Communication Styles in Business

Communication Styles in Business

If you’re a manager, you already know that managing people can be a challenge. Managerial success depends on understanding how each style operates. Everything you do, from managing your time to making a sales pitch, can be improved by using what you’ve learned about communication styles.

Motivating Different Styles

Studies show that people are motivated by many different things. Money ranks in the middle of the list. Rewards of an intangible nature – such as being recognized as a valuable contributor by the group, as having a special role – are usually ranked highest. This knowledge, coupled with knowing how to be an effective communicator, can help you motivate different styles.

When motivating Directors, remember to use an action-oriented approach.When motivating Expressers, use an idea-oriented approach.
When motivating Thinkers, focus on getting things done precisely with attention to detail.When motivating Harmonizers, talk about the importance of the project to the team.

Once the job is done, each style likes praise in different ways.

Directors like to be told: “These are just the results we were looking for.”Expressers like to hear: “It wouldn’t have been the same without your creative input.”
Thinkers want to hear: “By taking the time to do it right, you really made a big contribution.”Harmonizers like to be told: “You’ve made a terrific contribution to the team.” 

Time Management

Each style has a different way of viewing time.

Simply by appreciating these differences, and being aware of them, you can manage time more effectively.

Directors see time as a rare commodity, always in short supply.Expressers lose track of time while talking, but count seconds while others talk.
Thinkers are cognizant of time. But doing it right is more important than right now.Harmonizers, on the other hand, can be blissfully unaware of time.


The different styles also have different ways of planning.

Directors like to consider the big picture and overall strategy.Expressers have a strong inclination toward strategic planning.
Thinkers plan to the last detail, and make few errors.The Harmonizer will take as little or as much time to plan to please everyone.



No one style is more creative than another. Each style is creative in its own way. Yet each style can learn a lesson from the others, and in so doing marshal even greater creative energy.

Directors create by doing, by the sheer act of willing something into being.Expressers expend energy talking and brainstorming.
Thinkers like to engage in precise, detailed work.Harmonizers prefers to work with people, so most creative acts may be collaborative.


Decision making is an art unto itself. Too often we make business decisions – or personal decisions, for that matter – while ignoring how a good decision is made.

Basic decision making involves six steps:

Step 1: Develop broad criteria e.g. goals, values
Step 2: Generate possible alternatives
Step 3: Evaluate 3-4 best options on the basis of criteria
Step 4: Make a choice
Step 5: Communicate the decision
Step 6: Implement

The most common mistakes occur in Steps 1 and 2.


Mistake number one: People spend too little time deciding their goals and priorities. Typically they allow other decisions to be made prior to this one. Because they fail to decide their priorities  – and fail to communicate these priorities to others – they find themselves trapped by their decisions. Compromise becomes very difficult.

Mistake number two: Once they’ve decided their goals, people fail to spend enough time generating alternatives. Narrowing the number of options too soon forces people into decisions they later regret.

Within this context, each style has its own manner of making decisions.

 Directors make decisions boldly, based on big picture (without generating enough options);Expressers make decisions based on feeling and intuition (but without sufficient criteria);
Thinkers make decisions cautiously and logically (with a reluctance to come to closure);Harmonizers make decisions to please everyone (with absence of self-based criteria).

Making a Presentation

When making a group presentation, it’s extremely important to be conscious of your own communication style – and the styles that prevail in the room. This requires analyzing your audience, a job best done ahead of time by talking to someone who knows the audience well. If necessary, you can make a snap analysis by figuring out the style of the key player in the room. Ask a few questions, assess his or her responses, and tailor your presentation accordingly.

If your presentation is for a Director, show a conviction and single-mindedness of purpose.Making a presentation to an Expresser is a good excuse for some fun and surprises.
When making a presentation to a Thinker, you should strive to be patient and show the logic.When making a presentation to a Harmonizer, emphasize the role of other people.

Negotiating Agreements

Another task that people have to perform is negotiating agreements. The negotiation may be informal, like agreeing to the responsibilities in a project, or formal, such as negotiating the terms in a labor contract. Regardless of the degree of formality, each person will have his own negotiating style, based on his communication style.

Directors view negotiations as ways to achieve specific results.Expressers view negotiations as a way to be creative and attain greater personal fulfillment.
Thinkers view negotiations as opportunities to get clear about every detail.Harmonizer view negotiations as a way to get people to work toward common goals. 


By now, you can see why understanding the nuances of each style can make you more successful in all sorts of ways. You should practice applying the tools of Straight Talk on a regular basis. Keep reminding yourself to look at communication styles as a signpost to behaviors that will influence how people behave in virtually any business situation.

Lesson 10: Five Trends in Workplace CommunicationLesson 12: The Role of Attention

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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