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Three Dominant Styles of Communication

written by: Jillian Peterson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/7/2011

The style of communication that a manager uses can greatly affect employee productivity and turnover. Identifying your communication style will allow you to make necessary adjustments to the way that you communicate with others.

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    Introduction to Communication Styles

    In the world of business communication, how you say things can often matter as much as what you say. Your body language, eye contact, tone of voice, and volume all contribute to your communication style. As a manager, your style of communication is the behavior and manner in which you communicate with your subordinates, and your communication style can have a big impact on your success in your role.

    There are three dominant styles of communication: passive, aggressive, and assertive. Determining your communication style will allow you to determine areas for improvement and assist you in more effectively managing your team. This can be particularly important if you are writing a self assessment.

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    Passive Communication

    Passive communicators are masters at avoiding confrontation. They are usually inhibited and shy by nature. Sometimes they will speak softly or apologize for things that are out of their control. Many passive communicators will find making eye contact difficult, especially when the communication is less than positive.

    While passive communicators can be great listeners, they can often try to please everyone, which is an impossible task for a manager to achieve. Other types of communicators can think that they are easy to take advantage of, which can create problems with other members of the management team. The ability to listen to what your subordinates have to say can be a useful tool, but leaders with passive communication styles often have difficulty keeping control of the team.

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    Aggressive Communication

    An aggressive communicator speaks boldly, directly, and often loudly. Managers with an aggressive communication style can get their point across using few words and leaving little doubt as to their opinion. Employees often find managers with this style of communication overbearing, demanding, competitive, and forceful. While there is little doubt that an aggressive communicator can get the team moving to get a job done, it is common to see high turnover in the team as a result.

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    Assertive Communication

    Assertive communicators are confident and self-respecting. They speak calmly and clearly while being honest and direct. Because managers that have assertive communication styles are sensitive in how they approach communication with others, they tend to earn and keep employee respect.

    While they are willing to make compromises, assertive communicators are not easily manipulated because they are secure in their own ideas. An assertive leader can get the results that they desire without sacrificing employee satisfaction, making their teams the most efficient and easy to lead.

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    Adjusting Communication Styles

    In general, an assertive communication style is the most desirable of the three for a manager to achieve. Adjusting a communication style is a long process that often involves looking inward and reversing habits that took a lifetime to acquire. The benefits of communicating effectively make it worth the effort involved.

    There are many training programs available for improvement of vital communication skills that can be self-guided or used with an entire management team. The benefits that this training provides will often show itself in reduced turnover in management and employees, overall improvement of job satisfaction ratings, and increased productivity throughout the team.