What’s My Communication Style?

I love talking about leadership skills and communication styles! I recently had the chance to be a guest on the Laid Off Life podcast, hosted by a couple of my former clients. Here’s part of the transcript, but please forgive the grammatical errors and odd wording! (When you see your spoken words on paper…you realize how many filler words and broken sentences you use in real life!)

Jigna: (As a leadership skills speaker and trainer), you have first-hand knowledge of all these different personality types, and the big thing we wanted to explore and discuss with you is how these personality types interact with us, with each other, and how to leverage them in a way that will help us sort of be better colleagues, workers, and also advance in our careers.

There are always certain personalities that may not be the best fit (for working on a team), but there are ways to engage with them, so let’s just dive right in if that’s okay with you.

Jennifer: On that topic, what dawned on me yesterday when I had a conversation with Courtney was for everybody who’s been at home for so long, and not been in an office space physically or they’re laid off like us, and not having to deal those people…you kind of forget about those personalities. This is a good opportunity for everybody if you’re employed or not employed right now, to brush up on those some communication skills. You’re used to just being with your family and not as many people or you’re doing Zoom calls, and you can prepare for who’s coming in. It’s not the people walking in and out of your office. It becomes a skill that might not be as finessed right now.

Courtney: Like we were saying yesterday, you forget everything! Even just basic recall of things…I’m finding it’s harder lately. But to your point, this is a practiced skill and not everyone’s just a natural person who can get along with every different personality type. The less practice you get on a daily basis, the less efficient you are…

Jigna: It’s a really good point.

Courtney: I thought it might be fun that not everyone has been through a basic communication style class before. So, how about starting off an interview of what the four basic communication styles are, and then we can dive deeper into the different ones you want to talk about. Does that sound good?

Jigna: Absolutely.

Jennifer: Sounds good.

Courtney: I’m going to share my screen because there’s a couple of basic questions I want everyone to think about in order to pinpoint which communication style they might be in.

Before we get started, if you’re listening in your car, wherever you might want to be you can’t see the screen. Think about a big square that has four quadrants in it, you have an x-axis and a y-axis, running through before you have four different quadrants. Think back to high school when you studied graphs the first time. You remember, the X and Y-axis in the graph, right? When you think about the X-axis that runs this way (left and right), this is our expressiveness axis.

What expressiveness refers to how much of a poker face do you have? If you have a poker face, you are low expressive and you’re on the left-hand side of that axis. If you are highly expressive, people know exactly what you’re thinking based on your face; you’re on the right-hand side of that axis. Which one do you think you fall on?

Jennifer: I’m definitely on the right.

Courtney: I’m too for the most part. You can tell… I’m very much expressive, my face is very animated, I’m definitely on the right-hand side too.

Now, the other axis, the y-axis, that’s running up and down, that is really thinking more about your assertiveness. Now not an ugly way, but really more in terms of, are you an “asker” or a “teller” when it comes to getting your point across? How much effort do you make in swaying people to your side of the fence?

Now if you are highly assertive, you’re going to be on the top part of that axis. If you are lower assertive, you’re on the bottom side. Think about if you are a teller, you’re high. If you’re an asker, you’re low. Okay, so what are you guys? Are you top or bottom?

Jennifer: I think I’m in the middle because I feel like it depends on the topic.

Courtney: Yeah

Jigna: Yeah, I’m a little bit higher, above the middle part in terms of assertiveness but I wouldn’t say I’m on the very high end.

Jennifer: If you’re one of my kids, I’m probably really assertive.

Courtney: Exactly. I’m glad you said that because you usually have two different personality styles- one for work and one for home. I’m much more assertive at home, but at work, I’m a little lower assertive. I’m more of an asker of people to do things.

I like to say, “If you’re like managing a restaurant and the trash needs to be taken out, do you ask someone to take out the trash or do you tell someone to take out the trash?”

Jigna: Ask.

Courtney: I’m going to ask for sure. “Do you mind please? If it’s not too much trouble.”

Based on those two things, expressiveness and assertiveness, you’re going to find your communication style. Now, going back to that grid we were talking about the box with the four squares…

If you are in the upper left-hand corner, that is more of a dominant style or direct. You are low on expressiveness but you’re highly assertive. You’re more direct in your communication.

If you’re on the upper right-hand corner, we call that more spirited or inspirational, depending on which school of thought you’re using. (DiSC or “What’s My Communication Style”) That is the one who is still pretty much assertive, but also highly expressive. They’re excited, they’re the really fun people at the party and they’re people you usually enjoy being around.

If you were in the lower right-hand corner, you are more of a steady or a conscientious person. That means someone who is low assertive but still highly expressive. They’re more of your relationship people and they’re the people who really feelings come into play. They don’t like being spoken to too directly. They’re more about the feelings in the small talk and “let’s build a relationship.”

