The styles of communication

Different people prefer to convey their ideas and opinions in different ways. Moreover, different people also prefer to take in ideas and opinions from others in different ways. 

These different ways in which people approach the process of communication, i.e. the process of conveying and taking in ideas and opinions, are called communication styles. 

If you don’t understand your own communication style, it’s difficult to be self-aware while conversing.

If you don’t understand the communication styles of the people you are conversing with, it’s difficult to optimize your communication approach.

In terms of how people communicate in different situations or with different people, we recognize submissive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, manipulative, and assertive communication styles. 

In terms of whether they have a direct or indirect, supporting or controlling communication style, people may be viewed as relators, socializers, thinkers, or directors.

In terms of how they prefer to communicate information, people may be viewed as analytical, intuitive, functional, or personal communicators.

If you already identify with a certain personality type or frequently converse with people of certain personality types, knowledge about the communication styles of these personality types may also help you improve how you receive/convey information.

In this guide, we’ll provide examples of the above-listed communication styles, talk about their positives and negatives, and shed light on how you can use knowledge about different communication styles to better understand and communicate with others, but also help others better understand and communicate with you. 

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Communication styles, division by Bourne (1995)

According to psychologist Edmund J. Bourne Ph.D. and his book titled ”The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook”, we recognize 5 different types of communication styles: submissive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, manipulative, and assertive

For individuals, these communication styles may be dominant, or may be used in specific situations or with specific people.

Here’s what each is about in more detail.

Submissive communication style

The submissive style of communication is focused on pleasing other people and avoiding all conflicts. 

For submissive communicators, the needs of others are always more important than their own needs. 

They often act like other people have more rights than them and more means to contribute in conversations, meetings, discussions, and other types of communication situations.

Common behavioral characteristics of submissive communicators.

When it comes to their general behavior, submissive communicators tend to:

  • be apologetic;
  • avoid expressing their feelings, opinions, and desires;
  • avoid confrontations;
  • find it difficult to take on responsibility;
  • have difficulties making decisions;
  • blame others for events and situations;
  • refuse compliments;
  • feel like victims.

Common non-verbal behavior of submissive communicators

When it comes to their non-verbal behavior, submissive communicators tend to:

  • have a soft voice volume;
  • hold their heads down;
  • twist and fidget;
  • avoid eye contact;
  • aim to take up as little space as possible;
  • make themselves appear smaller, to avoid having other people notice them.

🎓Non-verbal behavior is just one out of five common types of communication you may encounter in a business setting. To learn more about the different types of communication, check out our extensive guide to the types of communication.

Examples of communication with submissive communicators

  1. A junior and senior product designer are discussing their latest design solution. In order to avoid getting herself into a deep discussion that might cause a conflict in opinions, the junior designer ends the discussion by saying:
    • “I’ll let you decide what’s best.”
  2. In a marketing meeting, an outreach specialist is given another batch of tasks by the marketing director. Although the amount of her work is expected to double in the upcoming period because of this, when asked about whether such an amount of work will be too much and whether it’s best to share the tasks with the rest of the outreach team, the SEO outreach specialist simply replies with:
    • “Oh, it’s nothing really, I can easily handle it.” 
  3. An enterprise sales specialist has been promoted to a new position and given a bigger salary, over another enterprise sales specialist who objectively deserved the promotion more. When asked about this by her immediate colleagues, the enterprise sales specialist who got passed over for the promotion replies:
    • “Oh, that’s all right; I didn’t want it anyway.”
An example of submissive communication in Pumble chat app

How people who are communicating with submissive communicators feel

The people who are communicating with submissive communicators are likely to feel:

  • frustrated that they’ve been told what they want to hear, rather than facts;
  • exasperated over their time being wasted on unproductive communication;
  • they no longer want to help the submissive communicator make improvements in communication, as their efforts tend to be indirectly rejected;
  • guilty over not knowing what the submissive communicator wants;
  • they are in a position to take advantage of the submissive communicator;
  • resentful towards the low energy surrounding the submissive communicator.

Pro tip for communicating with submissive communicators

In order to get the most out of your communication with submissive communicators, you can take over the role of the facilitator

If you want to know what the submissive communicator is really thinking, encourage them to speak by being warm, friendly, and inviting. 

In group meetings that involve brainstorming sessions, you can also encourage submissive communicators to share by emphasizing: 

“Everyone’s input matters, and there are no stupid ideas, so feel free to share!”

Aggressive communication style

The aggressive style of communication is focused on winning at all costs — which may often happen at the expense of others. 

As a sharp contrast to submissive communicators, aggressive communicators value their own needs above everyone else’s and believe their opinions to be the most important in a discussion — which is also how they behave.

They often act like they have more rights and more means to contribute than other people. As a result, the importance of the information they are trying to convey may get overshadowed by the inconsiderate way in which they deliver the said information.

Common behavioral characteristics of aggressive communicators

When it comes to their general behavior, aggressive communicators tend to:

  • blame others;
  • bully other people;
  • be frightening;
  • be hostile;
  • be threatening;
  • be demanding;
  • be abrasive;
  • be belligerent;
  • be explosive;
  • be unpredictable;
  • be intimidating.

