Communication Styles Quiz And Assessment
Which Of These Different Communication Styles Do You Use?
Communication styles define the ways we give and receive information. But do you understand your communication style? And how people respond to you?
Research and assessment identifies four different communication styles based on levels of emotion and linearity in how we give and get information: Analytical, Functional, Intuitive and Personal. But you need to know your own, and others', communication styles to become an effective communicator.
COMMUNICATION STYLES QUIZ
What's your communication style? Do you like communicating with lots of data or do you prefer to focus on feelings? Assertive communication or more passive communication? Do you like conversation that goes step-by-step or would you rather jump right to the end point? Take the Communication Styles Quiz now!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
It's time to really understand your preferred communication style and to learn how to flex outside of it to effectively reach audiences of all communication styles. We're going to dig deep into the different communication styles, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:
No one style of communication is inherently better than another. But picking the wrong type of communication for a particular conversation or audience, whether it's one person or a thousand, can negatively impact how your ideas and messages are received. Building communication flexibility allows you to choose a different style to customize your message to the preferred communication style(s) of your audience and ensures that your message is heard.
Now that you have your communication styles assessment results and you know your preferred style, let's dig deeper into each of the four communication styles: Analytical, Functional, Intuitive and Personal.
Here's a quick overview of the four communication styles:
- Intuitive communicators are unemotional and freeform. They want bottom-line communications that are short and to the point and that don't waste their time.
- Analytical communicators are unemotional but linear. They want confident communications that convey expertise including hard facts and numbers.
- Functional communicators are emotional and linear. They like to have control of the process, so give them process-oriented and linear communications that start at A, and then flow from B to C and all the way to Z.
- Personal communicators are emotional and freeform. They want to establish an interpersonal relationship, so use emotional language in an informal, friendly and warm way that gets them involved in talking about factors including who else will be involved and how what you're asking them to do will impact their feelings.
Remember that no one communication style is inherently better than another. The key to effective communication is using the verbal communication style that best ensures your message will be heard.
One major philosophical difference that separates the four communication styles is the extent to which you communicate with emotions or with data. For example, would you say something like "I feel like we're off to a good start this quarter" (emotions), or would you say "this quarter, sales are up by 7.2%"(data).
Another major philosophical difference is the extent to which you communicate in a linear way (e.g. you like to start with A then B then C then D going all the way to Z) or in a freeform way (e.g. you like to skip over most of the details and jump right to Z).
Of course, there's a lot more to the four communication styles than just these two philosophical differences. But as a starting point, these are emblematic of the myriad ways that we like to communicate.Now let's take a deeper dive...
As an Analytical communicator, you like communicating with hard data, real numbers, and you tend to be suspicious of people who aren't in command of the facts and data. You typically like very specific language and dislike vague language. For example, when someone tells you that "sales are positive" you're likely to think "What the heck does positive mean? Is it 5.2% or 8.9%? Give me a number!" People who naturally prefer an Analytical communication style often have little patience for communication that includes lots of feeling and emotional words.
One big plus of having an Analytical communication style is that because you like communication to be fairly unemotional, you're often able to look at issues logically and dispassionately. This means others tend to see you as having high levels of data and informational expertise and they'll often consider you a deep thinker. You may also be called upon during intense decision making processes.
The potential downside of having an Analytical communication style is that you may strike certain people as unfeeling or that you possess an aggressive communication style. For example, when interacting with people like Personal communicators (who tend to like warm and chatty personal relationships) and may have a more passive communication style, it's possible for Analytical communicators to get irritated and terse or even become an aggressive communicator (because they’re not getting data or hard numbers, etc.).
This sometimes has negative political and relational consequences. To avoid being seen as an aggressive communicator by your team members, try some pleasantly assertive communication and ask your colleagues, "I'm not sure I understand the specifics of what we're discussing, could we dive deeper into the data so I can get a better handle on this?"
