4 types of communication style and why you need to know yours

Discover the power of understanding communication styles. Learn to navigate and enhance your workplace dynamics with our comprehensive guide.



Craft Author: Tom Norman
Tom Norman

Ever found yourself in a heated work disagreement that seemed to spring from nowhere, or a collaborative project that just wasn't aligning no matter how much you discussed it? Chances are, it was not the tasks or the ideas causing friction, but differing communication styles. Understanding these styles is key to improving work relationships, boosting productivity, and even sparking innovation.

What are communication styles?

Communication styles are essentially patterns of behaviors that individuals exhibit when they engage with others. Just as we all have unique personalities, we also have distinct communication styles which are shaped by our backgrounds, experiences, and personal attributes.

Why are communication styles important?

Imagine a scenario where two talented professionals continually find themselves at odds. Projects are delayed, tensions run high, and the work atmosphere becomes draining. Both individuals have the same goal - to deliver the best results - but their interactions are defined by frustration and misunderstanding.

Now, picture the same scenario with a twist: both individuals understand each other's communication styles. They adapt their approach to avoid triggers, resolve conflicts efficiently, and leverage their strengths for collaborative success. The work atmosphere transforms, productivity soars, and innovation thrives. That's the power of understanding communication styles.

Knowing your own and your colleagues' communication styles can help mitigate conflicts, promote understanding, and foster a more harmonious, productive work environment. Let's delve into the four primary types of communication styles you're likely to encounter in the workplace: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive.

4 types of communication style

Communication styleHow to work with themHow to work as one
PassiveSchedule one-on-one chats, give them space to share thoughts, and invite their input.Practice speaking up in safe, low-stakes environments and smaller group settings.
AggressiveMaintain composure, assert your views respectfully, and encourage empathy.Focus on empathy and active listening, and create a dialogue in interactions.
Passive-aggressiveAddress conflicts directly and diplomatically, encourage open communication.Focus on open, direct, honest communication and avoid indirect cues.
AssertiveEmbrace directness, listen actively, respond openly and respectfully.Continue to express thoughts honestly and directly, listen actively, and stay open to feedback.


Individuals with a passive communication style often prioritize others' needs and opinions over their own to avoid potential conflicts. While they may excel at listening, their tendency to withhold their own feelings or opinions can lead to feelings of being overlooked or misunderstood.

Key characteristics:

  • Frequently yield to others' ideas or desires.
  • May not speak up even when they have something to say.
  • Often feel misunderstood or overlooked. 

How to work with team members who are passive communicators

Working with passive communicators requires a sensitive approach. They may not feel comfortable expressing their ideas in a group setting, so consider scheduling one-on-one meetings or informal chats. Give them the time and space to share their thoughts without interruption. Regularly invite their input and reassure them that their opinions are valuable.

What to focus on if you are a passive communicator

As a passive communicator, your challenge is to express your thoughts and feelings more actively. Start by practicing in safe, low-stakes environments. Try to speak up in smaller group meetings or express your ideas in one-on-one settings. Remember, your thoughts and opinions are just as important as anyone else's.


Aggressive communicators express their thoughts and feelings very openly, but often at the expense of others. They may dominate conversations, dismiss others' opinions, and even resort to intimidation to make their point, which can create tension and resentment in the team.

Key characteristics:

  • Often speak loudly or dominate conversations.
  • May interrupt or talk over others.
  • Can appear demanding or confrontational.

How to work with team members who are Aggressive communication style

When working with aggressive communicators, it's crucial to maintain a calm and composed demeanor. Assert your own points of view respectfully and without escalating the situation. Show understanding towards their perspective and encourage them to do the same for others.

What to focus on if you are an Aggressive communicator

If you're an aggressive communicator, focusing on empathy and active listening can greatly enhance your communication. Make an effort to understand others' perspectives before sharing your own. Try to create a dialogue rather than a monologue in your interactions.


Passive-aggressive communicators often express their feelings and thoughts in an indirect and sometimes confusing manner. They might outwardly agree while inwardly resenting or opposing, leading to tension and misunderstanding within the team.

Key characteristics:

  • Often use sarcasm or backhanded compliments.
  • May agree outwardly but resist inwardly.
  • Frequently use non-verbal cues to express discontent.

How to work with team members who are Passive-Aggressive communication style

To work effectively with passive-aggressive communicators, it helps to address conflicts directly and diplomatically. Encourage open and honest communication. If you sense discontent, consider private discussions to allow them to express their concerns openly.

What to focus on if you are a Passive-Aggressive communicator

As a passive-aggressive communicator, focusing on open, direct, and honest communication can improve your workplace relationships. Try to express your dissatisfaction or disagreement in a clear, respectful manner. Avoiding indirect communication like sarcasm or non-verbal cues can reduce misunderstanding.


Assertive communicators effectively balance expressing their own needs and respecting those of others. They communicate their thoughts and feelings directly and respectfully, promoting an open dialogue and mutual understanding within the team.

Key characteristics:

  • Express thoughts, feelings, and needs openly and directly.
  • Listen actively and respect others' perspectives.
  • Maintain composure and respect in discussions.

How to work with team members who are Assertive communication style

Working with assertive communicators can be refreshing as they value open and respectful dialogue. Embrace their directness, listen actively, and be open to constructive feedback. Respond in kind by expressing your own thoughts and feelings openly and respectfully.

What to focus on if you are an Assertive communicator

As an assertive communicator, consistency is key. Continue to express your thoughts and feelings honestly and directly while respecting others' perspectives. Stay receptive to feedback and remember that assertiveness also involves active listening

How to communicate more assertively

Among the various communication styles, assertive communication is often the most effective in a workplace setting. This style allows for clear, direct, and respectful exchanges, minimizing misunderstandings and fostering a healthy work environment that values mutual respect and open dialogue.

Assertive communicators are appreciated for their ability to express ideas honestly, while also respecting others' opinions. They can convey difficult messages without causing undue upset, and they also tend to be good listeners, which can greatly enhance team synergy and productivity.

Here are a few additional strategies for adopting a more assertive communication style:

1. Master the art of saying 'no': One of the main tenets of assertive communication is the ability to express your boundaries respectfully. If a request interferes with your priorities or capacity, learn to say 'no' in a way that respects your needs and the other person's request.

2. Balance questions and statements: When you're in a discussion, practice balancing your statements with questions. This shows that you value others' input and promotes a two-way communication stream.

3. Express positive and negative emotions honestly: If you feel appreciation, express it. If you feel upset, communicate it openly yet respectfully. This honesty can build trust and rapport within your team.

Remember, assertive communication is a skill that takes time to cultivate. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't come naturally at first. With practice, you can significantly enhance your communication and foster stronger, more productive relationships at work.


Understanding your own communication style and those of your colleagues not only enhances the efficiency of your interactions but also contributes to a healthier, more productive work environment. It mitigates conflicts, promotes understanding, and fosters a sense of mutual respect and teamwork.

It's important to remember that no one style is inherently 'better' than another. Each style has its strengths and areas for improvement. The goal isn't to change who you are, but to understand how your communication impacts others and how theirs impacts you. In this knowledge lies the power to adapt, grow, and ultimately, to create a more harmonious, productive work atmosphere.

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