Common non-verbal behavior of aggressive communicators

When it comes to their non-verbal behavior, aggressive communicators tend to:

  • use a loud voice volume to get their ideas and opinions across;
  • position themselves to seem bigger than others;
  • use prominent, sharp, and fast gestures;
  • scowl, frown, or glare at others;
  • invade other people’s personal space;
  • have sarcastic remarks.

Examples of communication with aggressive communicators

  1. A discussion about product analytics between two members of a sales team heats up, as the person with an aggressive communication style lashes out on his colleague:
    • “You are crazy! That’s not what the numbers mean!”
  2. A sales manager providing feedback to the newest member of the sales team without much tact. The new sales specialist gets upset, to which the sales manager replies:
    • “Stop being whiny! You make me sick!”
  3. An urgent meeting among the university staff about the location for the annual education seminar, which should be decided by vote, but which ends with the university dean quickly getting bored of the discussion and declaring:
    • “That is just about enough of that! We’ll do it my way!”

How people who are communicating with aggressive communicators feel

The people who are communicating with aggressive communicators are likely to feel:

  • they need to be defensive and/or withdraw from the discussion;
  • they need to be aggressive in return, and fight back;
  • resentful and vengeful for how hurt, humiliated, and even exploited they feel while interacting with an aggressive communicator;
  • afraid to report mistakes and problems, to avoid being blamed for them;
  • generally less respectful towards someone who communicates aggressively.

Pro tip for communicating with aggressive communicators

In order to get the most out of your communication with aggressive communicators, you can actively look out for interruptions and then aim to prevent them

If the aggressive communicator cuts you off mid-sentence, simply say: 

“Hang on, I’m not finished yet.” 

Passive-aggressive communication style

The passive-aggressive style of communication involves people appearing passive on the surface, while they are actually indirectly expressing their anger. 

The passive-aggressive communicators act this way because they want to act more directly, but find themselves powerless to do so — usually because of inopportune circumstances. 

Instead, to vent their anger and dissatisfaction, the passive-aggressive communicators subtly undermine the person they are communicating with, even if this means they’ll worsen their own situation.

Common behavioral characteristics of passive-aggressive communicators

When it comes to their general behavior, passive-aggressive communicators tend to:

  • be indirectly aggressive;
  • be sarcastic or ironic;
  • be devious;
  • be unreliable;
  • be sulky;
  • be patronizing;
  • be two-faced (e.g. they are nice to your face, but are secretly trying to sabotage your work efforts or spread rumors about you);
  • complain more than other people;
  • like gossiping;
  • invest efforts into actively harming the other person.

Common non-verbal behavior of passive-aggressive communicators

When it comes to their non-verbal behavior, passive-aggressive communicators tend to:

  • speak with a sugary sweet voice, to mask their true intentions and feelings towards you;
  • position themselves asymmetrically (e.g. hip trusted out, hand on hip), especially when being patronizing; 
  • have quick and unexpected gestures;
  • invest extra effort to look sweet and innocent;
  • stand close during face-to-face conversations, to elicit a false sense of warmth and friendliness.

Examples of communication with passive-aggressive communicators

  1. A back-end software developer talking with a front-end software developer about the fixes that need to be done on the latest feature of their travel app. The front-end developer seems to agree with the proposed solutions, but confuses the back-end developer by ending the conversation with:
    • “OK, we’ll do it your way! After all, you always know better than me.”
  2. An emergency physician finishing his shift. He has trouble opening his office, and tells a nearby emergency room nurse:
    • “Oh, don’t worry about me, I’ll figure this out on my own like I always have to.”
  3. A college professor with a Ph.D. undermining a college assistant who’s yet to obtain her Ph.D. degree:
    • “You did brilliantly for someone of your education and experience.”

How people who are communicating with passive-aggressive communicators feel

The people who are communicating with passive-aggressive communicators are likely to feel:

  • confused at the contrast between what the passive-aggressive communicators are saying and what they are actually communicating;
  • hurt and resentful when they realize that the said contrast is deliberate;
  • angry when the behavior persists — to such an extent that they may want to retaliate.

Pro tip for communicating with passive-aggressive communicators

In order to get the most out of your communication with passive-aggressive communicators, you should directly ask them to be direct

If the passive-aggressive communicator is constantly late for meetings (which may indicate they dislike the location or the time of the meetings, or the manner in which the meetings are conducted), confront them about this directly: 

“Sarah, I’d appreciate it if you were to arrive on time to meetings. Is there a specific reason why you tend to be late for meetings?”

You may also want to confront them in private, to ease the chances that the passive-aggressive communicator will become defensive.

Manipulative communication style

The manipulative style of communication involves shrewd behavior a person takes on in order to achieve the wanted outcomes. 

Manipulative communicators will scheme and calculate to influence and control others to do their bidding.

The thoughts, opinions, and ideas they convey may have underlying meaning — meaning others may not be aware of at first.

Common behavioral characteristics of manipulative communicators

When it comes to their general behavior, manipulative communicators tend to:

  • be cunning;
  • know exactly how to get what they want from the person they need it from;
  • sulk in order to elicit certain emotions and reactions from others;
  • ask for what they want or need indirectly;
  • make others feel obliged to them, or sorry for them, in some way;
  • fish for compliments.

Common non-verbal behavior of manipulative communicators

When it comes to their non-verbal behavior, manipulative communicators tend to:

  • have a high pitched voice that reveals a patronizing or envious streak;
  • have guilty or ashamed facial expressions.