As an Intuitive communicator, you like the big picture, you avoid getting bogged down in details, and you cut right to the chase. You don't need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that lets you easily skip right to the end point. For example, some people, like Functional communicators, will tell you things step-by-step (they start with A, then go to B, then C, then D, then E, etc.). But this can drive you nuts; you'd rather jump right to Z.
One big plus of having an Intuitive communication style is that your communication is quick and to the point. You don't get stalled by needing too many details, and you're comfortable with big ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. Because you're good with thinking big, you can also enjoy challenging convention, which can be great for decision making especially when a group is stuck. It's common for communication styles like this to be seen as having an assertive communication style.
The potential downside of having an Intuitive communication style is that you may not always have enough patience when you're in a situation that actually requires getting into nitty-gritty detail (and you may risk missing an important point). Typically, Intuitive communicators have the most difficulty dealing with Functional communicators (those are the 'process-driven' people, they're very methodical, walk through things step-by-step, and like nitty-gritty detail).
Some people will view the Intuitive as having an assertive communication style (or even an aggressive communication style), and depending on the corporate culture, that may be seen positively or negatively.
As a Functional communicator, you like process, detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. You like communicating in a step-by-step fashion so nothing gets missed. By contrast, there are some people, like the Intuitive communicators, who like to skip all the detail and just jump right to the end. But this can drive you nuts; especially when you think about all the important bits of information the Intuitive person is potentially missing.
One big plus of having a Functional communication style is that your communication generally hits all the details and nothing gets missed. When you're on a team, people will often turn to you to be the implementer, because they have confidence in your love of process and detail. And because you're focused on things like process and detail, you're the person who is typically asked to play devil's advocate.
The potential downside of having a Functional communication style is that you may risk losing the attention of your audience, especially when you're talking to Intuitive communicators (those are the 'big picture' people who skip to the end and don't get bogged down in too much detail).
As a Personal communicator, you value emotional language and connection, and you use that as your mode of discovering what others are really thinking. You find value in assessing not just how people think, but how they feel. You tend to be a good listener and diplomat, you can smooth over conflicts, and you're typically concerned with the health of your numerous relationships. If there's any communicator who's likely to ask about someone's personal life, it's the Personal communicator.
One big plus of having a Personal communication style is that your communication allows you to build deep personal relationships with others. People will often turn to you as the 'glue' that holds groups together. And you're typically able to pick-up 'vibes' or indirect communication that others may miss because you're attuned to the emotional intelligence aspect of communication.
The potential downside of having a Personal communication style is that you may occasionally be derided as 'touchy-feely.' For example, when dealing with Analytical communicators (people who like data, hard numbers, logical discussions, and dislike that 'warm-and-fuzzy' stuff), it's possible for Personal communicators to become exasperated and emotionally upset. Someone with a more assertive style might deride the Personal communicator as having a submissive communication style or even a passive communication style. But that's incorrect; the Personal style is simply more attuned to emotions.
It's a truism that different professions attract different types of personalities, whether on the frontlines or in leadership. And so too we should expect that different professions will appeal to different communication styles. As you can see in the chart below, drawing from the 1 million+ people that have taken the communication styles quiz, there are significant different across major professional groups.
It's probably not surprising that IT, Finance and Operations have far higher rates of Analytical and Intuitive communicators while HR, Marketing and Sales have many more Personal communicators. The real question is how to leverage this insight to increase our communication skill.
For example, if you’re speaking with a group of finance leaders, you may want to prioritize the Analytical or Intuitive communication styles. But if that audience consists of HR or Marketing leaders, then you might prioritize a Personal style.
Tailoring your message to suit your audience does not make you a manipulative communicator. In fact, it's one of the most necessary communication skills. It makes you deeply empathic and high in emotional intelligence, with enough self esteem to recognize that people have different communication styles.
