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Today we’re going to discuss the different communication styles and how they affect our interpersonal relationships.  We’ll look at some different ways of categorizing these types of communications styles and we’ll learn about our own dominant style. You will sometimes see communication styles categorized as Aggressive, Passive, Assertive, and Passive-aggressive (again four).  Though these descriptors are valid when describing communicators, there are more accurate ways to define the styles and refine our interpretation of them. Where is your style on the scale?  Where is the style of your spouse or significant other?  Where is the style of your mother or father or siblings?  What about your co-workers; more specifically, that co-worker with whom you just cannot seem to stand?
A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. These people also prefer to keep their emotions in control and to speak indirectly, using metaphors or other techniques to prevent a conflict from escalating and damaging the relationship. A person’s communication style, for good or for bad, is part of the identity that we relate most readily to them.
The assumption of many leaders is that a highly assertive, highly expressive communication style is the best approach as it is very direct and leaves little room for interpretation. By the way (he says casually), I have a workshop on this topic coming up on December 5th in Midland, Michigan. One good thing about leadership is that the skills that you need can be learned or if already acquired, it can be honed and polished. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time. Take some time, try to release all judgment about the situation and all opinions and feelings about the person.  Try to look at the situation objectively.  Where does the person fall on the chart?  What type of communicator is he or she?  How does that fit with your style?  Obviously it doesn’t really, otherwise you wouldn’t be having troubles now would you?

The problem isn’t that they are either good or bad people, but that the way they interact with others is sometimes misunderstood. There are many models for describing these styles, but one of the most simple and effective is to imagine communication style on two axes. The problem is, this is no more true than the person who tries to avoid conflict by using low assertiveness and expressiveness in their communication. At the end of a communication event, what you intended to communicate is much less important than what you actually communicated. First, you understand that your communication style is neither right nor wrong…it is just your communication style. Actually there are two workshops on the same day, both only 3-hours, that address issues of personal and communication effectiveness. Same is true with leadership styles, an effective leader must be able to possess a flexible leadership style depending on the situations they are called to act on as well as the people they interact. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders. This is their communication style and it stands separate from personality and other traits that we consider when we consider effective leaders. You can imagine the vertical axis to be from low to high assertiveness and the horizontal axis to be low to high expressiveness. To have an effective communication style, you have to have one that not only is authentic for you, but that fits the situation and, more importantly, fits the individual(s) with whom you are communicating.

Your message can be right all day, but if your communication style confuses the message, you still haven’t been an effective communicator. It is imperative for you to take responsibility for the way you communicate to others rather than waiting for them to adjust to you. In a world where the only thing constant is change, a flexible leadership style is called for. Assertiveness, in short, is the degree to which a person shares the relevant information in a direct manner whereas expressiveness is the degree to which a person shares the relevant emotion around the message.
It is possible for us to learn to communicate in a more flexible manner based on our audience and situation.
Finally, it is impossible to understand how your communication style should be adjusted if you are not open to feedback.
The most important element of becoming an effective communicator is being sensitive (and responsive) to the feedback we hear and see in response to our communication efforts.

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communication style memo

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