Mastering the Art and Science of Two-Way Communication
Despite Fed tightening and talk of growing economic headwinds, unemployment and the supply of available skilled workers remains at historic lows. There’s one topic on every employer’s mind: finding the best way to recruit workers, and making sure they stick around. It’s easy to focus on flashy external perks like highly designed work spaces or flexible PTO policies, but these fun extras alone aren’t enough to inspire workers to stay. What does work is putting in an effort to change corporate cultures that ensure employees feel genuinely respected, honored and heard. When it comes to promoting these standards, a companywide effort to create a functioning framework for communication remains paramount.
Working With Unique Communication Styles
Let’s face it: communication can be a minefield! Most workers have spent the past few years within their homes working in an environment they control. Many of us have noticed that individual communication styles have become more segmented than ever. But instead of conceding defeat to the Tower of Babble, there are actionable steps companies can take to improve the effectiveness of their communications, thereby positively impacting their organizational cultures.
Each member of your team has a unique way of communicating with the people with whom they share their private lives. As we return to more in-person collaboration with coworkers, those styles can come into conflict. While it’s tempting to wish that employees would all share the same communication methods, it’s simply not realistic. Each communication style comes with its own strengths, and by learning how to embrace these differences, organizations can create a shared method of communication that functions harmoniously while still allowing everyone to express themselves in the manner that feels most natural and effective to them.
Psychologists have identified the five most common communication styles, each of which presents its own challenges and strengths. By analyzing these common communication frameworks, we can more easily understand how to adapt each appropriately for a workplace setting, increasing worker satisfaction, team cohesion and shared understanding throughout the organization.
Assertive communication comes from a place of confidence. People who are naturally assertive communicators often find themselves placed in leadership positions, drawing on a communication style that’s direct without being disrespectful. Assertive communicators typically express their needs with ease, but also make sure to listen to others and understand their subjective perspective within a conversational exchange.
To support an assertive communicator, make sure that every interaction is as unambiguous as possible. There’s nothing assertive communicators like more than clear direction, being told exactly what is expected of them and understanding the best way to achieve common goals. Embrace a solutions-oriented mindset, and don’t be afraid to use “I” statements to help them understand how you’re feeling. When addressed with clarity and mutual respect, assertive communicators thrive, even when the news communicated isn’t the most welcome.
Passive communicators are often some of the most popular people in any office. Easy going and non-confrontational, they’re easy coworkers to like. They tend to take a backseat, letting more assertive communicators take the lead. They also tend to go with the flow, following whatever most people in the office believe to be the best course of action, and even if they’re experiencing doubts they often keep their opinions to themselves. This can be both good and bad.
While the passive communication style can be excellent for keeping everyday functions running smoothly, it also means that you’re missing out on the valuable input of team members who may not feel naturally empowered to share their expertise. Fight back against the natural tendency of passive communications towards self-effacement by creating different kinds of opportunities for input and collaboration. Straightforward questions presented with curiosity and an open-mind are a sure way to encourage passive communicators to participate fully.
The opposite of the laid back passive communicator, aggressive communicators are definitely not afraid of making their opinions heard. Naturally competitive, they may see conversations as an opportunity to “win” rather than a chance to connect or listen. While this killer instinct means they’re empowered to share their best ideas, it also means that it can be difficult for them to relinquish control, even when their ideas aren’t the best.
Help aggressive communicators channel their power for good by reinforcing the positive aspects of their communication style. Instituting frameworks that encourage everyone on the team to speak up and be heard gives these eager communicators a chance to listen. Encouraging listening as a core value can help naturally aggressive communicators balance their energetic contributions with a dose of empathy.
Like passive communicators, submissive communicators avoid conflict at all costs. But while passive communicators take the back seat due to an aversion towards putting themselves forward, submissive communicators believe that other people’s needs, values and opinions are inherently more important than their own.
To encourage a submissive communicator to overcome their natural reluctance to put themselves forward, it’s necessary to reinforce that speaking up is a way to support the team at its highest function, not an individualistic grab for glory. When submissive communicators believe their contributions are essential to the wellbeing and success of the people around them, they’re more likely to let their voices be heard.
Much like assertive communicators, manipulative communicators know what they want and are ready to achieve their objectives, even using subterfuge if necessary. Manipulative communications usually lack the confidence of the most assertive communicators. This can lead manipulative communicators to conceal their true motives, using guile to maneuver their way into desirable situations rather than coming out and asking for the support they need with a straightforward request.
The manipulative communicator’s eagerness to please can make it difficult for them to speak to others openly and directly, but harnessed effectively, their adaptability can be a real strength. Encourage manipulative communicators to prioritize listening, taking the time to hear team members out without interruption and using their ability to understand the motivations of others to enhance group connections rather than further personal goals.
Embracing Conversation, Even when Inconvenient
Recognizing these different communication styles is the first step to identify and master the challenge of connecting with each of them and to respond more fluidly when challenges arise. The next step? Embracing conversation.
BrandCulture client SWM International uses an advanced understanding of different communication styles and how to engage with each of them. They highlight their “culture of conversation,” emphasizing their value of “listening over talking.” When employees feel that their company has created a space where it’s possible for them to feel heard, they’re empowered to come forward with innovations, sharing their energy and excitement without a fear of being shut down.
Social media management company Buffer takes a more radical approach. They encourage employees to communicate openly by making private communication – and the siloed mindset it encourages – a thing of the past. Their fully transparent email system is designed so that any employee can access any email at any time. This increases feelings of mutual trust and boosts efficiency, as all communication happens in a collaborative and mutually supportive space. While this extreme degree of openness might not work for all companies, it’s a great example of the way technology can facilitate progress in communication, and how an environment where nothing is hidden can build mutual trust.
Organizations empowered with the knowledge of these different dispositions and communication styles can create opportunities for connection that enable productive, collaborative interactions, encouraging discourse by intentionally creating frameworks that enable open dialogue for all kinds of communicators to thrive.
When you have a shared company culture that values communication, it becomes easier for employees to address inevitable challenges that arise throughout the day, while also feeling supported as they push themselves and their teams to achieve hard goals and reach new heights. When organizations embrace conversation, workers feel that they are part of a larger culture of success and purpose.
Ready to experience the power of conversation? Explore our Culture Framework by and discover how BrandCulture can help you build a sense of Shared Purpose.