If you were a passive aggressive communicator, or simply lacking real communication skills, you wouldn't change your style to fit your audience. Instead, you'd use your preferred style, and then when the audience reacted poorly, you'd blame them for "not understanding you." But that's NOT what you're doing.
You're making an effort to reframe your message to increase the likelihood that other people understand you. And that's a deeply caring and smart gesture.
The first key to understanding others' preferred communication styles and whether they have a different communication style than you is active listening. You'll be listening to their language while also attending to their nonverbal communication, including their body language and facial expression.
Imagine you're having a conversation with a boss, colleagues or team members . Start by asking them, "what information could I share that would make this a great use of your time?" Each different type of communicator will answer that question differently. And you need that information to pinpoint each different style.
Someone with an Intuitive style of communication might say, "What's the bottom line?," or "Can you give me the short version of this?," or, if they're feeling a bit more patient, "Can we throw some ideas around?" The Intuitive person is an assertive communicator, but it's not done with ill intent. They have a more aggressive style simply because they're less patient and tolerant of long-winded communication.
An Analytical communicator will likely ask you questions about numbers or data like, "Where's your data from?," or "Are we sure that's correct?," or "How do we know?" Like the Intuitive communicator, they might strike some as an aggressive communicator; but it's merely a different communication style. It's not intentionally aggressive communication, it's just a quest for hard data rather than feelings.
Someone with a Functional style of communication might ask, "What's the process?," "What happens first?," or "Who does what?"
A Personal communicator will use far more feeling words, and might ask, "Who will be involved? " or "How do they/you feel?" As noted previously, these are not the questions of a passive communicator, rather they're the interests of someone more focused on emotional intelligence than data.
If for some reason you weren't able to start your conversation by asking "what can I share with you?," you can simply watch the other person's body language. If you start to see eye rolls, boredom, crossing arms, finger tapping etc., those are good signs that of the 4 communication styles, you chose the wrong one. So in that case, choose the opposite style, alter your language, and get your conversation back on track.
Having great communication skill requires interacting and speaking all 4 communication styles. And every leadership team and corporate culture will have a different dominant style. So you’ll want to assess your audience, whether one person or a group, to determine which of the 4 styles of communication you’re dealing with. Depending on which of the different communication styles you’re dealing with, your conversation or presentation will require very different approaches.
It should also be noted that it’s common for leadership communication styles to significantly influence the styles of frontline employees. After all, leaders will often set the tone and culture for their workplace, and that includes the ways in which people communicate.
How to avoid being an aggressive communicator
What's the secret to avoiding aggressive communication? First you’ll need a dose of self awareness, and then second, you ask a question to get a sense of what someone wants to hear.
Aggressive communicators often barrel into conversations thinking only about what they want to say, without giving much importance to what their colleagues, coworkers, client, etc. want to hear. Everyone has inadvertently used this aggressive communication style on occasion, but if we have the self awareness to admit the folly of this approach, we can correct it quickly.
To avoid aggressive communication, before you storm through the workplace saying whatever pops into your head, try this approach.
Take a deep breath, make eye contact with your colleagues, and ask them, "What would you most like to hear about?"
Depending on your particular situation, you could also ask, "What's the one thing you would most like to hear from me today?" or "What could I share with you?" Any number of variations will work, as long as you're letting your coworkers enter the conversation by telling you what they want to hear.
Aggressive communicators focus on what they want to say and give little importance to what their audience wants to hear. Don’t be that person. A conversation requires two-way interaction; it’s not a conversation when we talk and the other person is force to passively listen.
By simply asking what your colleagues want to hear, you can avoid misunderstandings, conflict, and confrontations. Far too many miscommunications stem from one person, usually under stress, blurting out a stream of anger filled words. But when you pause and invite your coworker to share what THEY want to hear, you instantly transform aggressive communication into a two-way conversation.