Now if you were in the lower left-hand corner. You are a more systematic or conscientious personality type. That means you are low assertive and low expressive. These are the people who are kind of data-driven. They like processes and linear things that go and align. They like the backup information before they make a decision. They might not be too “people-ly,” but more introverted in times, or at least appear to be. Does that make sense?

Jennifer: Yes.

Courtney: So, which ones do you think you guys fall into?

Jennifer: It’s interesting because I think though. Is it possible over time that you change?

Courtney: Yes, I think so.

Jigna: She keeps saying that to me and I’m not sure if that’s true.

Jennifer: When I was younger, I would definitely tell you I was spirited, like in my early on in my career. And then I think as I’ve gotten older, well, as a friend of mine from China told me, “You don’t say older, you say advanced”. As I’ve gotten advanced, I think I’ve become more of a steady. Although, I don’t know. You both have worked with me. I’m curious to know what you think about me in that work style situation. It was also at two different points in my career because I was much younger with Courtney, and then Jigna’s just been recent.

Courtney: I would have put you in direct, honestly. How about you Jigna?

Jigna: I’ve seen you interact with different people in different ways. I see you addressing the needs as they come, dependent on the different personality type. Some people require a direct message, others who can be nice and get the same results. I think you prefer to be nice and ask wherever needed. However, you’re assertive enough where there needs to be assertiveness, otherwise the other individual will never understand what you’re wanting from them.

Jennifer: I know exactly what meeting you’re talking about!

Jigna: Many meetings actually!

Jennifer: It’s a funny conversation. I can remember, and I was trying to be more asked and I did revert to the direct.

Jigna: This is how it is.

Jennifer: Yeah, I’m not asking you, this is what you’re going to do,

Jigna: It wasn’t a butting heads type of situation. I think some individuals require a direct approach and others, and not to their fault, or anything like that but it’s really how we individuals process information. The 20-year-old me would have needed that director the 25-year-old me or 30 years old me maybe. But, I would have needed that direct communication style now more so… I understand what the task is, over the direct one. I think it’s important to really make me like change, have those changes within your communication style depending on who you’re speaking with and I think you do that well.

Courtney: Based on the last conversation, three really big things just came out there. First of all, do we all have a dominant style? Yes, we do. And to your point, Jigna, I think we all have a dominant style that probably is inherent in us and that’s going to basically stay the same throughout our lives.

But, to Jennifer’s point, the more you learn and grow in your career, you learn what works and what doesn’t work. You evolve to where you can flex to all four communication styles and when you do or do not need to use a certain style, depending on the person you’re speaking to. And that’s what I love about doing this class when I teach it for corporations. (I’ll give them so time to observe me and) do little things. (Then I’ll say, “Well, based on what you’ve seen so far, what do you think of me?” And I’ll get all four styles, and I think, “Yeah!” I want to apply to all four styles in the room, and that’s to me, that’s a really good thing. You want to be well-rounded.

The other thing I would say that’s really important is sometimes when you’re flexing and that style isn’t working for you, like you’re trying to be more ask versus tell, but it’s not working, or in times of high stress, you will default back to your dominant style. Right?

You might be like, “I tried to be nice about this, but now I’m getting serious!” Right? For my direct people, you might have learned to flex, but that dominance would come back out. Same with my steady conscientious people, if you’re a little low assertive, you might try to be more direct, but in the heat of the moment, you might withdraw a lot. Because you’re like, “I’m not a conflict person, I don’t want this, I’m going to come back in and protect myself.” Right? It really just depends on your style.

Jigna: It makes sense.

Jennifer: Jigna, where did you say you fell on this?

Jigna: I would say, I’m sort of on the assertive and expressive side. In my earlier career, I was more assertive than I am now because I’ve realized over time that you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. However, there have been times where I had to be more assertive because asking just didn’t get the results that we required, not by me, but by the situation or management, whatever else it might be.

Courtney: I’m the opposite, so I started off less assertive and I am more assertive now.

Jigna: Interesting.

Courtney: You work in corporate retail, time is money and everything’s a fire, everything’s burning down. Seriously, God forbid you can walk in and just try to shoot the breeze and take your time. It’s like, “Just get there, get to the point, we’ve got to move on, we got to get this done.”

Jennifer: Time is money. Yeah,

Jigna: One of the first corporate jobs that I had, my manager was very assertive but very expressive. There were a lot of times you knew exactly how she felt, and it didn’t feel good that you knew how she felt about you or about others.

Now, another manager I had was the exact opposite communication style. She’s very emotional and interactive. She loves to interact with people but she is definitely not assertive. She’s hard to learn to, and I’ve seen her grow over the past decade and a half to where she’s become like you Courtney, more assertive because that was a requirement. It was really interesting. I learned by observing now much more so than I ever did before.

Jennifer: It is interesting because there are different managers you have over time, different people you work for. You start to think about the values or things that they’ve shown you and you’re like, “I want to be like that, but don’t want to be like this,” and so you’re trying to figure out how to combine all these things to be the ideal person in the workplace.

Want to know more about the specific personalities? Come back next week for part two of the transcript!