The Key to Communicating Effectively with 4 Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace

Learn about the 4 Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace and How You Can Communicate Effectively using SoundWave’s Communication Tools!

Communication is an integral part of life. It is how ideas are built, relationships are formed and emotions are transferred. Developing your communication skills can help all aspects of our lives, especially in the context of the workplace where leaders and teams strive for agility and productivity.

But sometimes it can be challenging, especially in high-pressure work environments. Perhaps misunderstandings occur where one might find it challenging to deliver their point across clearly. Or maybe your managers and co-workers find it tough to be on the same page with you. Such disagreements can only arise because of different communication styles in your place of work!

So how can you improve the way you talk and become a better communicator? Read more to understand the different communication styles in your workplace.

Types Of Communication Styles Used At Work

workplace communication styles

There are many communication styles within any given workplace, but we’ll be focusing on four of them, which can either make or mar your work life.

  1. Passive Communication Style: where a person is less confrontational and more of a listener
  2. Aggressive Communication Style: where one goes all the way to ensure their voice is heard.
  3. Passive-Aggressive Communication Style: where one appears easy-going, but may be resentful deep down and resort to tricky means to get their points across.
  4. Assertive Communication Style: where a person may express their opinions confidently without dismissing other people’s views.

Now don’t get us wrong, there is no right way of communicating here; all four styles are essential in business settings, depending on the circumstances that call for it. While they all play their respective roles to grow a company or team, some communication styles may be more preferred over others. The assertive style, for instance, is by far the most prevalent in modern business environments: It boosts productivity and reduces stress and tension within the team, according to reports.

It is important, to consider the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ when it comes to the way we talk in order to communicate effectively and create the outcomes that we want. This way, companies and teams are able to be more inclusive in the way that we talk and generate better productivity. This is where SoundWave’s verbal strategies can be especially useful to help people talk with more intentionality and clarity in a business environment.

According to SoundWave, people tend to talk in three very broad ways: we ask, suggest and tell. Under the ‘ask’ style, we inquire, probe and diagnose. Under the ‘suggest’ style, we articulate, advocate and advise. Under the ‘tell’ style, we critique, correct and challenge. All of these strategies can be used within each of the four workplace communication styles above to achieve different objectives. It is simply a matter of what the intended outcome is from the conversation.

1. Passive Communication Style

passive communication styles

Strengths: Able to mediate and resolve conflict, easy to compromise

Areas of Improvement: Not able to say ‘No’, may get burnt out from compromising too regularly

Passive communicators are known for their quiet body language. They often try to stay out of conflict by remaining in the background (rather than on top) of any situation. A passive communicator typically doesn’t have any stance or say and would likely be indifferent about sticking to a position during a team debate. Their opinions (if they have any) remain with them since they prefer not to voice them out to avoid confrontation. That’s why their co-workers might have a hard time understanding them. This set of communicators are likely NOT to express their feelings; you might not know when they are angry or facing a particular challenge. Hence, helping them out becomes an issue.

Some common phrases among passive communicators are “you are right; let’s go with your idea,” “it doesn’t matter,” “I just want peace to reign,” ” I’m fine with the idea, as long as there is peace.”

In business, this communication style is actually beneficial when dealing with a difficult client who is only concerned about their ideas; you can employ a passive communicator to appease them. In other words, Passive communication works well to counteract aggressive communication.

How To Identify A Passive Communicator

To identify a passive communicator, you have to pay attention to the following tendencies:

  • Indifferent body language (poor posture)
  • Easy-going
  • Inability to disagree
  • Reduced eye contact
  • The tone of voice (often soft)
  • Fidgeting
  • Having an apologetic outlook.

Once you notice one or two of the above attributes in your teammate, you have to be more guided in communicating with them.

Some DOs And DON’Ts For People To Work Better With Passive Communicators

To improve your communication skills with a passive communicator, you have to take the following steps:

  • Be direct. Particularly ask for their opinions when discussing in teams, groups, or units, however take care to not be confrontational.
  • Consciously include ‘ask’ voices in your verbal strategy to engage them and give them room to air their views.
  • Don’t rush them: Give them time to think and arrive at their “own” conclusion.
  • Startup a one-on-one conversation: private conversations allow passive communicators to express themselves better.
  • Don’t dismiss their opinion: they are probably putting in the extra work to boost their confidence; hence, ignoring their ideas can cause them setbacks. If their point is not feasible, highlight the positive side and appreciate it: don’t write it off outright.
  • Be solution-oriented: while working with a passive communicator, focus the conversation on solving a problem. Try not to get angry or aggressive, as it might shut them down completely.