Examples of communication with manipulative communicators:

  1. “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to work the coffee machine.” says a senior bank clerk to another bank clerk who’s just started today. The senior bank clerk knows how the coffee machine works, but wants the new bank clerk to seem incompetent in front of the bank manager who’s making tea next to them;
  2. “I’ve only contacted 100 leads today, I hope I’ll be better tomorrow!” declares a senior sales specialist in front of the director of sales and the rest of the sales team, hoping to encourage them to compliment him.

How people who are communicating with manipulative communicators feel

The people who are communicating with manipulative communicators are likely to feel:

  • guilty, if it’s hinted they’ve not lived up to the advertised expectations;
  • frustrated, as it’s difficult to tell what a manipulative communicator really wants, and how sincere they are being — at least at first;
  • angry or annoyed at the antics of the manipulative communicator — this anger and annoyance may build up to an open conflict;
  • resentful at the antics of the manipulative communicator, to the point that they may seek retaliation.

Pro tip for communicating with manipulative communicators

In order to get the most out of your communication with manipulative communicators, you should directly call them out for such behavior.

According to an article by Preston Ni M.S.B.A. in Psychology Today, you should ask probing questions to see whether the manipulative communicator in question has some degree of self-awareness that will encourage them to withdraw their request or simply back down. 

For example:

“Does what you’re asking me to do sound fair? Does it seem reasonable to you?”

Assertive communication style

The assertive style of communication emerges from self-esteem and represents the healthiest and most effective communication style you can adopt. 

Assertive communicators are neither too passive nor too aggressive — instead, they have the ability to communicate directly and effectively, without resorting to passive-aggressiveness or manipulation. 

Moreover, assertive communicators have equal regard towards their own and other people’s needs and rights. 

Common behavioral characteristics of assertive communicators:

When it comes to their general behavior, assertive communicators tend to:

  • aim to fulfill their needs and rights, without hurting the needs and right of others;
  • respect the needs and rights of other people, without neglecting their own needs and rights;
  • be socially supportive;
  • be emotionally expressive;
  • make their own decisions, but take full responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions;
  • ask for what they want directly, but with regards to others;
  • have no problems accepting compliments.

Common non-verbal behavior of assertive communicators:

When it comes to their non-verbal behavior, assertive communicators tend to:

  • talk with a medium voice pitch, speed, and volume;
  • have an open, relaxed posture;
  • avoid twisting and fidgeting, or aiming to appear smaller or more imposing than they actually are; 
  • maintain eye contact while communicating;
  • have relaxed, natural gestures;
  • be respectful of other people’s personal space.

Examples of communication with assertive communicators

  1. A customer support specialist having difficulties focusing on the latest user ticket because the app’s front-end developer is listening to music on her speakers. The customer support specialist knocks on her cubicle and says:
    • “Please Linda, could you turn the volume down, or use headphones? I’m working on the newest set of user tickets and have difficulties focusing on them because of the music.” 
  2. A CTO of a time zone converter app wants to have a call with a potential client interested in the self-hosted version of the said app. He asks his product manager to join the call on Friday at 10 am. The product manager replies the following:
    • “I am sorry, but I won’t be able to join in on that call. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that time, and have already taken half of that day off because of it.”
An example of assertive communication in Pumble chat app

How people who are communicating with assertive communicators feel

The people who are communicating with assertive communicators are likely to feel:

  • they can trust the assertive communicator;
  • they understand what the person is trying to communicate;
  • they can offer criticism without triggering a negative reaction;
  • they can respect the person;
  • they don’t need to go out of their way to make the assertive communicator feel comfortable and secure;

Pro tip for communicating with assertive communicators

The best you can do when communicating with assertive communicators is to mimic their healthy and efficient style of communication

Listen to them attentively, positively assert yourself, agree to disagree with them (if applicable), ask for their opinions, and aim to be open and honest in communication.

For example:

“I propose we pick this color scheme for the product. What do you think?”

Communication styles, division by Alessandra & Hunsaker (1993)

According to another division of communication styles, defined by Alessandra & Hunsaker in their book “Communication at Work”, we recognize 4 communication styles, which are based on two dimensions:

  1. Direct vs indirect communication styles;
  2. Supporting vs controlling communication styles.

The 4 communication styles in question are relators, socializers, thinkers, and directors.

Here’s what each of the 4 communication styles and 2 dimensions is about in more detail:

Direct vs indirect communication styles

The direct vs indirect dimension describes observable behavior and divides people into direct talkers and indirect talkers.

  • Direct talkers tend to: 
    • be assertive and take charge;
    • dominate meetings with their outspoken communication;
    • radiate self-confidence;
    • maintain eye contact;
    • have firm handshakes;
    • express their opinions openly;
    • talk faster and louder in general;
    • have a bold visual appearance;
    • speak in aggressive tones;
    • be impatient, competitive, and confrontational in general.
  • Indirect talkers tend to:
    • hesitate to contribute in meetings, due to their more tentative communication approach;
    • take initiative at social gatherings slower;
    • preface their statements with qualifications in the line of “According to my sources…” and “I’m not sure, but…”
    • conform about unimportant matters, but argue if they have strong convictions about something;
    • listen to others more;
    • have gentle handshakes;
    • be more reserved;
    • be more cautious;
    • talk slower and with a lower volume;
    • be more conservative in their visual appearance;
    • be more patient, diplomatic, and cooperative in general.

