What’s Your Communication Style?

The following are highlights from a presentation at the 2017 Independent Operators Symposium in Maui by Cassandra Pye, CEO of 3.14 Communications


What’s Your (Communication) Style?

Attendees to the January 2017 Independent Operator Symposium in Maui were treated to a lively discussion on the most effective styles of communication – in both professional and personal (family) settings. Cassandra Pye, CEO of 3.14 Communications and CGA alum, led a high-energy, interactive session on communication styles on Day One of the Symposium.

While most of us employ a variety of communicate styles in daily work and personal situations, most of us also settle into a single pattern, according to Pye. Attendees learned to spot all five styles of communicating – so that they are better prepared to lead and manage clearly, using exactly the right communication approach.

Assertive – assertive communicators are neither too aggressive nor too passive; they share their thoughts directly and confidently. Most of us rarely use this approach, even though it is highly effective – especially when we’ve got to have difficult conversations with colleagues or family members. Assertive communicators don’t always get their way but because they’re grounded, forthright and respectful in their delivery, they are typically satisfied that they’ve handled the conversation fairly.

Aggressive – aggressive communicators tend to do little more than intimidate those on the receiving end. In fact, because their method of delivery tends to be threatening, their content is usually lost on the recipient. While it may feel like you’re getting your point across when you do so forcefully, the truth is this style of communicating is relatively ineffective.

Passive-aggressive – who hasn’t had a passive-aggressive conversation with his or her spouse? The frustrating thing about being on the receiving end of passive-aggressive communication is you can never be certain of what the point is – or if you’re being patronized or being asked to do something…or something else! It’s hard to manage anything successfully – from your business to your teenagers – if you consistently use this style of communicating.

Submissive – submissive communicators behave as if their feelings or opinions don’t matter. Because they tend to avoid conflict, they can be perceived as ineffective in team settings. Leaders, however, have a responsibility to assertively work to ‘draw out’ and/or ‘check in’ with their submissive team members regularly. Oftentimes, leaving a submissive communicator out of a conversation or team discussion means potentially losing out on a good idea. Pay attention to the submissive members of your teams and help them to become more assertive.

Manipulative – manipulative communicators are not to be trusted. They are shrewd and calculating and they’re usually wanting to seek an advantage of some kind. If you’re on the receiving end of a conversation with this style communicator too many times, you’re usually going to wind up being awfully resentful. If you know you’ve got a tendency to fall back on this style, do your best to limit the times you choose it.

As leaders in business, communities and in our most important interpersonal relationships, we’re often in a position where we’re required to lead serious and even difficult conversations. Ending a relationship with a vendor. Terminating a longtime employee. Telling a teenager she/he can’t go to a party alone. Breaking the news to your spouse that you’ve broken a family keepsake. Any one of these scenarios calls for strong assertive communication skills.
Assertive communicators are confident and get their message across without playing games, resorting to passive behaviors or being manipulative. Most of all, they’re respectful of others. Pye suggested to the group that they consider jotting down talking points in all kinds of scenarios (even before the conversation with a spouse) so that you’re able to speak very clearly to your messages. Typically, she said, we’re most comfortable – even in difficult or stressful conversations – when we know exactly what we intend to say.

Knowing the difference in communication styles and, more importantly, when it makes sense to use them is one step in becoming an effective, assertive communicator. The other, according to Pye, is to simply practice. “Practice your assertive communication techniques with family, trusted friends and close colleagues,” she told attendees. “And, put yourself in the place of the person on the receiving end. Communicating with the recipient’s perspective in mind is another way to ensure you’re crystal clear in your message but that you’re also respectful of the recipient’s feelings.” Regardless of the outcome or the message in play, assertive communicators consistently earn our respect, she believes.

It’s your responsibility as a leader to communicate effectively with your team, your colleagues and – outside of the office – with your friends and family. Practice being more assertive. It will help you build better relationships both personally and professionally.