Even when we’re speaking the same language, we all communicate a little differently. Some people give short, straightforward responses to questions while others might add a ton of detail. Knowing your own communication style—and adapting to the different styles of co-workers—can help personal and organizational success come much more easily.
Business writer Mark Murphy’s model of four communication styles offers a great starting point. Find out which type (or types—you may favor more than one!) best fits you, and how to play to your strengths in the office.
Analytical communicators focus on facts and data. You might be an analytical communicator if:
- You like specific language—whether it’s in instructions, performance assessments, or evaluations.
- When you have a point to make, you back it up with evidence.
- Your sentences are more likely to start with “I think” or “I know” than “I feel.”
- You keep a number and metric in mind when you’re setting goals.
- You prefer to keep emotions out of your workplace conversations, and you’re not a huge fan of small talk.
- You need time to think about decisions.
- Brainstorming sessions without a clearly defined goal or procedure tend to frustrate you.
- You appreciate space to work independently.
You may struggle to understand: A personal communicator whose decisions are driven more by interpersonal dynamics than measurable outcomes. Remember, interactions aren’t always predictable when human beings are involved, and the facts may not tell the whole story.
Working with an analytical thinker? Here’s what to do: Get straight to the point. Make your expectations clear. Present quantifiable evidence as much as possible and double-check any facts. Do your research and prepare to answer follow-up questions. Give them time to think of the pros and cons of a possible choice.
Intuitive communicators are motivated by the “big picture.” You might be an intuitive communicator if:
- New ideas and innovations get you excited.
- When someone asks you a question, you tend to respond quickly.
- You love brainstorming, and you get pretty ambitious when you think of possibilities.
- The “why” of a task may be more important to you than the “how.”
- You find it easy to give a broad overview of a project; you may struggle more with the details of the project’s execution.
- Slow progress on a goal can frustrate you.
You might struggle to understand: A functional communicator who focuses on details and step-by-step planning. Remember these details are essential to accomplish a goal, and you can work together if you both play to your strengths.
Working with an intuitive communicator? Here’s what to do: Stay on topic; keep in-person and email discussions brief and to the point, and use visual aids if possible. Present lots of options if a decision needs to be made. Focus on the end result of the task at hand and leave out any unnecessary details. Be careful not to promise more than you can realistically accomplish.
Functional communicators thrive on organization and planning. You might be a functional communicator if:
- You love making to-do lists.
- Any project feels more achievable to you once it has a timeline.
- If a minor detail is missing or incorrect, you’re the one most likely to notice.
- You feel best when everything is running on schedule.
- An unexpected change in routine may throw you off balance.
- You’re excellent at handling all the “moving parts” of minor and major projects.
You might struggle to understand: An intuitive communicator with a “big picture” focus; they may set broad, ambitious goals without a step-by-step plan. Remember you can each benefit from the other person’s perspective, and your different strengths may make you great project partners.
Working with a functional communicator? Here’s what to do: Practice active listening—repeat what they’ve said to make sure you understand. Be prepared for them to point out something you missed, and allow them time to triple-check details. Anticipate follow-up questions, even if you think the questions are premature (in the early stages of planning a project, for example). Give specific timelines and milestones for projects—let them know when you plan to accomplish a task and what the next step will be.
Personal communicators stay tuned in to the human side of the workplace. You might be a personal communicator if:
- You like to ease into workplace interactions with light small talk.
- Nonverbal or body language cues are easy for you to recognize.
- You sense when someone isn’t feeling 100% confident about an initiative or decision, even if they don’t say so outright.
- If conflict arises, you’re comfortable being a mediator.
- A personal rapport with your coworkers is important to you.
- Before you make a decision you try to consider multiple perspectives.
- You don’t check your emotions at the door when you come to work, and you don’t expect others to either.
You might struggle to understand: An analytical communicator who focuses on facts and data rather than interpersonal dynamics. Remember that they also have the best interests of the organization at heart, and they may not be comfortable factoring feelings into work-related decisions.
Working with a personal communicator? Here’s what to do: Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t feel too pressured to get to the point. Follow up a personal chat with an email if necessary to iron out the details. Keep your tone casual and authentic—professional, but not overly formal. Share your own thoughts and feelings about the topic at hand.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these styles? Let us know in the comments.