Supporting vs controlling communication styles

The supporting vs controlling dimension describes the “why” aspect of the communication process, and whether the communicators are people-oriented (supporting) or task-oriented (controlling).

  • People-oriented (supporting) communicators tend to:
    • maintain closer proximity with the people they are communicating with;
    • share feelings, in the sense that they have no problem expressing confusion, joy, sadness, and other emotions;
    • use more informal speech patterns;
    • prefer relaxed, warmer relationships;
    • enjoy amusing conversations;
    • like to share personal stories and anecdotes;
    • pay less notice if someone is objectively wasting their time;
    • base their decisions around their feelings, but also the feelings of others;
    • have active facial expressions;
    • have animated physical gestures;
    • be contact-oriented.
  • Task-oriented (controlling) communicators tend to:
    • keep their distance from others while communicating;
    • base their decisions around facts;
    • share their feelings less;
    • prefer working alone;
    • pay less attention to the opinions and feelings of other people;
    • excel at time management;
    • dislike digressions;
    • use more formal speech patterns;
    • use fewer facial expressions;
    • be guarded emotionally, physically, and mentally;
    • avoid being boisterous;
    • avoid being rowdy.

Now that we understand the dimensions that shape their communication, let’s look at how relators, socializers, thinkers, and directors communicate.

Relators

Relators are characterized by a supporting and indirect communication style. 

They usually care more about the feelings of the people they are communicating with than the effectiveness of their tasks. 

They tend to:

  • avoid conflict;
  • enjoy personal relationships.

Positive traits of relators

When it comes to the positive traits of people who have a relating communication style, relators tend to:

  • be great team players;
  • be loyal to their cause;
  • be willing to share responsibilities;
  • be risk-averse;
  • excel at active listening;
  • plan everything thoroughly, and then follow through with their plans;
  • have a relaxed disposition;
  • have a warm and approachable conduct;

Negative traits of relators

When it comes to the negative traits of people who have a relating communication style, relators tend to:

  • be reluctant to express themselves;
  • struggle with setting goals;
  • may not always speak up to voice their concerns, even if they don’t agree with what’s being discussed;
  • lack assertiveness.

How to talk with a relator

The key point to know when talking with a relator is to aim to make the interaction personal.

To make the most of your communication with a relator, you should also:

  • be patient when trying to establish rapport and while waiting for the relator to think about the points you’ve raised;
  • seek a mutual agreement about the goals and deadlines;
  • show interest in the relator as a person;
  • explain how certain changes and innovations can benefit the relators, to reduce their fears;
  • follow through with your promises;
  • exhibit warmth when communicating.

An example of successful communication with a relator

A CTO wants her full-stack software developer, who fits the description of a relator in terms of communication style, to tweak the sorting feature in their time zone converter app, so that it sorts cities the user wants to compare in terms of time zone by geographical location, and not alphabetically. The CTO starts the conversation by disclosing some benefits of such a change, being patient while the full-stack developer considers the actual value of such a feature, and asking for the optimal time for a deadline if the feature has been greenlit.

Socializers

Socializers are characterized by a supporting and direct communication style. 

Their strongest stimulus are the admiration, compliments, and acknowledgment they may get from others. Socializers tend to influence and stimulate others in a friendly and positive way.

They also tend to:

  • crave interactions and contact with other people;
  • act and make decisions spontaneously;
  • act enthusiastically and lively;
  • think emotionally;
  • avoid conflicts;
  • like innovations.

Positive traits of socializers

When it comes to the positive traits of people who have a socializing communication style, socializers tend to be:

  • easy to cooperate with;
  • talkative;
  • communicative;
  • persuasive;
  • enthusiastic;
  • social.

Negative traits of socializers

When it comes to the negative traits of people who have a socializing communication style, socializers tend to:

  • come across as manipulative and impetuous when they display behavior that is inappropriate to the current situation;
  • overlook crucial facts and details, which may lead them to exaggerate and generalize issues and concepts;
  • need help getting organized;
  • get involved in too many activities;
  • exhibit a short attention-span;
  • be overly concerned with the approval of others;
  • be overly impatient.

How to talk with a socializer

The key point to know when talking with a socializer is to make the interaction fun and lively.

To make the most of your communication with a socializer, you should also:

  • invest some time into building a relationship with the socializer;
  • skip the boring or unimportant details while conversing;
  • be clear on duties and responsibilities during meetings;
  • put what you’ve agreed on during a verbal conversation in writing, to help the socializer remember what has been agreed on;
  • avoid criticizing them directly;
  • try to motivate them with praise where and when due.

An example of successful communication with a socializer

The director of a customer support team wants her new customer support specialist, who fits the description of socializer in terms of communication style, to take on his first ticket. 

While providing additional explanations about the expected workflow (e.g. “Take tickets in the order they are added, unless there are tickets that are marked as priorities”) and performance indicators (e.g. “Aim to complete the routine tickets in 30 minutes or less”), the customer support director skips the details and focuses on the gist of the duties and responsibilities of the new customer support specialist. She also provides praise for how he handled his first ticket. 

In the end, she sends him an onboarding document so that he has the expected workflows, performance indicators, and other information relevant for his duties and responsibilities available in written form. 

