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We all have different communication styles. Think about your workplace. There’s the colleague who always pats you on the back, brimming with energy. Then there’s the coworker who likes to keep to himself and nods every time he sees you in the hallway; and your HR manager, who rarely has a negative thing to say about anyone. Then there’s your boss, who speaks loudly and dislikes chitchat.
What we’ve just described are the four styles of communication. According to Dr. Tony Alessandra, PhD, author of Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism that Leads to Success, the key to communicating effectively is to recognize that not everyone has the same communication style you do.
We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The problem is that this doesn’t really work. Would your introverted colleague like to be greeted effusively? Probably not. Would your no-nonsense boss like to engage in a pleasant conversation on favorite movies? Also not likely.
Many of the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise between coworkers actually have to do with differences in communication style. In order to ensure that the messages you’re sending are being interpreted in the manner you intended, learn about the four different communication styles and how to relate to each one.
Based on previous theories of human interaction–such as Hippocrates “four temperaments” and Carl Jung’s psychological types–Alessandra has mapped out four communication styles on four quadrants, as seen below.
While the vertical scale determines the person’s level of openness in relationships, the horizontal scale measures the person’s level of directness. To better understand how you can position yourself on each axis, let’s review what we mean by each term.
An open person, for example, refers to someone who tends to reveal personal feelings and experiences and values interpersonal relationships. This type of communicator makes eye contact and is not afraid to reach out and touch the other person.
The reserved person, on the other hand, is harder to get to know since they do not readily express their personal thoughts and feelings. To detect a reserved person, observe how far they stand from you when they talk–reserved people are most comfortable when they maintain a certain distance from you–and how they shake your hand when you first meet them.
A direct person is someone who is not afraid of forging ahead when it comes to building new relationships and meeting new people. In contrast, an indirect person prefers feeling safe in social environments. In a social event, for instance, a direct person would not hesitate to go around and socialize with all those they meet along the way. Meanwhile, the indirect person could be found talking with a close friend in a quiet corner of the party.
To determine your communication style, simply mark where you land on each of the two scales and see where they intersect. The resulting quadrant corresponds to your dominant communication style. Although most of us have a combination of styles, we usually fall under one prevailing style. If not sure, take a few minutes to complete the following quiz to find out:
Let’s take a look now at the main attributes of each of the communication styles and how to relate to each one:
This communication style is driven by two things: the need to get thing done and the need to control. They are most comfortable in settings where they manage others and take control of situations. Fast-paced and goal-oriented, Directors are focused on bottom-line results and achieving success. This go-getter mentality makes them innate leaders, but it also means they can come across as impatient and insensitive.
Most people love socializers. They are fun to be around, always make others laugh, and they thrive on being the center of attention. Charismatic and energetic, they always want to be where the action is. They are eternal optimists who are good at selling others on their vision and goals. Although their enthusiasm and charm make them influential people, as leaders, they can sometimes be impulsive decision-makers who take risks without verifying information. They listen to their intuition–which can be a good thing–and what their “gut” is telling them. On the downside, they have short attention spans, and they find it hard to be alone.
This communication style is very analytical and geared toward problem-solving. Methodical and detail-oriented, Thinkers are usually slow decision-makers who are very deliberate about the choices they make. Before taking a specific route, they do their homework by weighing pros and cons and looking at problems from every angle. Their high expectations of others and themselves can make them come across as overly critical and pessimistic. They are perfectionists by nature and can easily fall into the trap of “analysis paralysis.” Since they tend to be skeptical, they usually want to see promises in writing.
Of the four communication styles, this one is the most people-oriented. Relators are warm, nurturing individuals who value interpersonal relationships above all other things. They are very loyal employees, devoted friends and excellent team players. Peacemakers by nature, they often avoid conflicts and confrontations. They are also ideal team players since they are always willing to build networks and share responsibilities. Like Thinkers, they are thorough planners and highly risk-averse. They value reliability, balance and sincerity.
Now that you know what kind of communicator you are and how to interact with others according to their communication styles, learn more about what kind of presenter you are here.
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