Have you ever tried talking to someone at work — only to be met with a condescending response? Have you ever been assigned a project with little explanation, only to have a manager tell you to figure it out yourself? These off-putting behaviors can easily be attributed to differences in communication styles that could be holding you back.
Communication can be broken down into styles — and just like everyone has a different personal style that might be reflected in how they present themselves physically, they also have a different style of communication that surfaces in their interpersonal relationships. This is not just limited to verbal communication; it also translates into visual communication like body language and written communication.
All types of communication can have their pros and cons. There are aspects of everyone’s communications styles that make for effective communication, but that same communication style might alienate some individuals and create disconnects. Understanding how these communications styles play out is vital for business communication that excels.
There are four common communication styles: the controller communicators, the promoter communicators, the analyzer communicators, and the supporter communicators. These four different styles play out very differently in their engagements with others in and out of the workplace. For instance, the controller type of communication is somewhat the opposite of the promoter style of communication.
But how do these varying styles play out in the workplace? What are the differences, and how do they aid or inhibit effective communication? Do they cause conflict or increase productivity? Here’s a breakdown of these four communications styles and what they look like in workplace situations.
1. The Controller
The controller communication style is very direct — demanding facts in a very straightforward and blunt fashion. People who communicate this way tend to have the following character traits.
- They can be very motivated and dedicated to their tasks.
- They are very goal-oriented and determined to meet deadlines and objectives.
- They make eye contact and are often seen as exhibiting an aggressive style and assertive behavior.
- They are also sometimes seen as aggressive and bossy communicators in their stringency.
- They are the go-getter types who will jump on a project and spend many a late night in the office working on it until it meets their standards.
- A conversation with a controller should be short, sweet and to the point.
In the workplace, these people tend to be leaders with communication skills but a tendency to come off as bossy. They are blunt, straightforward and to the point. They don’t mince words and expect the same conciseness in return. They want to know the important factors but don’t have time for the small details. Don’t waste their time with unnecessary information, as they won’t over-explain when giving a project to you. When communicating with a controller, expect to figure a lot of things out as you go, as they probably won’t spend too much time filling you in.
2. The Promoter
The promoter communication style is enthusiastic and people-driven. The promoter is the person with the following characteristics.
- They will spend hours talking about their weekend plans but will also detail a project from start to finish, providing the most intricate of details.
- They are passionate and engaging and not too worried about taking themselves too seriously.
- They are excellent at effective interpersonal communication.
- They are easy to spot as they are usually the social butterflies of the office.
- They are always talking about their lives, plans, and ambitions, and are just as quick to ask you the same.
- They like to deliver a personal message when talking with colleagues and cater to their projects and conversations with their audiences.
- Their verbal and non-verbal communication styles are open, honest and enthusiastic. In the workplace, this makes them easy to approach with questions or feedback.
- They are happy to offer a further explanation of a project or client and love to help where they can.
That all said, their socialness can be a downfall as they easily get sidetracked. You could go to them with a quick question and lose an hour of time because they’ve jumped around to an array of different topics. They aren’t so much detail-oriented as they are people- and experience-oriented. When engaging with a promoter, ask them personal questions and expect to be asked them in return. Use plenty of tangible examples and get ready to steer them back in the direction you are looking for them to answer.
3. The Analyzer
Organized and astute, the analyzer loves facts and intricate details. These types have the following characteristics.
- They are very organized and make organization and understanding all facets of a project a priority before anything else.
- This type of communicator is deep, thoughtful, analytical, and usually more serious than other communicators.
- They want to have all the facts before making a decision or pulling the trigger on an idea or initiative which can be frustrating for team members who want to move forward with a project.
- These types demand high-context communication but do not come off as overly assertive or aggressive. If anything they are questioning and speculative. But their analytical mindset means that they are always looking at the big picture based on an array of intricate details.
- They can sometimes be seen as pessimistic communicators.
- In the workplace, these types need all the facts as soon as possible. They want to analyze and investigate and understand a project from all angles.
When engaging with an analyzer, make sure you have all the facts and have outlined a project in detail before bringing it to their attention. Also get ready for questions — because they will have them. This might be discouraging. It might make you feel a little silly or dumb because of their hesitancy to fully believe you, your idea, or vision — but this is just because they are trying to understand it as thoroughly as possible. Analyzers require patience, but the payoff is worth it. Similarly, expect an in-depth presentation when given a project by an analyzer.
4. The Supporter
Calm, cool, and collected is a relatively accurate way to describe the supporter. This personality type has the following characteristics.
- They are easily likable in their low-maintenance vibes and ways of working and interacting with colleagues.
- They have excellent interpersonal communication skills and are always open to talk about more personal topics — though they don’t seek it out as eagerly as the promoter.
- This communication type is the most common to find in and out of the workplace as they are eager to succeed, though content and calm in their pursuit.
- Supporters excel at conflict-resolution as they are usually extremely level-headed. They are great listeners and many go to them with problems and concerns.
- They are well-liked by most people.
When interacting with a supporter in the workplace, expect someone who is easy-going and easy to approach. They are very open and welcoming, but it’s good not to be too extreme in your approach. They require a kind of communication that falls in between high-context communication and low-context communication. Start slow when getting to know them and expect trust to be earned step-by-step. Supporters are very reliable and efficient so don’t over-explain or undermine their intelligence. Talk to them like you’d talk to a new friend — being hesitant with personal stories but open to casual conversation.
Everyone communicates differently — and understanding how a person communicates is vital to understanding how they work and operate. It’s also vital to building workplace relationships and successful business endeavors. And it’s up to you to figure out how other people’s styles mesh or clash with your own.
Communication can be verbal and non-verbal. It’s important to notice a colleague’s body language, whether they make eye contact if they engage in indirect or direct communication, and other idiosyncratic communication skills you can pick up on. This will ensure you know how to interact going forward and don't get into a situation where your personality and your communication style clashes with theirs. Communicating in the workplace is something that needs to be learned as you go, but uncovering these differences and working toward a middle-ground of communication with other individuals is vital not only for success in the workplace but also for success on a personal level.