An example of communication with a socializer in Pumble chat app

Thinkers

Thinkers are characterized by a controlling and indirect communication style. 

They focus on expectations and outcomes, so they base their communication around questions about how something should work, to determine whether something really works.

They tend to:

  • ask more questions;
  • prefer organization and structure in work;
  • have a logical and task-oriented way of thinking.

Positive traits of thinkers

When it comes to the positive traits of people who have a thinking communication style, thinkers tend to:

  • be accurate;
  • be independent;
  • excel at problem solving and organization;
  • excel at providing clarifications;
  • excel at following through.

Negative traits of thinkers

When it comes to the negative traits of people who have a thinking communication style, thinkers tend to:

  • aim to always be right;
  • be perfectionists who overanalyze;
  • be overly critical if they think a process is not going according to plan.

How to talk with a thinker

The key point to know when talking with a thinker is to aim to make the interaction accurate.

To make the most of your communication with a thinker, you should also:

  • avoid small talk and too much socializing;
  • give them time to time to think about what you’re talking about, before replying;
  • be prepared to answer questions with precision;
  • be prepared to provide additional figures and facts;
  • put what you’ve agreed on in writing;
  • keep your promises.

An example of successful communication with a thinker

Two history professors are discussing the lesson plans for the following week. 

Considering that they both fit the description of thinkers in terms of their communication style, they’re avoiding small talk, focusing on precise details (e.g. the number of minutes they plan to spend on each class activity), and writing down what they agreed on, as they agree on it. 

Directors

Directors are characterized by a controlling and direct communication style. 

They are usually described as action-oriented leaders who are focused primarily on results.

They tend to:

  • like being in control during communication;
  • have leadership skills;
  • prefer to act, rather than wait.

Positive traits of directors

When it comes to the positive traits of people who have a directing communication style, directors tend to:

  • be independent;
  • work quickly, even when working alone;
  • make the extra effort to overcome obstacles as fast as possible;
  • have great delegations skills;
  • have great administration skills;
  • like initiating changes.

Negative traits of directors

When it comes to the negative traits of people who have a directing communication style, directors tend to:

  • be stubborn;
  • be impatient;
  • be tough;
  • have a low tolerance for the feelings of others.

How to talk with a director

The key point to know when talking with a director is to aim to make the interaction fast.

To make the most of communicating with a director, you should also:

  • be clear;
  • be precise;
  • be concrete;
  • be prepared to provide quick solutions;
  • provide step-by-step guides on how goals can be obtained;
  • avoid emotional arguments;
  • avoid small talk;
  • avoid disclosing too much detail;
  • highlight crucial points.

An example of successful communication with a director

A marketing director having a meeting with the company’s CEO, who fits the description of director in terms of communication style, about the marketing strategies for the upcoming period. 

To say what she wants as efficiently as possible, the marketing director shows a step-by-step guide on how the marketing strategy she’s proposing can help the company obtain its goals. She is also investing extra effort to be clear, precise, concrete, and fast, and to highlight only the crucial details.

An example of communication with a director in Pumble chat app 

Communication styles, division by Murphy et al.

According to Mark Murphy and his team at Leadership IQ, who have spent a decade researching interpersonal communication, we recognize 4 styles of communication: the analytical, intuitive, functional, and personal style of communication. 

These communication styles describe how we prefer to communicate information. 

According to a Forbes article and survey that relies on the report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Lucidhart, as much as 42% of survey respondents who identify with at least one of the above-listed communication styles, cite the differences in these communication styles as the leading cause of miscommunication at work. But, in contrast, as much as 52% of survey respondents also declare that they enjoy communicating with people who have different communication styles — so, there is hope for a conscious effort towards improvements that will minimize miscommunication. 

The above-mentioned Economist report also found that 63% of respondents find that the key to improving communication is in using a wider range of communication tools, whether it be emails or other types of communication channels

Here’s what each of these communication styles is about in more detail, as described by Murphy and his team.

The analytical communication style

People who have an analytical communication style are focused on — data

In communication, they appreciate people who use specific language and enjoy conversing about facts and figures — if you don’t have the facts and figures to support your claims, you may lose credibility in the eyes of an analytical communicator. 

An example of communication with an analytical communicator:

During a daily meeting, a sales specialist declares that his findings show that “sales are positive”. The director of sales is unsatisfied with such phrasing and asks: “What do positive sales mean? Are they positive by 10%? Or 5%? What are the exact numbers?”

Main positive side: Considering that analytical communicators are capable of having an unemotional view of a situation, they are also capable of analyzing and drawing conclusions about issues logically, factually, and objectively.

Main negative side: On the same note, an overly unemotional view on situations may make the analytical communicators come across as cold and/or detached by others — especially by personal communicators.

The personal communication style

People who have a personal communication style are focused on — emotions.

In communication, personal communicators value emotional language and establishing a connection with the people they are communicating with. They tend to be diplomats and excel at listening, because they find great value in assessing how other people think and feel. 

An example of communication with a personal communicator:

While discussing the color scheme for their newest product, a product designer notices that their newest junior product designer seems upset over being overlooked for ideas. She makes the effort to make the junior product designer feel more included and appreciated by addressing him: “James, you’re a fresh perspective in the team, what do you think about the proposals for the color scheme?”

