How to Handle Different Communication Styles in Business


Have you ever come out of an important meeting feeling confused or frustrated? Was there ever an occasion where you found it difficult to explain yourself to a colleague or customer?

When it comes to communication, there’s no one-size-fits-all style. All of us communicate differently and sometimes this difference can make matters difficult for your business. By understanding different communication styles, you can enhance workplace productivity leading to better business results.

What are communication styles?

Communication styles are our preferred way of interacting with others. Some people may find it easier to articulate confidently how they feel. Others may prefer keeping their opinions to themselves because they want to avoid conflicts.

In every workplace, you will find people with different preferences. A healthy workplace will encourage a good balance of these differences to encourage new ideas and processes.

Why Learn to Handle Different Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace

Successful businesses understand the importance of clear and effective workplace communication. They also understand that it’s tricky because everyone has a preferred style of communicating. But learning to handle these different styles is beneficial for a number of reasons.

  • Improved communication skills: To encourage each team member to share ideas.
  • Improved work-life balance: To avoid miscommunication.
  • Improved teamwork: To get the best out of different team members.
  • Better work relationships: To achieve common goals.
  • Improved self-awareness: To be respectful of different opinions.

What are the 5 communication Styles?

If not managed properly, the differences in our communication styles can cause confusion, misunderstanding and unnecessary stress. To address this challenge and to leverage different learning style, a growing number of businesses are using a tool called DISC.

DISC is a useful tool that can help you better understand people’s behaviors and emotions. It’s designed to provide an insight into why people behave in the way they do. According to this model, there are four distinct personality types:

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Steadiness
  • Conscientiousness

Based on this model, there are five communication styles that clearly stand out.

1. Passive Communication Style

Do you know someone who tends to avoid conflicts and prefers to stay under the radar? This is typical of the passive communicators. They don’t mind taking a step back and let the more assertive people lead the way. That’s because they don’t want to get involved in a confrontational situation. To keep peace they may say, “You’re right, let’s go with it.” In doing so, they may avoid sharing their real feelings.

If you observe their body language, you will notice they tend to hold their head down, speak softly and avoid eye contact.

This type of communications style is useful when you need to win small battles. For example, if you have difficult customers only interested in their own ideas, a passive communicator can be brought in to placate them .

How to Handle a Passive Communicator

Dealing with the passive communication style be challenging. If you try to push too much, they may completely shut down. Instead, here are some simple examples of how you can handle them:

  1. Give them space to articulate their opinions and needs
  2. Do not dismiss their ideas
  3. Ask them open ended questions
  4. Engage with them in one-on-one interactions
  5. Do not expect an immediate response

2. Aggressive Communication Style

An aggressive communicator doesn’t believe in staying on the sidelines. In a discussion, aggressive communicators will adopt a loud and hostile demeanor to get their points across. They will also not shy away from rejecting other opinions. It’s therefore not unusual for them to boss around and dismiss other ideas with curt responses like “It’s a terrible article” or “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

Their tone of voice and gestures are all meant to suggest their opinions matter the most and that they’re not interested in what others have to say.

When they don’t get their way, they will scowl or glare at others.

How to handle an Aggressive Communicator

An aggressive person can create a hostile work environment, especially when there are more passive co workers in the team. Here are some ways to handle aggressive communicators:

  1. Do not return the aggression
  2. Explain to them why their behavior is not acceptable
  3. Give them advice on how they should tone down their aggressiveness
  4. Streamline your conversations to stay on topic
  5. Take HR’s help if the situation gets too difficult

3. Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

On the surface, passive-aggressive communicators appear easy-going. In reality, however, they are dissatisfied and angry. Their real emotions come out in the expressions of sarcasm, sly digs and silent treatments.

It’s often challenging to work with passive-aggressive people because they have the same effect as the aggressive communicators. When they cannot get their way, they will look for opportunities to undermine other people. “Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out myself like I always do” or “We’ll work on this if it makes you happy. That’s all they care about anyway.”

It’s their resentment that makes them believe they are powerless in the organization.

How to handle a Passive-Aggressive Communicator

If not handled properly, passive-aggressive individuals can create a toxic team environment.

Here are some examples of how you can manage passive-aggressive team members.

  1. Speak to them privately to understand what motivates their behavior.
  2. Do not react in the same way.
  3. Set boundaries.
  4. Stay calm.
  5. Create an environment where they don’t feel they are underappreciated.

4. Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communication is considered the most effective communications style. Assertive communicators are confident yet not dismissive of other opinions. They can get their message across without hurting people’s feelings. When they want answers they may say, “I’d like to understand your thoughts around the content structure because I don’t think I got it right” or “I felt your edits made my article more generic.”

They excel at both verbal and non-verbal communication. They make direct eye contact and speak with clarity.

An assertive communicator is also a good listener who is firm when dealing with different individuals.

How to handle an Assertive Communicator

Because of their balanced style, assertive communicators are the easiest to handle. Here are some ways to get the most out of these individuals.

  1. Give them space to think.
  2. Come up with solutions.
  3. Listen to their ideas.
  4. Be specific.
  5. Explain the problem clearly.

5. Manipulative Communication Style

Manipulative communicators are shrewd in the way they interact with others. They are skilled at influencing people and getting what they want. If they want a job another colleague is also interested in, they may manipulate them by saying, “I wouldn’t want to be in your position. They couldn’t pay me enough to take this one up.”

