Quiz: What's Your Communication Style?
Communication styles define the ways we give and receive information. Research identifies four 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!
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 communication styles, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:
- Communication Styles Video
- Understanding The 4 Communication Styles
- Choosing The Right Communication Style When Talking To The Boss
- Communication Tips For Technology Professionals
- How To Talk To People That Don’t Get Right To The Point
Communication Styles Video
Understanding The 4 Communication Styles
No one style of communication is inherently better than another. But picking the wrong type of communication for a particular 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 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 results, 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…
The Analytical Communicator
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.
The potential downside of having an Analytical communication style is that you may strike certain people as being cold or unfeeling. For example, when interacting with people like Personal communicators (who tend to like warm and chatty personal relationships), it’s possible for Analytical communicators to get irritated and terse. This sometimes has negative political and relational consequences.
The Intuitive Communicator
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.
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).
The Functional Communicator
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).
The Personal Communicator
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.
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’ that others may miss because you’re attuned to the emotional 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.
Choosing The Right Communication Style When Talking To The Boss
When it comes to professional communication and especially engaging in conversation with the boss, it’s important to note that most bosses are Intuitive communicators. Bosses are busy, so it’s not surprising that they want just enough details to get them up to speed and to get right to the bottom line. This is especially important when there are tough messages to deliver.
If short, pointed and unemotional Intuitive communication is not your preferred style, you may perceive the boss as having an impatient personality, which can hinder successful communication. For example, if you naturally gravitate towards process-driven, detailed communication (a Functional communicator), and you give your Intuitive boss point A, then point B, then point C, slowly and incrementally building to point Z, you are absolutely going to make the boss’s head explode, which means your message will go unheard.
This is why learning to communicate outside your preferred style is so important. Because when you know to give boss the bottom line, big picture view first, and you gain their buy-in, that’s when the boss will open up to hearing your other points.
Imagine that you’re giving your boss a presentation on ‘Ten Recommendations for Increasing Customer Experience on the Company Website.’
The mistake, if your boss is an Intuitive communicator, would be to march into that meeting and say something like this:
- “My thoughts on Recommendation number one is we revamp our sales funnel to take a consultative approach to the sales process. I suggest creating three distinct sales funnels that are based upon the customers' skill level: straight to shopping cart for professionals and a question/answer for novices.
- Recommendation number two is we increase our testing and monitoring. We can do this by hosting user-testing days that let us observe our website users live and listen to them narrate their experience, so we know where people are having trouble and what their opinions are about the site.
- Recommendation number three is to employ customer service surveys and have constant communication between our customer service department and our tech team…”
I’m going to stop here because my head is already exploding and we’re only on recommendation number three!
Instead of irritating the boss with all that detail, what you want to do is get right to the endpoint by cutting to the chase and saying:
“I have the following ten recommendations for improving customer experience on our website. #1: take a consultative approach, #2: test and monitor, #3: customer surveys, #4: educate consumers, #5: interview users, #6: optimize language capabilities, #7: track what’s hot, #8: implement responsive web design, #9: determine calls to action and #10: make it more social. Please tell me which of these ten things you want to hear more about.”
Presenting it this way allows the boss to pick and choose the recommendations they want to explore. So instead of negative body language, such as eye rolls and finger drumming and other non-verbal communication that tells you the boss isn't listening, you’re going to hear, “Number 3 sounds really interesting. Tell me more about that.” This gives you the chance to fill in the details while the boss actually listens. If you don’t have a list to work from, you can simply ask the boss, “What information would make this a good use of your time?”
Using a bit of emotional intelligence by speaking to the boss using the non-linear communication they prefer has multiple benefits. It puts an end to impatient behavior, builds the boss’s trust in you, showcases your competence in delivering the results the boss wants, and allows you to grow a fruitful and successful relationship with the boss.
Communication Tips For Technology Professionals
Based on testing more than 50,000 people, we know that many technically gifted people are Analytical communicators. That is, they prefer data-focused communication that conveys confident expertise and provides hard facts and numbers with lots of specific supporting evidence.
