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Communication Styles in the Workplace – 10 Infographics

Research shows us people have four different styles of communicating. We call these styles: Director, Expresser, Thinker and Harmonizer. Each style has its own way of seeing the world. Each favors a certain way of listening, responding, making decisions, and solving problems.

Here are 10 Straight Talk infographics on Communication Styles in the Workplace.

1: Identifying Communication Styles

Key characteristics of each style are shown in the chart below.

Communication Styles in the Workplace

Exercise: Identify a Communication Style

​​​​​​​Circle each behavior that applies, then total the number of squares you circled in each column. The two columns that get the highest scores will tell you that person’s preferred styles of communicating.

Identifying Communication Styles

Once you’ve circled two styles at the bottom of the chart, use the next chart to determine a person’s primary style.

identifying communication styles 2

Read more about the “3 Steps to Identify Communication Styles


2: Communication Styles Matrix

The Matrix of Communication Styles can be somewhat confusing at first, but it’s a very useful tool once you understand how it works. In fact, once you instill in your mind a mental image of the Matrix, you can use it to identify another person’s communication style, even if he or she hasn’t taken the Straight Talk survey.

the matrix of communication styles

If you split the Matrix into equal quarters, or quadrants, then each quadrant illustrates a primary style—Director, Expresser, Thinker, or Harmonizer.

communication styles infographics

Each quadrant contains four more squares. Your secondary style determines your particular square within each quadrant. Take the survey to discover your style!

The combined workings of filters and frames – both of which occur within our subconscious – help us define the four basic styles of communicating. Some people set their filters so that more attention is placed on facts; some set them to allow more feelings to come through. Some people set their frames so that their responses are more assertive; some set their frames so that they respond with questions.

communication filters and frames

Using filters and frames, you can distill the four communication styles to these terms:

  • Directors: Filter for facts and respond assertively.
  • Expressers: Filter for feelings and respond assertively.
  • Thinkers: Filter for facts and respond by probing.
  • Harmonizers: Filter for feelings and respond by probing.

This is not to say that the only thing that distinguishes Directors from Expressers is that one filters for facts and the other for feelings. The behaviors of each communication style are more complex and varied than that. But certain behaviors are “markers” for each style, and these markers can help us identify a person’s style.


3: The Four Types of Intent

Understanding intent is key to improving the quality of communication. There are four types of intent that underlie all communication: affirming, controlling, defending, and withdrawing. Everyone displays all four types of intent, but the object of excellent communicators is an affirming intent.


4: Modifying Communication Styles

You can “flex” other styles as you would a muscle. The more you practice flexing different styles in communication with others, the stronger a communicator you become. Some people find adopting a different style to be unnatural. And it can be. The trick is to act yourself into a way of believing. By adopting the body language, style of speaking, and mannerisms of a particular style, you will find it less of a stretch than you think.

modifying your communication style


5: Communication Rules

The Greek philosopher Aristotle espoused a simple philosophy of life. “All things in moderation,” he said. Being too courageous meant you were foolhardy. Being too talkative, you were a gossip. If you were too quiet, you were a recluse. The best course lay in the center. The Matrix has a law of the center, too.

If you need to communicate frequently with many different styles, then it helps to modify your style toward the center of the Matrix. The Rule of the Center is simply a formula for being successful in many different settings with many different people.

Here’s a set of rules to help you apply the Rule of the Center:

communication rules


6: Communication and Assumptions

When discussing an issue or solving a problem, people often jump to conclusions before they spend time talking about what the problem is – or what data they have at hand. The Circle of Assumptions teaches us an orderly way to think about problems, starting with data and building toward conclusions.

It enables us to see how easily our communication can be garbled by our failure to be aware of our own assumptions – and how they affect the conclusions we reach.

communication and assumptions


7: Managing Meeting Styles

Is your goal to deal with a tough, multifaceted issue? Or is to exchange information? Is it a “get to know you” meeting? Or are you looking for creative input? These different goals each require a different type of meeting, and a different style of communication.

Essentially, there are five types of meetings:

  • Informational – people exchange information
  • Problem-solving – people try to solve a specific problem
  • Brain-storming – people define objectives and generate ideas
  • Performance review – people review individual and group performance
  • Strategic – people wrestle with large issues cutting to the heart of the organization’s future, and set goals and priorities

As you might guess, different styles of communicating work best in each type of meeting. This point has an important corollary: Each style prefers a certain type of meeting.

meeting styles of communication

The Ground Rules

The following ground rules have proven successful time after time. Each ground rule points to one of the tools or skills embodied in straight talk.

  1. Understand each other’s styles
  2. Agree on the meaning of key words
  3. Tackle issues, not people
  4. Permit one speaker at a time (avoid side conversations)
  5. Bring issues to the table (avoid “back room” discussions)
  6. Keep discussions focused
  7. Explain the reasoning leading to your conclusions
  8. Invite inquiry into your views
  9. Inquire into the reasoning of others
  10. Make “undiscussable” ideas discussible
  11. Identify missing data

Read more in the post Setting Ground Rules.


8: Managing Conflict Styles

Each communication style tries to manage conflict in different ways. The following chart shows how each style approaches conflict and responds to it, both in positive and negative ways.

conflict communication styles

Each style has certain “triggers” that spark them to react in negative ways.

  • Directors are triggered by the perception that their authority has been reduced.
  • Expressers, it’s feeling that their ideas aren’t valued.
  • Thinkers, it’s thinking that procedures aren’t followed.
  • Harmonizers, it’s thinking that other people’s feelings aren’t considered.

9: Communication Cultures

The following chart shows the predictable tendencies of each different type of culture:

communication styles culture


10: Achieving a Balanced Communication Culture

The following chart contains a checklist of possible actions that can be taken to address the weaknesses that crop up in each type of culture

Knowing how to achieve a balance of styles is a sign of mature management. But the reverse occurs more frequently. The boss selects subordinates who are similar in style to his own; key managers reinforce behaviors they’re comfortable with, rather than those that might provide the necessary balance.


Conclusion

Ideally, these tools will help you improve the process of communicating—by learning the critical principles and tools that facilitate that process. And they will help you improve the content of what is communicated, by learning how to untangle the assumptions embedded in what is said and to focus on the missing data.​​​​​​​

Next Post: The Four Leadership Styles

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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