An example of communication with a personal communicator in Pumble chat app

Main positive side: Personal communicators often serve as the glue that holds everything together — they are attuned to other people’s feelings and opinions which helps them smooth over conflicts and encourage others to share ideas and opinions. 

Main negative side: The emotional side of personal communicators serves as both their upside and their downside — they may be viewed as overly emotional individuals who can easily get upset, especially from the point of view of analytical communicators. Moreover, their emotional side may drive them to avoid conflict, even when a battle of opinions may be the most productive outcome.

The intuitive communication style

People who have an intuitive communication style are focused on — the big picture.

In communication, they dislike excessive details and prefer broad overviews to a perfect ordering of events or explanation of the issue/situation.

They are action-oriented, focused more on results than the process that will get them there. In line with that, they favor brief conversations that cut right to the chase.

An example of communication with an intuitive communicator:

During a one-to-one conversation between a financial services officer and a financial consultant, the financial services officer starts disclosing details about the account of a client who wishes to invest in stocks. The financial services officer feels like the details are excessive and exclaims: “Let’s just focus on the current financial position of the client, and go from there.”

Main positive side: Considering that intuitive communicators prefer to-the-point conversations, they won’t get tangled in little, insignificant details. Their habit to look at the bigger picture may also help them find innovative, new solutions to old problems that suffer from inadequate processes.

Main negative side: On the same note, the briefness intuitive communicators favor while communicating means they may lack patience during situations that require a more detailed, prolonged approach. In such situations, these communicators may miss a crucial detail while looking at the bigger picture — which may especially frustrate functional communicators.

The functional communication style

People who have a functional communication style are focused on — processes.

In communication, functional communicators dislike the cut-to-the-chase, speedy conversations preferred by intuitive communicators. In contrast, they like to focus on details and processes, and take their time while looking for solutions and new ideas.

An example of communication with a functional communicator:

The head of pediatrics talking with a pediatrician who is in charge of a recently admitted patient. The head of pediatrics asks for all the details disclosed by the mother of the patient and takes a longer time to figure out the details that may turn out to be important triggers for the patient’s condition. While looking for the right treatment, the head of pediatrics is methodical, process-driven, and detailed-driven.

An example of communication with a functional communicator in Pumble chat app 

Main positive side: A functional communicator is unlikely to miss crucial details in a concept, idea, or a plan, no matter how small and insignificant this detail may appear to other people.

Main negative side: Considering that they prefer to take their time while thinking about or explaining something, functional communicators risk losing the attention of their intended audience — especially if the said audience includes intuitive communicators.

The communication styles of different MBTI personality types

When talking about communication styles, we can also argue that they may be tied to our personality types.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a personality questionnaire built on the theoretical framework of analytical psychologist Carl Jung and constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, we recognize 16 different personality types.

These personality types are based on 4 categories, presented in dualities:

  1. Introversion (I) — Extraversion (E) — This category describes how people direct and receive energy: 
    1. Introverts tend to direct energy towards the inner world and receive energy by reflecting on their experiences and ideas. 
    2. Extroverts tend to direct energy towards the outside world and receive energy by interacting with others and taking concrete action.
  2. Sensing (S) — Intuition (N) — This category describes how people take in information. 
    1. Sensing people tend to prefer to take in information that is in some way tangible — i.e. they focus on what they perceive using their five senses. 
    2. Intuitive people tend to prefer to take in information by observing the bigger picture — i.e. they focus on the bigger patterns and relationships between concepts.
  3. Thinking (T) — Feeling (F) — This category describes how people come to conclusions.
    1. Thinkers come to conclusions and make decisions based on objective truths and logic. 
    2. Feelers come to conclusions and make decisions based on the personal and social values they hold.
  4. Judging (J) — Perceiving (P) — This category describes how people approach the outside world. 
    1. Judging people approach the outside world in an organized, more planned manner — their main objective is to come to conclusions quickly and move on. 
    2. Perceiving people approach the outside world in a spontaneous, more flexible manner — their main objective is to get more information before making conclusions.

A quick overview of the MBTI personality types

The combination of the above-listed elements forms the 16 personality types, divided into 4 groups: Analysts, Diplomats, Sentials, and Explorers. 

The “MBTI Manual”, published by CPP, has disclosed the percentage of the general population who belong to each personality type.

THE ANALYSTS

As a group, Analysts are viewed as intuitive thinkers. They include the following personality types:

  • The Architects (INTJs) — with a global share of 2.1%;
  • The Commanders (ENTJs) — with a global share of 1.8%;
  • The Logicians (INTPs) — with a global share of 3.3%;
  • The Debaters (ENTPs) — with a global share of 3.2%.

THE DIPLOMATS

As a group, Diplomats are viewed as intuitive feelers. They include the following personality types:

  • The Advocates (INFJs) — with a global share of 1.5%;
  • The Protagonists (ENFJs) — with a global share of 2.5%;
  • The Mediators (INFPs) — with a global share of 4.4%;
  • The Campaigners (ENFPs) — with a global share of 8.1%.

THE SENTIALS

As a group, Sentinels are viewed as having sensing and judging qualities. They include the following personality types:

  • The Logisticians (ISTJs) — with a global share of 11.6%;
  • The Executives (ESTJs) — with a global share of 8.7%;
  • The Defenders (ISFJs) — with a global share of 13.8%;
  • The Consuls (ESFJs) — with a global share of 12.4%.