How to stop an aggressive communicator
At some point in your career, a person with an aggressive communication style is going to barge into your office and verbally unload on you with anger, stress, accusations, etc. You’ll likely feel like you should respond by defending yourself and launching a counter attack, but that’s actually the wrong approach. If you respond to an aggressive communication style by employing similarly aggressive communication, that will only inflame the conflict.
Instead, used these advanced communication habits. Breathe, make eye contact with that aggressive communicator, and say, “Wow, I think I need a second here.” Then, after a 2-3 second pause say, “You sound really angry (or upset, frustrated, and so on)..”
The first phrase signals to aggressive communicators that they’ve lost control, they’re too angry, and that they’re entering into dangerous (and even fireable) territory. Ironically, if you tell an aggressive communicator to “calm down” all that happens is they get even angrier. But when you say “Wow, I think I need a second here,” you’ve essentially told that person that their utterance is so angry and outside the norm that you literally need to pause in order to absorb it.
How to prevent passive aggressive communication in your workplace
Passive aggressive communication occurs when we're not upfront with our team members and colleagues about what types of information we really need.
Passive aggressive communicators appear harmonious, but it’s an artificial harmony. Beneath the surface lies a fundamental disagreement that the passive aggressive communicator is afraid or unwilling to share. In a culture filled with assertive communication, team members would openly share their issues and disagreements and nobody would experience the silent treatment.
In an organization where bad news doesn’t get discussed and mistakes regularly get swept under the rug, or where there’s a “kill the messenger” management style present, there’s likely to be a great deal of passive aggressive communication. Everyone on the team may appear to be in total agreement, but that’s only because they’re afraid or reluctant to share what they’re really thinking.
In a recent study on Executive Team effectiveness, we asked over one thousand senior executives to assess their team. And as you can see in the chart below, even on senior teams there is a sizeable amount of passive aggressive communication.
If you suspect your team suffers from passive aggressive communicators, you will have to intentionally “draw out” those passive communicators and push past the silent treatment.
Guided by a mindset of creating psychological safety, you’ll need to help colleagues feel safe and comfortable sharing their disagreement.
One way to do this is in meetings (where passive aggressive behavior often occurs) by asking people: “What are we missing?” or “Where are we at risk?” To intensify this exercise, and develop advanced communication habits, make eye contact with each person on the team and, one-by one, ask each of them one of those questions.
The more you actively “mine for disagreement,” the more you’ll get passive communicators comfortable with sharing their dissent. And that’s how you’ll ultimately stop passive aggressive communication.
PRACTICE ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION
Assertive communication (aka assertiveness) is the genuine expression of feelings, desires, and needs. It occurs in the context of standing up for your personal rights, getting what you want, and standing up for yourself. Assertive communicators are able to honestly express personal needs and desires without limiting the rights of others.
An assertive communication style is considered a social skill, and requires the belief that one is as good as anyone else; that one’s needs and desires are just as important as another’s, although precedence can take place for one or the other at any time.
Some people are too passive (“He/she is more important than me” a lose-win) or too aggressive (“I’m more important than he/she is” a win-lose) instead of partnering in an assertive style for a win-win (“We’re all equals here who deserve to be heard”).
Assertive communicators believe that they have a right to be heard and have their needs met. That means if you’re sitting in a meeting and you feel like nobody is listening to you or that you haven’t heard the information you need, you shouldn’t sit there and act passive on the surface. Instead, raise your hand, make eye contact with the people in the room and, in a measured tone, say something like, “There are some pieces I’m missing here, so I’d like to go back and revisit a few of these issues.”
This will often require us to reframe some of our self-limiting beliefs. Beliefs like, “If I say no, he/she won’t be my friend anymore,” are rarely grounded in reality, yet we let them stop us from practicing assertive communication.
Disprove self-limiting beliefs with a quick self-audit that asks: “Is there a structurally sound counter argument to this belief?” A good counter argument might sound like: “If this person is pressuring me into doing something I don’t want to do, are they even my friend in the first place?”
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