Passive communicators may require some encouragement in order to express themselves. Here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy to deal with them based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Start off engagement by incorporating the asking voices – i.e probe, inquire and diagnose
  2. Move to affirm their views with the articulate voice to let them know that they have been heard
  3. If necessary, use the critique voice to provide evaluation on their ideas, taking care to highlight the positives as well and including them in the process of judgement
  4. Consider the necessity of the suggest voices. Employ advise if they may need your opinion on how to move forward with their ideas, or perhaps even the advocate voice if they may need support and encouragement to speak up

How To Adjust Your Passive Style To Work Better With People

As a passive communicator, you have your part to play to improve communication with your team members. Here are some tips:

  • Identify the source of your indifference: Do you feel like nobody listens to you? Are your ideas written off? Try to pinpoint where the problem is coming from.
  • Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, the next thing is to schedule a meeting with your manager. If you are not comfortable with a public meeting, you can make it private.
  • Value your contributions. To grow your confidence within the team, you should trust your ideas enough to value them. Only then can you be confident enough to voice them out.
  • Understand the importance of having “NO” for a response. The ability to lend your voice in a group starts with saying NO when need be. When you set your boundary, you get to protect it — even if you have to respond no. And as such, your stance on any issue will be crystal clear.
  • Adopt the “win-win” strategy: As a passive communicator, you are already used to making compromises (that’s your strength). The little work you have to put in is often seeking a means to arrive at a win-win situation with your team members.

If you are in a situation that requires this style of communication, here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Focus on regulating the use of your articulate and critique voices. These are bridging voices that connecting between understanding and generating action. When used skilfully, it will improve your ability as a peacemaker and creates influence.
  2. As someone who may be solution-oriented in order to resolve issues, you may choose to emphasize on the diagnose voice. Don’t neglect the other ask voices; sometimes it may be more helpful to the problem to probe for insights or inquire for engagement, instead of diagnosing for solutions where you risk complexifying the issue further!
  3. Don’t be afraid to be more directive. As the passive communicator, you have the advantage of being the observer of the issue and thus may have more expertise than you think you do. Challenge or correct where necessary, and see how your team members receive you!

2. Aggressive Communication Style

aggressive communication style

Strengths: Directive, actionable, opinionated

Areas of Improvement: May neglect the opinions of others, may not get along well with others

The aggressive communication style is the direct opposite of the passive style: They are both outspoken and confrontational. Plus, they don’t hold back their feelings whatsoever. An aggressive communicator tends to dominate every discussion at the expense of other people’s opinions. They just want to win every argument at all cost, even if it means hurting other people. An aggressive communicator might be making a good point, but the harsh tone with which they deliver the message prevents effective communication. You often hear them say stuff like, “you are so wrong about this; listen to me!”. “That proposal you wrote is terrible.”

Such an aggressive person has the impulse to react even before thinking. That’s why they might end up having strained relationships with team members.

While it’s crucial to have a leader who can dominate any conversation in business settings, the leader in question must skillfully tame the aggressive trait for effective communication in the workplace.

How To Identify An Aggressive Communicator

To identify aggressive communication styles, look out for the following:

  • They cut people short while they’re still communicating their points.
  • They use aggressive gestures.
  • They respond with a harsh voice.
  • They have an intimidating demeanor.
  • They tend to have an overbearing posture or outlook.
  • Their eye contact is intense.

Some DOs And DON’Ts To Communicate Better With An Aggressive Communicator

To improve your communication skills while working with an aggressive teammate, here are some DOs and DON’Ts to abide by:

  • Be patient: Yes, it’s a challenging task to deal with an aggressive communicator, but you have to be patient with them.
  • Engage in active listening. While exercising patience, try to be more of a listener while they talk all they want. You can start talking when you’re sure they’ve finished.
  • If they try to cut you short, don’t shout back or argue: Simply remind them that you gave them listening ears while it was their turn to speak; implore them to do the same.
  • Be professional. Try to keep the conversation around topics that are devoid of personal sentiments and emotions.
  • If you are in a superior position, you can introduce them to some practical communication tools like SoundWave to quickly improve their communication skills.
  • Know when to walk away. If, for instance, you are in no position to hold a meaningful conversation and you’re no longer making any positive progress with an aggressive communicator, you can save yourself the stress and walk away.
  • Get them to do their job. Instead of straying into unrelated topics and arguing further with aggressive communicators, just get them down to business — that’s if you have the authority to do that.