Their style of communication is patronizing and aggressive. It is this behavior that often leads to resentment among colleagues. Manipulative communicators, however, have very little regard for what others want or think as long as they get their way.

While their behavior is not ideal, their ability to control people makes them useful in difficult customer interactions.

How to handle a Manipulative Communicator

Managing a manipulative communicator requires some skills because they are good at what they do — controlling others. Here are some simple ways to handle these individuals:

  1. Be cautious when interacting with them.
  2. Stand your ground.
  3. Do not let them sway your opinions.
  4. Be firm but polite.
  5. Stick to the topic at hand.

How are the 5 communication styles different from each other?

Each communications style brings with it a set of opportunities and challenges. With passive communication, it takes a lot of effort to get them to share their feelings with the group. With the aggressive type, having a productive discussion can often seem impossible.

Manipulative and passive-aggressive communication styles involve a shrewd approach in dealing with others. It’s important to call such people out for their behavior. But treating them the way they treat others is not wise. Rather a more direct approach to address their problematic workplace communication styles is the right way to get things done.

5 Methods of Communication to be Aware of in Business

Just as we have a preferred style of communicating with others, we also have preferred or effective communication methods of expressing ourselves. These methods are based on our personalities. For example, a passive communicator eager to stay out of confrontational situations may prefer to use a submissive method of workplace interaction.

A good understanding of these different communication styles can make it easier for you to connect with different individuals and build better relationships.


An analytical person loves data. Feelings-driven statements are too vague and confusing for such a person. Quantifiable data, on the other hand, is easy to decipher. For example, a positive sales outlook is an undefined statement. A 10% growth, however, is concrete information.

With an analytical person, it’s easier to look at things objectively. They can separate feelings from work and provide a more rational perspective in their workplace. But the challenge is such individuals are often perceived as cold and unapproachable in communication.


Those who value human connection and emotion tend to prefer the personal style of communication. These individuals care about people first. They are good listeners and they find great value in understanding how people around them feel. If the sales numbers are poor, they will first try to understand if the team morale is low.

The personal style is important to hold a team together. These people can solve conflicts and find solutions to address unseen issues. However, they find it difficult to come to make quick decisions where logic needs to be applied first.


Submissive people believe other people’s needs and opinions are much more important than their own. They lack self esteem and try their best to avoid conflicts. So they stay away from making decisions that they think will upset others. They are also quick to apologize in a conversation even when it’s not their fault.

It’s not difficult to take advantage of a submissive person. Their low energy can also leave others exasperated.


An intuitive person focuses on the big picture.

They don’t let excessive details get in the way of achieving results. They are action-oriented and much more focused on the result than the process. That’s why, they prefer brief conversations that get straight to the point. For example, a quick conversation about a LinkedIn and email campaign is preferred over a detailed explanation of each step to design and execute the digital content plan.

Because they are able to look at the big picture, intuitive communicators find it easy to come up with innovative, creative solutions. They can get things done quickly because they don’t let the steps come in the way. However, these people end up losing patience when something requires a detailed and long-term approach.


Unlike those who prefer the intuitive style of communication, functional communicators like focusing on details and processes. They like taking their time before coming up with solutions and new ideas. When interacting with them, it’s best to come prepared to answer their questions.

Their detail-oriented approach is helpful when it comes to making project plans, allocating responsibilities and creating timelines.

But it can be a challenge for them to stay focused on the big picture. They can also lose the attention of their audience when they fixate on their methodical style. In other words, it can be quite difficult for them to work well with those who have an intuitive style of communication.

How to Improve Your Communication Style

Clear and effective communication can go a long way in boosting productivity, improving relations and reducing stress. But interacting with people who have different styles than yours can be tricky. By improving your communication skills, you can connect with people more easily. You can also influence them to get your message across.

Here are some simple ways to improve your communication and work well with different styles.

  • Work on your body language: Not all communication is verbal. Physical cues are also important. To communicate clearly, work on your posture, stand straight and avoid slouching.
  • Engage your audience: No matter how important, your message isn’t just about yourself. Engage your audience by asking questions.
  • Focus on your listening skills: A good communicator is also a good listener. Listen to what your audience is telling you, take their opinions into account to earn their trust.
  • Keep your message simple: Use simple language and avoid using jargons that can confuse your audience.
  • Have an open mind: An openminded approach can help when you have to engage with someone whose style is different than yours. It can make things easier especially when you face criticism in the course of a conversation.
  • Request feedback: Are you addressing everyone’s needs when communicating with them? The best way to know this and to improve your style is by asking for feedback. Seek opinions to understand areas where you need to get better.

What is the Best Communication Style in Business?

In business, the assertive communication style is considered the best for a number of reasons. Assertive communicators respect other opinions and needs without neglecting their own. By doing so, they earn the trust and respect of their coworkers and customers.

Assertive communicators are also good at not beating around the bush. They quickly get to the point and are direct when explaining what they need. Their self-awareness is useful especially when dealing with customers.

By improving your assertive communication style, you can influence decisions and make people feel more involved in the process. It’s not always easy, especially when you have to deal with difficult people. But by keeping an open mind when someone is not agreeing with you, you can achieve your goals.

Image: Depositphotos

Shubhomita Bose Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.