THE EXPLORERS

As a group, Explorers are viewed as having sensing and perceiving qualities. They include the following personality types:

  • The Crafters (ISTPs) — with a global share of 5.4%
  • The Entrepreneurs (ESTPs) — with a global share of 4.3%
  • The Adventurers (ISFPs) — with a global share of 8.8%
  • The Entertainers (ESFPs) — with a global share of 8.5%

Criticism of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular instrument for personality assessments — but, it has also garnered its fair share of criticism. Some experts claim that this personality test is riddled with the following faults:

  • It represents only stereotypes of personalities, unlikely to describe individuals;
  • It represents an overly rigid classification that does not allow a mix of preferences;
  • It appears accurate only due to the Barnum effect that has individuals believe that overly generalized personality descriptions apply to them alone; 
  • One’s MBTI personality type may change over time, which is evident by people who take the test multiple times and get different results.

However, according to Aqualus M. Gordon Ph.D. at Psychology Today, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is no less reliable than other instruments for determining one’s personality traits.

In any case, depending on whether you identify yourself or others as introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuiting, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving — and having in mind that employees simply can’t be summed up by a personality test in the first place — the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator may provide some guidelines that can help you gain a better understanding of your communication style, as well as the communication styles of people around you.

So, here are the characteristics of each personality type, in terms of their communication styles.

The communication styles of Architects (INTJs)

Architects (INTJs) are people who have Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to have a thirst for knowledge, aim to find a creative and rational solution to every problem, and like to surround themselves with people who share their beliefs and values. 

But, they may also be perfectionists and come across as insensitive in certain situations.

When it comes to their communication style, INTJs tend to be well-thought-out, calm, and to the point. 

Due to their introverted nature, INTJs may sometimes come across as distant and closed when conversing with others — but, this is usually just their way of revising their thoughts and forming opinions and conclusions about what’s being discussed. 

They tend to be direct and detached in conversations, providing criticism in a straightforward, but logical manner.

The communication styles of Commanders (ENTJs)

Commanders (ENTJs) are people who have Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be great at spotting problems, make decisions based on logical information, and have strong leadership skills. 

But, they may also come across as impatient and intolerant in certain situations.

When it comes to their communication style, ENTJs tend to be assertive and outspoken — they are always ready to share their opinions, but also want to hear the opinions of others. 

They tend to be objective, strategic, direct, and confident while conversing with others, and have no problem providing critical feedback when they spot a flaw in someone’s idea or opinions. 

The communication styles of Logicians (INTPs)

Logicians (INTPs) are people who have Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to love theoretical concepts, are often reserved and thoughtful, and like to focus on the bigger picture rather than the details.

 But, they may also struggle to follow rules and may be prone to bouts of self-doubt.

When it comes to their communication style, INTPs tend to be well-thought-out, curious, and focused on details. 

They enjoy probing questions that start debates and discussions, and will be quick to point out logical flaws in an idea or opinion.

The communication styles of Debaters (ENTPs)

Debaters (ENTPs) are people who have Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be idea-oriented, innovative, creative, and enjoy questioning concepts. 

But, they may become overly argumentative in certain situations and may lack the patience it takes to explain their ideas in detail.

When it comes to their communication style, ENTPs tend to come across as precise, objective, agile, and confident communicators. 

They enjoy conversing in groups, and offering their independent and often innovative views on the topics discussed. 

The communication styles of Advocates (INFJs)

Advocates (INFJs) are people who have Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be reserved, creative, idealistic, focused on the future, and sensitive to the needs of others. 

But, they may also have overly high expectations and come across as overly sensitive individuals.

When it comes to their communication style, INFJs tend to be reserved in communication and keep their insights and opinions to themselves. This may sometimes be the case simply because they want time to process new information and think thoroughly about new ideas before they share them. 

When they do share their ideas, they tend to seek validation from others, but will also appreciate and actively seek value in the ideas of others.

The communication styles of Protagonists (ENFJs)

Protagonists (ENFJs) are people who have Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be empathic, encouraging to others, and well-organized. 

But, they may also be indecisive and prone to seeking approval.

When it comes to their communication style, ENFJs tend to be persuasive, affectionate, and encouraging communicators. 

They want to understand what other people find important, so that they can improve the situation for all the people they are conversing with. 

They are great problem-solvers, but they also enjoy hearing new ideas and opinions — in such cases, they will make the effort to show that these new ideas and opinions are valued. 

The communication styles of Mediators (INFPs)

Mediators (INFPs) are people who have Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be caring, rely on intuition, make decisions based on personal values, and value close relationships. 

But, they may also take criticism too personally and have the tendency to overlook details.

When it comes to their communication style, INFPs tend to be encouraging, compassionate, and cooperative communicators. 

They are attentive listeners who will try to alter their communication style to better fit with the people they are communicating with. 

They may also come across as reserved and keep their ideas and value from the people they don’t know well. 

The communication styles of Campaigners (ENFPs)

Campaigners (ENFPs) are people who have Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be empathic, spontaneous, and creative. But, they may also be disorganized, get stress out easily, and have difficulties following rules.

When it comes to their communication style, ENFPs tend to collaborative communicators who enjoy exploring possibilities. 

They’ll aim to get to know the people they are communicating with and understand what drives them. 

They also like to talk about future opportunities and enjoy encouraging others.

