Do you know your communication style?
Theme: Identity, Image, and Impressions
Author’s Note: Coauthored with Jack.
Length: 1,250 words
Reading Time: 5 minutes + 11:45 minutes of videos
The 4 Styles of Communication
Teaching communication styles can be complex and elaborate if the instructor is knowledgeable, or kept simple if someone like me is teaching on the subject. The complexity comes from the fact that while everyone has a dominant style, everyone also has secondary style characteristics that will influence the dominant style to some extent.
Another thing that makes it confusing is that different “experts” have preferred adjectives to describe each of the styles, so we see a lot of close synonyms / antonyms for Assertiveness like…
- Assertive vs. Agreeable
- Aggressive vs. Compliant
- Determined vs. Flexible
- Dominant vs. Passive
- Fast Paced vs. Slow Paced
And likewise for Expressiveness…
- Open vs. Closed
- Warm vs. Cool
- Extroverted vs. Introverted
- Feelings vs. Facts
- People Oriented vs. Task Oriented
To make matters even more perplexing, the “warm” communication style is also described as agreeable, compliant, open, etc., whereas, “cool” corresponds to aggressive, assertive, determined, and so on. This can obscure the difference between the two dichotomies of Assertiveness and Expressiveness.
Moreover, when viewing information about communication styles, readers may have to take a moment to translate the words being used to the words and concepts they’re more accustomed to using. But anyway, the essential ideas are the same.
The listed dichotomies in bold face are those I’ll use for the remainder of this essay.
For the vast majority of people, it is enough to know the basics.
- Fast Paced and Warm = Being Liked
- Fast Paced and Cool = Control
- Slow Paced and Warm = Safety
- Slow Paced and Cool = Being Right
If you imagine pace/assertiveness and warmth/expressiveness as continuums that intersect you get a 4 quadrant graph of the 4 available communication styles. These four types also take on various names. Of note, one system of nomenclature uses the terms Passive and Aggressive which are easily confused with psychopathology.
Here’s an infographic that gives more information for each of the types. (This nomenclature is called the DiSC model.) A person as far away from the intersection as possible on a 45° angle from the intersection is going to be an archetype of that style.
For anyone that is beginning to recognize styles, my advice would be to simplify, simplify, simplify. This specifically means not getting caught in the details of what a person with a given style might say or do in a situation. Most people can pick up on warmth and pace in the first few minutes when they meet someone and figure out the person’s style. Getting caught in the details leads to uncertainty and in many cases a good bit of second guessing.
Fast Paced and Warm = Being Liked
Extroverted men are usually fast paced. Guys who are charismatic and popular tend to communicate this way. Scott therefore fits this personality arrangement.
Fast Paced and Cool = Control
Guys who know what they believe, who know what they want, and are comfortable in their own skin stick to the tack of social efficiency and limiting their personal liabilities. Ed Hurst and Vox Day fit this personality arrangement.
Slow Paced and Warm = Safety
Compromising for the sake of harmony is very common for people who communicate from the frame of Safety. Dalrock writes in this style, and this is my own preferred style too. Jack said this is his secondary communication style. This is also Cameron’s dominant communication style. He’ll often try to make peace between commenters, and his writing is often more to the warm side of the spectrum.
Slow Paced and Cool = Being Right
Sharkly is as close to an archetype for slow paced and cool as I can think of. He goes through enormous efforts to be right, down to levels of putting minute details in his comments at times if he thinks it solidifies that he is right. Jack said this is (or was) his predominant communication style, but as he’s grown older, he’s seen how he can come across as a smart@ss, and so he has learned to be more gracious and patient (i.e. Safety), while maintaining a wide frame.
Agreeableness and Personality
Agreeableness is expressed differently according to personality. Although there are outliers, most introverted people tend to be more agreeable, and extroverted people are more assertive.
It has helped me to think of introversion and extroversion as a continuum of energy required for interaction with people. A person who is energized by being amidst people is on the extroversion side and a person who is exhausted by being amidst people is on the introverted side.
My own natural tendency is towards introversion, although my work and age have mellowed that tendency. When I was younger, I’d see a group of people I had not met yet and have to mentally prepare myself to go interact. My oldest son sees a group of people he doesn’t know yet and thinks of all the new friends he’ll make. I had to input energy into the scenario and my son derives energy from the same scenario.
Mimic the Communication Styles of Others
Communication “experts” often state that the most efficient way to streamline your communications with others is to adopt the other person’s communication style. Some people can do this rather easily, but others find it very difficult. They’ll say it makes them feel very uncomfortable and/or “fake”. Actually, it is impossible to “fake” a communication style as long as it comes from you. When people say they don’t want to be “fake”, what they really mean goes back to how much effort and energy is required to make that shift. Often times, they’ll make this excuse to avoid putting in the effort to develop alternate communication habits. People who practice using other communication styles will often find greater success in having others understand and accept their ideas simply because they are relaying concepts in a style that feels most natural to the listener.
What I have found fascinating over the years is when people “Z out”. This occurs when a person is put under pressure to the point they feel stress and they ultimately end up at the exact opposite communication style, and along the way they very briefly utilize the other 2 styles. Watching this happen can be a good way to confirm a person’s dominant style as well as being telling of how uncomfortable they feel in that moment.
Here is a fun exercise for you. Watch the following video on recognizing communication styles and then observe people as you speak with them at work, family gatherings, or holiday parties. It’s definitely a way to have more fun, especially if they are less lively or if you’re at a work function where people are more buttoned up for professional reasons. You can even practice using a person’s own style when talking with them to see how much you can get them to open up. Don’t take the easy road on this and talk with a person who is fast paced and warm. They are naturally open books that will often talk your ear off.
- Σ Frame: Confidence and Authenticity in Speech (2009-12-28)
- Asana: The manager’s guide to communication styles (2021-4-15)
- Σ Frame: Men’s Fantasy of Emotional Intimacy (2021-6-23)
- Σ Frame: Start Small to Build Internal Locus of Control (2021-10-14)
- Σ Frame: Objective Communications for Effective Group Leadership (2021-11-1)
- Σ Frame: Why you will marry the wrong person (2022-3-2)