find out about these different communication styles and how they like to receive messages, you see all kinds of flashes of insight popping….as people realize they have been guilty of communication crimes like word dumping (similar to rambling) or jumping to the essence of the message without setting it up for success (lacking structure or speaking to the person as person first).
What would happen if the people you work with actually communicated better? Even a small improvement in team communication or across teams leads to greater happiness and satisfaction at work, not to mention better performance indicators all around.