The communication styles of Logisticians (ISTJs)

Logisticians (ISTJs) are people who have Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be detail-oriented, realistic, and focused on the present. 

But, they may also be overly judgmental and quick to assign blame.

When it comes to their communication styles, ISTJs are detail-oriented and specific communicators. 

They enjoy using and hearing about practical, factual information when conversing with others. 

The communication styles of Executives (ESTJs)

Executives (ESTJs) are people who have Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be practical, dependable, and have strong leadership skills. 

But, they may also come across as inflexible and overly argumentative.

When it comes to their communication style, ESTJs tend to be direct in proclaiming their principles and intentions. 

In discussions, they are practical and action-oriented communicators — they tend to take control of the conversation and stir communication towards clear and well-organized solutions. 

The communication styles of Defenders (ISFJs)

Defenders (ISFJs) are people who have Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be reliable, practical, and have an eye for details. 

But, they may also dislike change, avoid confrontations, and harbor a dislike for abstract concepts.

When it comes to their communication style, ISFJs are supportive and collaborative communicators. 

They may not take center stage in group discussions, but they will speak up if they believe their insights would be helpful. 

When it comes to solving problems, they tend to give precedence to personal experience, and they will share their own if they believe this will move the discussion in the right direction.

The communication styles of Counselors (ESFJs)

Counselors (ESFJs) are people who have Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Judging personality traits. 

They tend to be well-organized, conscientious, and enjoy helping others. 

But, they may also be overly sensitive to criticism, dislike change, and prone to seeking approval.

When it comes to their communication styles, ESFJs tend to be enthusiastic and caring communicators, who aim to encourage other people to contribute to the conversation. 

They have an excellent memory for details and like to get to know the people they are communicating and collaborating with — but, if the people in question in any way ignore their outreach attempts, they may get frustrated. 

They may also get uncomfortable in the face of criticism and conflict, as they thrive on encouragement and support, both as providers and recipients.

The communication styles of Crafters (ISTPs)

Crafters (ISTPs) are people who have Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be action-oriented, practical, and prefer to learn by experience. 

But, they may also avoid committing to something and may easily grow bored of subjects.

When it comes to their communication styles, ISTPs tend to be reserved communicators — they prefer concrete action over self-contained conversations. 

They have the ability to observe a situation from a purely logical perspective, and are great at picking up on details.  

The communication styles of Entrepreneurs (ESTPs)

Entrepreneurs (ESTPs) are people who have Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be influential, persuasive, easily-adaptable, and observant. 

But, they may also come across as overly competitive and, at times, impulsive.

When it comes to their communication styles, ESTPs tend to be energetic and persuasive communicators. 

They are skilled negotiators and have the ability to encourage the people they are conversing with to take some form of action. 

At times, they may come across as blunt and impatient, because they tend to speak freely and directly, in order to get their points across as quickly as possible. 

The communication styles of Adventurers (ISFPs)

Adventurers (ISFPs) are people who have Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving personality traits. 

They tend to be practical, loyal to their values, and enjoy hands-on learning. 

But, they may also come across as reserved and quiet and may avoid planning for the future.

When it comes to their communication style, ISFPs tend to be supportive and considerate communicators. 

They don’t try to take center stage in conversations, but they will attentively listen to others and look for opportunities to contribute with some factual information. 

They may also try to avoid conflicts and criticism, for better or for worse  — because of this, they prefer more spontaneous interactions.

The communication styles of Entertainers (ESFPs)

Entertainers (ESFPs) are people who have Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving personality traits.  

They tend to be spontaneous, practical, and optimistic. 

But, they may also come across as impulsive and may have a tendency not to plan ahead.

When it comes to their communication styles, ESFPs tend to be enthusiastic communicators who thrive off of their interacting with others. 

They are quick to give positive feedback and excel at solving problems of practical or interpersonal nature. 

But, their optimistic demeanor means they tend to avoid negativity, which leads them to avoid discussions that may swerve off into criticism or conflict.

Wrapping up

Communication styles of individuals have a significant influence on how their communication unfolds. Because of this, it’s important to understand your own communication styles, in terms of the styles you may use as a specific personality type, but also in terms of the communication styles you use to communicate information, either predominantly, or in certain situations, or with certain people. It’s also crucial that you understand the communication styles of the people around you, in order to understand how you should approach communication with them. As a result, you’ll minimize misunderstandings on your end, better understand others, improve the efficiency of your conversations, and improve professional relationships with your colleagues and superiors.

References:

  • Communication styles, division by Alessandra & Hunsaker (1993)
    • Alessandra, T. and Hunsaker, P. (1993). Communicating At Work. New York: Fireside Books.
  • Communication styles, division by Bourne (1995)
    • Bourne, J. E. (1995). The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2nd edition. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
  • The communication styles of different MBTI personality types
    • The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2021, from https://www.myersbriggs.org/
  • Communication styles, division by Murphy et al.
    • Murphy, M. (2015). Which Of These 4 Communication Styles Are You? Forbes. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2015/08/06/which-of-these-4-communication-styles-are-you/

Marija Kojic is a researcher and writer specialized in team communication and collaboration. She enjoys helping people discover meaningful and effective ways to communicate and collaborate smarter. Marija has written many blog posts for Clockify, but she has also appeared in G2 Crowd Learning Hub, The Good Men Project, and Pick the Brain, among other places.