The problem is, while you may be valued for your knowledge and skills as the technological expert on the team, those same two factors can make you appear superior, sarcastic or uncaring to others during interactions with those who are less technology savvy. You may even get accused of lacking people skills. All this can shut down workplace communication with bosses, peers, coworkers and customers and prevent you from getting full credit for your brain talent.
When talking to other Analyticals, it’s fine to give real, specific data, but not everyone in your corporate culture responds well to that communication style. Learning to adapt your Analytical style to meet the communication needs of other types of communicators will allow you to relay messages that connect with and bring value to others without putting them on the defensive.
Outside of Analytical communicators, there are three other main styles you will encounter:
- Personal communicators prefer relationship-building communications that are supportive, warm, informal and conflict free. If you’re an Analytic communicator, Personal communicators will be your biggest challenge as they like to engage in the kind of communication you probably try your hardest to avoid. For example, these are the lovers of small talk and “feeling” words (e.g. mad, sad, angry, glad) and of asking questions such as: “Who else will be involved?” Analyticals and Personals use opposite measures and competencies to decide who they do and don’t want to communicate with. Practice and patience will help you master conversations with Personal communicators.
- Intuitive communicators prefer to skip the small talk and jump right to the bottom line. A good clue that you’re talking to an Intuitive is if they appear rushed or time conscious. When giving technological recommendations to Intuitives, it’s best to give it up front, before you go through reams of data. This will help gain their buy-in so you can then present your other points.
- Functional communicators prefer communications that follow a detailed “A thru Z” approach. These are process people and you’ll recognize them by the questions they ask including “What happens next?” Keeping your communications logical, disciplined and organized is the best way to reach Functional communicators.
If you don’t know what style an individual is, all you have to do is ask: “What can I share with you today?” or “What would be of greatest value to you?” or “What would you like to hear?” and then listen for verbal indicators in the response.
For example, you might hear “Where’s the data from?” from your fellow Analyticals, “What’s the bottom line?” from the Intuitives, “What’s the process?” from the Functionals and “Who else is involved?” from the Personals.
As a technically gifted person, your job is probably providing support to less technical people, and this is a role where listening is an essential element of good communication. It’s not enough to just sit there and to take in what people say. Using this approach only allows you to capture 10% of the incoming information. And while asking “what seems to be the problem?” may seem an innocuous enough invite for them to speak and for you to listen, even the singular word “problem” can spike emotions and close off communication.
It's far more effective to ask questions that invite open communication. For example: “What issues can I help you with today?” If you need more information, or if you need to disagree, don’t risk paraphrasing. Instead, take a gentle approach by saying:
- I’m not sure I’m fully getting this…Can I share what I hear you saying?
- I appreciate you sharing…I actually see things a bit differently…Can I share what I’m seeing?
- Could you help me understand how you’ve come to this conclusion?
- It sounds like there are some areas where we have some commonalities and some where we have some differences. Why don’t we start with the commonalities?
Dialing back your communications helps you to get all the information you need because it makes the less technical feel served while you still maintain control. Following this script will keep you in good stead:
‘My job is to listen to you, gather some information and then help you with _____(diagnosis, fix the problem, etc.) Let’s talk for a few minutes about _____. Then we’ll see if there’s anything else you’d like to share, and then we’ll _____ (do test, move on, review, etc.) Does that sound ok?’
Outlining the steps you plan to take will help maintain transparency. For example, you might say “First I’m going to ask you some questions about the problems the computer is having. Then I’ll ask you about what steps you’ve taken so far. Then we’ll diagnosis some potential causes and try some fixes. Does that sound OK?” And above all, don’t ask potentially insulting questions like: “Have you tried plugging it in?”
Often the technologically smartest people don’t have matching skills for interacting with other human beings. If your technical competence outweighs your ability to communicate and connect with other people, bring yourself down just a bit so that others can catch up with you.