Aggressive communicators may be tough to manage, especially if they exist in your teams.  Here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy to deal with them based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Aggressive communicators love knowing that they have your attention, so use the articulate voice to your advantage to let them know that they have been heard.
  2. It may be difficult to get people with this communication style to see your point of view. Consider using the asking voices—perhaps the more focused probe or diagnose— to lead them to conclusions that you need them to see.
  3. Sometimes, you just have to beat fire with fire—don’t be afraid to correct, critique or challenge further especially when the stakes are high—but make sure to sound-post—informing them of the voices to anticipate—to make them less defensive. For example, if you wish to correct them, instead of ‘”You’re wrong, this is what needs to be delivered”, sound-post your intention by mentioning, “Let me correct you on this point here…”

How To Adjust Your Aggressive Style To Communicate Better With People

If you’re intentional about boosting your communication skills as an aggressive communicator, here are some helpful steps to take:

  • There is just a fine line that differentiates the confidence of an aggressive communicator from that of an assertive person. The only difference is that the assertive person considers the opinion of their colleagues. Hence, you can improve your communication skills by considering how your message will affect the person you’re speaking
  • Adjust your philosophy. Sure, it’s okay that you want to win, but it shouldn’t be every single time! You win some; you lose some. Besides, the focus is not to win every argument; the focus is on problem-solving.
  • Take a look at your body language, posture, and demeanor. Do you appear mean, intimidating, and oppressive? Is your voice overly harsh? If you can consciously tone down a bit, you will indeed send your message across more easily.
  • Get acquainted with more communication styles. You can take a few assessments, using the SoundWave tool to improve your tone of voice while communicating.

If you are in a situation that requires this style of communication, here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Use more ‘ask’ voices. This will be helpful in getting your team members into the discussion.
  2. Employ the method of sound-requesting—asking for specific voices—within your team. For example, statements such as ‘correct me if I’m wrong…’,‘I need your advise on this…’ or ‘What is your evaluation here?’ will be helpful to let your team members know that you are including them in the conversation, as well as making you more consciously vulnerable.
  3. It could be that sometimes, we may get so carried away with our points that we do not realise the impact of our voices. Make it a point to get feedback from your team members on how they are hearing you, or consider doing the SoundWave 360 Assessment for a more in-depth approach.

3. Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

passive-aggressive communication style

Strengths: Maintains peace in the short term

Areas of Improvement: Seem manipulative, doesn’t address problem in the long run

A passive-aggressive communicator, as the name suggests, has the combined traits of the aggressive and passive styles, making it a bit tricky. The reason is that while a passive-aggressive person appears submissive and easy-going on the surface, they have a lot of anger and resentment deep down. They might have an approachable demeanor, but their actions are mainly driven by aggression.  That’s why the behavior of a passive-aggressive communicator is likely to be in contrast to what they say. They mostly use this strategy to manipulate situations in their favor. For example, you might hear such a person saying, “I love your article; you write so well,” but at the same time, they might be muttering, “what a godforsaken piece of content!”

The passive-aggressive style is simply toxic and can generate hatred and hostility within teams. Most employees wouldn’t want to work with such a person. And communicating via this method is not allowed in the typical business environment — especially if the company favors teamwork against personal efforts.

How To Identify A Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

Some indirect routes through which this set of communicators manipulate situations are as follows:

  • Using sarcasm
  • Patronizing others
  • Gossiping
  • Starting and spreading rumors
  • Use of silent treatments
  • Showing denial
  • They are putting up a happy face, even when they make brutal utterances.

Some DOs And DON’Ts To Communicate Better With A Passive-Aggressive Person

When dealing with this set of people, here are some steps to improve communication in the workplace:

  • Make your requests as straightforward as possible. With this, they won’t have room to misinterpret or misquote you, thereby eliminating their confusing tendency.
  • Understand what propels them. Of course, there is a reason for the irregular communication Is it a personal resolution they made because they feel “used” or powerless in the system? Do they only use this style when communicating with an aggressive person? Finding out their motivation could be the first crucial step to improving workplace communication.
  • Make good use of an assertive style: be meticulous enough (even if it means listening actively), take note of whatever trick they bring up, and point out your views without undermining theirs.
  • React to their attitude in different ways
  • Confront the toxic behavior: once you observe that their behavior is becoming more harmful, you can call them aside and talk about it. You can also alert the team leader or any of the managers if your advice is not fruitful.
  • Always demand feedback. Take it upon yourself to hold a one-on-one, honest communication with them and get their feedback.

Passive-aggressive communicators need to be dealt with carefully but swiftly in order to prevent damage to team morale. Here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy to deal with them based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Make good use of the ask voices—namely probe and diagnose—to dig deeper and generate insights on their thoughts and feelings
  2. Sound-requesting can be helpful here in overcoming their reluctance to be upfront with their thoughts. Give them a safe space to provide their feedback.
  3. In case if they need more encouragement to be forthcoming, consider if it is necessary to apply accentuated voices within your verbal strategy.

