What is Your Workplace Communication Style?

How do others perceive you when you speak in a professional setting? 

In a professional setting, how you communicate with others has a significant impact on their perception of how trustworthy, capable, and valuable you are as a member of the team. Understanding your own communication style helps you avoid sending the wrong message, ensuring that your intentions are clear without steamrolling others. 

There are 5 communication styles you’re likely to see in a professional setting: assertive, passive, aggressive, submissive, and manipulative. 

Assertive

Being an assertive communicator should be every professional’s daily goal. This style comes from a place of confidence, where you are able to say your piece while remaining open and welcoming to actively listen to those around them.

Assertive communicators seek a compromise for every conflict, and they tend to carefully choose their words and tone to avoid miscommunications.

Even in the heat of the moment, you’ll notice that an assertive communication style avoids accusatory or manipulative language. Instead, they express their perspectives through “I” statements– which have been shown to decrease hostility and anger in arguments.

What Would You Hear an Assertive Communicator Say?

  • “I felt that when you walked away in the middle of our conversation, it was a sign that you were no longer interested in moving forward with the project.” 
  • “I’m happy to speak to you about this, so long as we are both willing to stay calm.”
  • “No, thank you.”
  • “I was speaking, and I would like to finish my point before moving on to another person.”

Passive 

Passive communicators struggle to advocate for themselves. Instead, they often feel that their lives, careers, and relationships are outside of their control. They move along with the whims of others, acting indifferent to decisions and choosing not to speak out when they feel a situation is unjust or hurtful. 

While they are often seen as a relaxed neutral party to turn to in conflict, the reality is that passive communicators are prone to angry outbursts, though they are much slower to anger than the aggressive communicator. Over time, as they feel more and more misunderstood and ignored, those bottled-up negative feelings burst forward, triggering a disproportionate response to some small conflict or indiscretion. 

What Would You Hear a Passive Communicator Say?

  • “I don’t care either way.”
  • “Let’s just see what happens.”
  • “I prefer to go with the flow, not rock the boat.”

Aggressive

When an aggressive communicator is in your midst, it doesn’t take long for them to make it very clear who they feel is the most critical person in the room. They dominate conversations through verbal and/or physical intimidation, often using a volume or tone intended to make others around them feel small. 

Aggressive communicators desperately seek control of others and are often willing to lie, pit coworkers against one another, and play the blame game to get their way. You’ll often find that aggressive communicators violate the social mores for proxemics or how far apart most people feel comfortable standing when speaking to others in a particular setting. 

What Would You Hear an Aggressive Communicator Say?

  • “We’re going to do it my way!”
  • “No one here cares about what you have to say.”
  • Cursing, insults, and sarcasm

Submissive

Not to be confused with the passive communication style, submissive communicators are meek, apologetic, and will often take the blame for others to avoid a more significant conflict. They place the needs of others before themselves and are willing to give up their voice and space to accommodate coworkers. 

Because of their constant willingness to sacrifice themselves, submissive communicators tend to develop a sense of victimhood, rejecting others’ efforts to help them grow in favor of maintaining a certain meekness and timidity. In some cases, submissive communicators are actually manipulative communicators in disguise, using the opportunity to fly under the radar to pull strings without others noticing. 

What Would You Hear a Submissive Communicator Say?

  • “I don’t need anything.”
  • “I want to do whatever you want to do.”
  • “You can go ahead. What I was saying wasn’t important.”

Manipulative

Insidious and cunning, manipulative communicators will do just about anything to get their way. Typically, it’s the person who sulks or gives team members the silent treatment when they don’t get their way but insults others who express emotions that make them feel uncomfortable or accountable for their actions. Manipulators are also willing to lie their way to the top, using any means necessary to get what they want. 

One key motive for manipulative communication is making others feel obligated or guilty for something, even if it’s not their fault. For example, someone with this communication style may say, “You always grab coffee for Janine in the mornings. I wish I had someone who cared enough to get me a coffee.” The purpose is to guilt the other person into doing the same favor while avoiding directly asking for what they want. 

What Would You Hear a Manipulative Communicator Say?

  • “Well, aren’t you lucky to have gotten a promotion? I’m sure they just saw something in you that no one else can see.”
  • “Stop overreacting! Everyone thinks you’re being ridiculous.”
  • “You’re just being sensitive. It was a joke!”

Which of the Communication Styles Do You Rely On?

Just as with most other professional skills, assertive communication is something that you can master through intentional practice and self-reflection. If you’re unsure where to start, a business coach can help you see others’ perspectives of your motivations and intentions before honing in on specific growth areas. 

Ready to understand and be understood? Let’s chat! At Catalyst Group ECR, we can equip you with essential communication tools, as well as an entire repertoire of skills designed to help you lead your business and your team to greatness.

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