Nothing beats clear, concise communication as a strength to have both in business and away from the workplace. Heck, it’s a real string to your bow in all aspects of life.

There is an art to effective communication.

The benchmarks are constantly moving and evolving. The key to good communication is having the ability to impart the message you want to share and have it heard by your recipient in the way you intended them to receive it. On the flipside, murky communication can lead to the spread of misinformation, widespread confusion, discontent, and a drop in productivity.

Leaders need to be able to communicate in a manner that propels the company and its staff in a positive way forward together, through discussion, decision making, and effective connections. Consider this: while not universally popular, former President Barack Obama is considered a brilliant orator. Donald Trump has no grasp on grammar and tweets things like ‘Covfefe’. (No prizes for guessing what the current president’s communication style is either!)

Your communication skills, good, bad, or otherwise, are influenced somewhat by your environment, your education, and your family – basically, all the things which make you, you. The various styles in which we communicate are broken down into four main categories – Assertive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Submissive.

You will recognize many people you know and the way they communicate within the parameters of these four styles. Whichever you are, your style is not cast in stone and can be adapted with awareness and practice. Good communicators realize the whole package is more than just blah blah blah and are open to trying to improve their skills.

Assertive communication is the gold standard of communication styles.

It doesn’t come naturally to most people, but it can be developed over time. You could say it’s the sweet spot between being too aggressive and being too passive. In a nutshell, it means being able to stick up for yourself and your ideas, not being pushed around, being unafraid of debating concepts, or defending what you believe in. 

In the workplace, an assertive communicator can accept compliments and criticisms equally, be concise with expressing viewpoints and requests, and take responsibility for their own actions. If you can adopt more of an assertive communication style others know where they stand with you, aren’t afraid to approach you during difficult periods, and value your honesty.

The aggressive communicator.

Also known as My Way Or The Highway sees things through the filter of me, me, me. They’re generally on one volume setting (loud!), can use their physicality intimidatingly, and won’t let people finish what they’re trying to say.

Plenty of aggressive communication isn’t ideal for a harmonious environment, as people can lose respect, get defensive, uncooperative, and resentful when working this way.

If you are an aggressive communicator, try and channel your passion and feeling into motivating a team rather than belittling them. And just remember – it’s not always all about you.

The passive-aggressive communicator.

On to the passive-aggressive communicator, a.k.a. the person who leaves snarky notes about tidying up all around the staff kitchen or the state of the toilets. No, it’s not just an office meme.

Whereas the aggressive person may fly off the handle and the assertive one would weigh up the pros and cons before diving in, the passive-aggressive individual will absorb a situation, and simmer and seethe on it for days until their frustration erupts.

Consider using your indirect nature to organize the office secret Santa. Just don’t write any notes spilling the beans.

The submissive communicator.

Finally the Submissive, or the Silent, But Not So Deadly. You’ll know this Timid Tim or Tess in the office. They avoid confrontation, have a lack of eye contact, speak at a low volume, and have no strong opinions on ideas. If this is you, you leave yourself at risk of getting walked all over or taken advantage of.

Speaking up should never be considered an inconvenience, or taboo – and your thoughts and opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. 

Use your submissive style as an element of surprise – if you’re known for being quiet at work, nobody will expect it when you one-two them with the assertive style you’ve been working on improving and you’ll make a real impact.

Non-verbal communication

Body language or non-verbal communication is crucial to all the styles above, and should always be considered in a communication situation. Having your phone out while in a meeting, for business or pleasure, basically means you couldn’t care less what the person is saying, as you’re not doing them the courtesy of giving them your full attention.  

Eye contact never goes out of style for a reason, while keeping your arms uncrossed is key to openness. Keeping your arms crossed can seem a barrier for protection if you’re feeling insecure or vulnerable, but it’s also a subconscious sign that you may be shutting yourself off from the situation.

A written communicator

You may be better with the written form of communication than the verbal. That’s okay, but the two are simpatico and ideally work hand in hand. Verbal and non-verbal nuances are missing in the text. Ever incorrectly got the wrong end of the stick from the tone of an email or text message? Exactly.

Consider expressing what you want to get across in an email to staff, and following up with a meeting where the contents are worked through by the group and any questions which arise are answerable in that session. An upside is the double-dealing with the subject can help you hammer home your message twice.

If you’re a written communicator, try and up the level of face to face communication you use on a daily basis. Practice makes perfect.

As with many things, self-awareness is key. Adapt your style of communication to best suit the listener/receiver. Once you have a grasp on your own style, it’s easier to adapt it to become the best communicator you can be.

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