How To Adjust Your Passive-Aggressive Style And Work Better With People

  • Find out the source of your resentment and bitterness towards your fellow employees. Do you feel used or unappreciated? You have to find out what’s propelling your actions to solve the problem.
  • Learn to be solution-oriented. Relate all your ideas to solving the problem at hand.
  • Practice Although it may seem difficult at first, you should always try to say what you mean and mean what you say. With this approach, you’d start being consistent in your opinions.

If you are in a situation that requires this style of communication, here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Focus on voicing your beliefs through the advocate voice.
  2. Where you may have more authority or expertise, don’t hold back. Use the tell voices: critique, correct, challenge.
  3. Sometimes, we may tend to adopt a passive-aggressive approach in our conversation because of a lack of understanding. Don’t be afraid to use the ‘ask’ voices to break down your understanding in order for you to provide better suggestions.

4. Assertive Communication Style

assertive communication style

Strengths: Inclusive, Confident and Considerate 

Areas of Improvement: May waste too much time in gathering opinions where swift action is necessary

The assertive communication style is the most respectful and progressive approach to communication. This set of people are confident about their opinions, but they don’t undermine or downplay other people’s views. They pass their message across and, at the same time, practice active listening to get all the feedback they need. Assertive communicators are known for their free and fair leadership skills. However, they don’t let their respect for others sabotage the team’s productivity.

The typical assertive person would politely point out what he wants without sounding forceful. For example, you might hear them say, “I think you interrupting the team leader during the group meeting made the decision-making slow.” You will never hear an assertive person sound like, “You don’t interrupt the team leader; you have to be quiet until you are allowed to talk.”

Employees often see an assertive communicator as a go-to person since they are the most reliable for a meaningful, productive conversation.

How To Know An Assertive Communicator

  • Their leadership style allows for collaboration
  • They express themselves confidently and productively
  • They speak with respect for other’s opinions.
  • They have friendly eye contact, demeanor, and posture
  • They are goal-oriented.

How To Work Better With An Assertive Person

To improve communications with an assertive person, here are some steps to take:

  • Give them time to speak: You can rest assured that you’d talk too; they will always request feedback.
  • Allow the assertive person to ask for your opinion; that’s how they get feedback to communicate
  • Be specific while airing your views.
  • Be precise while pointing out the problems at hand.

Assertive communicators may tend to be more open to directions, and that could make conversations with them go smoothly. Here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy to deal with them based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Make good use of the critique voice to let the assertive communicator know that you have been listening, while slowly influencing them through your clear evaluation and judgement on the matter.
  2. Assertive communicators enjoy collaboration. Voices such as inquire and probe may be helpful to gather views not just from them, but from the team as a whole.
  3. Don’t be afraid to suggest—articulate, advocate and advise.

How To Become A Better Assertive Communicator

You can always get better — even as an assertive person!

  • You already have the confidence (that’s your strength); you just have to maintain the path.
  • Let your confidence motivate you to carry others (the less confident) along.
  • Mind the verbs you use, so you don’t appear authoritative.
  • Try to keep it straightforward. Don’t digress.

If you are in a situation that requires this style of communication, here are our tips to help you craft a verbal strategy based on SoundWave’s nine voices:

  1. Take care to employ sound-posting where you are making use of the socially-risky voices—probe, critique, correct, challenge and advocate.
  2. As a collaborator, you tend to want to hear the opinions of all your team members. Use the articulate voice to weave them together and connect the dots, so that everyone will be able to have a clear view of the situation and contribute to better decision-making.
  3. Where you may choose not to take opinions, use the critique voice to provide a clear explanation of why.


Which Is The Most Preferred Communication style?

The assertive communication style is the most prevalent in a business environment — at least in this 21st century — the reason being that the assertive style allows for teamwork and growth. Of course, every business craves to get better, and that’s what assertive communication ensures.

Different people have different communication styles, and that’s why we have our unique preference of communication. But if we are to have better outcomes at work, it is important to become more conscious about the way that we communicate.

Changing your communication style first starts with knowing your habitual way of speaking—your conversational preferences are all clues that help you understand what contributes to your responses in situations. For example, if you have an aggressive communication style, being more mindful of the impact of your voices under-pressure and when its accentuated can be helpful in changing the way people perceive you. In turn, this leads to better, more productive conversations that generates the outcomes we want.

Take the step to understanding how your voice and communication style can influence your conversation at your workplace through the SoundWave Brilliance 3 Assessment.


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