Think about the last time you were at a party and had the opportunity to observe a lot of people in action:
- Who dominated the conversation and put a premium on being right and convincing others to go along with his solutions?
- How about the serious person who rather cautiously talked in precise detail?
- And how about the person who was bursting with enthusiasm and could not wait to tell you her great idea?
- Who walked into the room and began by introducing herself to others, spending time with each person to establish a connection?
These are examples of 4 different communication styles:
- Driver: the person who takes charge and wants solutions;
- Analytical: the person who values accuracy and details;
- Expressive: the idea person; and
- Amiable: the person who prioritizes relationships.
While we all have characteristics in more there one area, we each have a default style—the style we go to first. These are tendencies and should not make you feel limited in the way you communicate.
Moreover, no style is better than another. Any style can be effective depending on the circumstances. A strong team will leverage the strengths of each type so that you can work together the most effectively.
In order to be a powerful and effective communicator, it is important to understand each style and figure out how to adapt your default style to the circumstances at hand.
So let’s start with a description of each style. If you are curious about your style, take the quiz and see what your style is! Then read the descriptions to learn more about your style and the styles of your friends and colleagues.
What are the four styles?
Hard-working and ambitious, drivers tend to be the group leaders who value getting the job done with excellent results. Drivers are apt to be decisive, competitive, hard driving and good at delegating to others. They like to be where the action is and are likely to enjoy taking risks. Their focus is on winning, being successful and making things happen. They need options and prefer it when others are direct.
On the downside, they can be pushy, demanding, dominating, tough and exclude others from decision-making. Under stress, they become autocratic and order others around.
Quick to think and slow to speak, the Analytic person values accuracy in the details and likes to be right. This is a person who plans thoroughly before deciding to act, is persistent, highly organized, cautious and logical. The Analytical prefers to work alone and has a tendency to be introverted.
The Analytical person is focused on process, tasks and doing things the right way. They prefer a rational approach, logical thinking, solid documentation and careful planning. The down side is that they can be critical, picky, perfectionistic and stubborn, as well as indecisive. Their tendency under stress is to avoid others.
The Expressive person loves to have and enjoys helping others. This person is full of ideas and can’t wait to share them with others. Talkative and open, he asks others for their opinions and loves to brainstorm. This is someone who is flexible and easily bored with routine. The Expressive is optimistic, intuitive, creative and spontaneous and may have a tendency to be flamboyant.
Expressives are focused on the big picture. They love ideas and concepts and thrive on bringing visions into reality. They need innovation and look to others to handle the details. On the downside, they can be overly dramatic, impulsive, a tad flaky and undisciplined.
Amiable is the relationship style. Amiables focus on the feelings of other people and effective collaboration. People with this style are intuitive and care about how situations “feel”. They like consensus, avoid confrontation, and tend to be timid about voicing contrary opinions. Amiable people are good listeners, friendly and sensitive and build networks of friends to help them. They are likely to be slow with big decisions and need a lot of input. They thrive on involvement, participation and inclusion.
On the downside, the Amiable person can be hesitant, unsure of himself and dependent on others. Under stress, they acquiesce or yield to the decisions of others.
How to Use Communication Styles to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Communication
Knowing about the communication styles is helpful in two ways. First, when you know your own default style, you can spot the best opportunities to use that style and build up your strengths. You can also see where you have gaps and where you can improve by learning from the other styles.
Second, once you know about the styles, you can spot someone else’s style and adapt the way you communicate in order to get that person on board with you. Eventually, you can learn how to use each style comfortably and maximize the chances that others will follow your suggestions. This is at the heart of great leadership and it is why knowing about the communication styles is a powerful element of great leadership.
Here are some suggestions on how to communicate effectively with each of the four communication styles.
When you communicate with a Driver, be sure to tell her about progress to goals, the actions to be taken and solutions to problems. Avoid chitchat and focus on the bottom-line. Be clear, concise, focused, relevant, decisive and efficient. When working with a driver, here is what you would say if you encounter a problem that may interfere with getting to successful results:
“I know you are pushing to finish this by tomorrow with great results. Based on my research and investigation, I think there might be a hitch. I have some ideas on how to solve that. Would you like to discuss this?
Because the Analytical person asks for data, information and facts, it is important to be precise, specific, thorough, prepared, accurate, rational and orderly in dealing with her. If you want to get the Analytical person’s attention, you might say something like this:
“The research and data seems inconsistent with our initial concept. I have two ideas that would improve the quality and timeliness of the project. I need 15 minutes of your time. Can we meet today at 4:00?
Expressives thrive on vision, stories and analogies and love to have fun while working on projects. Therefore, when communicating with an expressive person, be sure to focus on the big picture. Deliver your message in a way that is enthusiastic, expressive, friendly, flexible and open to possibilities. Avoid getting bogged down in too many details!
“I’ve got a fabulous idea to make our project fabulous and knock it out of the ball park. Have you got a minute to talk?”
Your amiable friend or colleague cares deeply about the relationship. He is interested in information about others’ skills and interests, valuing input from others and welcoming feedback. In dealing with the Amiable person, be sure to be warm, relaxed, involving, caring and inviting. This is the person to go to if there are tensions on the team, whether that is a string quartet or a work group! A way to get his attention is to say:
“I have a strong feeling that there is something bothering you about the team. Would you like to hear my thoughts on how we might help everyone out here so that we can make sure that everyone is on board?
With a better understanding of each style, see how you can master these styles and become a dynamic and powerful communicator and leader!
© Astrid Baumgardner 2011
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.