How To Talk To People That Don’t Get Right To The Point
Have you ever been had a conversation with someone who went through a plan in such painstaking detail that your brain started to hurt? Getting every nitty-gritty little step when all you really want is to cut-to-the-chase and get to you the bottom line is painful. Or maybe it was the other way around, you needed to hear all the detail, but all you got was the bottom line. These kinds of struggles are one of the reasons why the critical skill of good office communication often goes ignored.
Over two decades of research into communication styles shows that conflicts between people with an Intuitive communication style and those with a Functional communication style (exemplified by the two situations described above) are one of the biggest communication conflict issues that happen in the workplace.
Intuitive Vs. Functional Communication Styles
Intuitive communicators like the big picture and avoid getting bogged down in details; they cut right to the chase. Because they communicate in a non-linear way, they don’t need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that lets them 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 Intuitive communicators nuts; they’d rather jump right to Z.
By contrast, Functional communicators like process, detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. They like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion, so nothing gets missed.
It’s easy to see why Functional communicators, who like to communicate step-by-step, can drive Intuitive communicators nuts, and vice versa. But while the conflict is very real, neither of these communication styles is better than the other; they each have strengths.
One big benefit of the Intuitive communication style is not getting bogged-down in too many details, allowing these communicators greater comfortability with big ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. One big benefit of having a Functional communication style is that communication generally hits all the details, and nothing gets missed. Colleagues will often turn to Functionals to take the lead in project implementation and execution because they have confidence in the Functionals’ talent for process and detail.
What Does The Data Say About These Communication Styles?
More than 67,000 people have taken the free online quiz called “What's Your Communication Style?” And based on this immense data set, we know that about 21% of people have a Functional communication style and roughly 24% have an Intuitive communication style. But notwithstanding this almost-even split, we’re more likely to see the Intuitive style in very senior executive roles.
The good news is that whether you’re the boss or an employee, there’s an easy fix for resolving these maddening communication conflicts. Let’s take a look at both scenarios.
What To Do When Your Employees Take Too Long To Get To The Point
When you’re the boss and it’s one of your employees that’s taking too long to get to the point, you can handle this pretty quickly. Instead of audibly sighing and saying, “can you please just hurry up and get to the point?” you’re going to teach them a little bit about your preferred communication style.
This can be done by saying something like the following:
“We have different communication styles, and that’s okay. But I do think we can work together even more effectively. You’re a Functional communicator; that means you like to communicate things in a step-by-step fashion, so nothing gets missed. By contrast, I have an Intuitive communication style, so I like a broad overview that lets me skip right to the end point. Going forward, what I’d like is for us to accommodate each other’s preferred style. So next time you have a plan, give me the end point first. Cut right to the bottom-line, give me ‘Z’ and skip the ‘A, B, C, D’ detail. Then because I’ll have gotten what I really need, you’ll find me a bit more willing to listen to some of the other ‘A, B, C, D’ details.”
Even though you’re the boss, and you have the formal authority to make people communicate however you want, there’s no need to do this rudely. Just teach your folks how you like to receive information and you’ll generally find them much more attuned to your Intuitive communication style.
What To Do When Your Boss Takes Too Long To Get To The Point
If you’re an Intuitive communicator and your boss has a Functional communication style, it’s just not going to work for you to audibly sigh and say, “can you please just hurry up and get to the point?”
Instead, you’re going to need some patience and understanding. First, know that your boss is not rambling or slow-minded; they’re just detail oriented. And one big reason why bosses adopt a Functional communication style with their employees is that they’re worried that those around them will miss an important detail. In fact, if they know that you’re a cut-to-the-chase person, they may be giving you lots of details because they think you’re likely to miss an important point. And they’re nicely trying to tell you to pay more attention to the details.
So the next time the boss is giving you lots of detail, pull out notepad and pen and literally start taking notes. Pay attention to all those details and then, when they’ve downloaded everything, give them a quick recap to show you’ve heard the key details. But don’t do the normal Intuitive thing and start at the end; start back at point number one and go forward from there.
This takes some work, but after a few sessions of this, when you’ve demonstrated to the boss that you really do hear all their details, you’ll typically find that they’ll dial-down a bit on the nitty-gritty and your conversations will proceed more quickly.