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Think about all the orators that strike a chord with audiences every time they communicate.

Those people who make others sit up and pay attention.

They’re animated. Motivated.

They inspire, bring people together, give the voiceless a voice and compel people to listen to them.

Now think about those people you encounter every day.

In the workplace. A coffee shop at lunchtime. Across a crowded room.

Some exude power, self-assurance and confidence. ..without saying a word!

It’s their body language. Their poise. Their behaviour. Whether engaged with you or not.

There’s something about them. They’re different. Impactful. They have a commanding presence.

Call it charisma. Interpersonal skills. They have the ability to say so much in so little time.

How we communicate is vital. It’s our expression.

How we relate to one another and cultivate relationships.

No two people are precisely the same. Communication styles vary.

But what’s for certain is that recognising and understanding them will make anyone formidable…in all areas of your life. But no more so than in the workplace.

Interesting in learning all about communication styles, including the eight most common and how to find yours?

Keep reading and we’ll tell you everything that you need to know. ⤵️

Why communication styles are important in the workplace

Everything in life is about communication. Now that statement may seem like hyperbole, but there’s more than a grain of truth to it. Think about it, how you communicate determines how people respond to you.

If you’re able to be characterised as a person of value.

How you’re perceived. Even if people trust you.

And this is especially true in the workplace.

Fostering a positive work environment means embracing a range of communication styles – and learning how to adopt each when conversing with colleagues.

This will empower, encourage and inspire everyone, building trusted relationships, whilst avoiding miscommunications. 😊

Organisations need people with amenable personalities, people with assertive personalities and everything in between.

This blend of skillsets will strengthen organisation-wide performance.

And the first stage is identifying varying communication styles. 🧐

The seven most common types of communication styles

As we’ve already alluded to, each communication style can elicit specific emotions, and consequently actions, from whoever is on the receiving end. From empowerment to valued, and on the other end of the spectrum, frustration and concern.

The trick to improving people skills, and cultivating a happy and productive workplace, is to know which type of communication is best suited to which situation.

For example, a colleague with a direct personality, who’s balancing multiple commitments simultaneously and has significant responsibilities will favour assertive communication.

Conversely, a colleague who’s new to a sector, role, or workplace environment will be inspired by transformational communication because this style focuses on motivating people to reach their potential and achieve their goals, whilst encouraging professional and personal growth.

So, let’s examine the eight types of communication styles in a little more detail, highlighting why each work and any potential challenges people face. 👇

1. Assertive communication

Typically, the most respectful and productive communication style, assertive communicators share their thoughts and ideas confidentially – and always with respect and politeness.

Why assertive communicators should be valued

These communicators are ready to take on challenges and are able to say “no” when they need to. Additionally, assertive communicators put boundaries in place without being overtly aggressive or defensive.

Assertive communicators know how to make others feel comfortable and are often trusted to make important decisions, whilst acting as a conduit between others.

If your organisation has identified assertive communicators, be sure to encourage them to share their ideas, place them in leadership positions, and enlist their expertise when dealing with passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive communication styles. 🤔

Challenges for assertive communicators

There are a handful of barriers that prevent communicators from being assertive. These include being too focused on other people and not understanding personal needs and wants, believing that personal needs and wants are not important, being hyper-focused on yourself and not fully understanding other people’s needs and wants, or being insecure in your own abilities.

Overcome these and you’ll become an assertive communicator in the workplace. 🔥

2. Passive communication

This style of communication can be overlooked in the workplace, even have voices drowned out by more aggressive communicators. Many passive communicators fail to effectively communicate their wants or needs for fear of reproach or embarrassment, especially in the workplace. And they often put the needs of others before their own.

Why passive communicators should be valued

Just because they don’t adopt an overtly forceful communication style, it doesn’t mean that what they have to say is any less important. Oftentimes, passive communicators are more introspective and capable of sharing great insights when allowed to voice their views. 🤔

Challenges for passive communicators

It’s fair to assume that passive communicators find it more difficult to communicate their opinions in the workplace. They may also find it difficult to make decisions, especially when put on the spot. This can be counteracted by being brave, bold and recognising and building on small victories to gain more confidence.

3. Aggressive communication

Aggressive communicators frequently express their thoughts and feelings, often in a heated or even enraged manner. They tend to dominate conversations, often at the expense of others. They often react before thinking and can have an abrasive persona which decreases workplace productivity. Although they might come off as brash in certain circumstances, aggressive communicators can command respect in the workplace, especially in competitive environments.

Why aggressive communicators should be valued

People who adopt an aggressive communication style tend to be forceful and command more respect. They make good leaders and can accomplish their goals quicker. They’re also better equipped to handle a crisis. However, this communication style should not be cultivated to the detriment of interpersonal relationships.

Challenges for aggressive communicators

Being aggressive is valued in some workplaces, however, the challenge for people who are naturally more aggressive is to strike a balance in their behaviour, i.e., to be aggressive when required and passive when needed.

When employed at the incorrect time and directed to the incorrect person, for example, a colleague who has a higher position within the organisation, aggressive communication can be at best misplaced and, at worst disastrous.

Additionally, an aggressive style of communication can be draining for both the communicator and who they’re communicating with, making it challenging to sustain a cordial relationship.

The antidote to this is modifying communication when speaking to different people. Recognise that bold personality types respond favourably to aggressive communication. Passive personalities, not so much. 🚀 🚀

4. Passive aggressive communication

On the surface, they can appear passive, and agreeable, but don’t make a passive aggressive communicator for a wilting flower.

They often have aggressive motivations. Their actions may not align with what they say.

They’re capable of influencing circumstances so that their goals are met and communicate with subtlety.

Why passive aggressive communicators should be valued

People who don’t feel that they have a voice in the workplace, especially those who aren’t confident in speaking their minds in tense or hostile environments, adopting a passive aggressive approach will make them appear non-threatening and valued in almost any situation.

Despite often not being front and centre in group dialogues, passive aggressive people can portray emotions that offer valuable insights into relationship dynamics.

However, it’s paramount that any toxic passive aggressive communicators are not allowed to propagate in a working environment.


Negative emotions can become viral and compromise team, department, or organisation-wide morale.

Challenges for passive aggressive communicators

Passive aggressive communicators often have difficulty accepting responsibility for their own actions, can blame others for their mistakes and may come across as untrustworthy. Their propensity for being a team player on the surface, but subtly undermine individual and team’s goals.

However, passive aggressive communicators have the opportunity to be enormously influential because people don’t often view them as overtly hostile. This means that they are in a strong position to affect change provided that they operate with honesty, transparency, and believe in the organisation that they’re employed by.

5. Collaborative communication

The seamless exchange of knowledge and experience, consistent discussion of day-to-day activities that affect individuals within a team, and the team as a whole, and ability to excel in a group or hierarchal environment to achieve a common goal is more commonly referred to as collaborative communication.

Why collaborative communicators should be valued

In simple terms, collaborative communication promotes teamwork, camaraderie and transparency. This is vital to fostering trust in any working environment. People capable of operating efficiently within a collaborative environment are often flexible and diplomatic, often acting as a link between people who have different communication styles. This increases productivity and can even boost staff retention rates. 🚀 🚀

Challenges for collaborative communicators

There are a few challenges that collaborative communicators will need to overcome to be effective in the workplace. Ideally, they need to be able to understand, connect and work with all diverse types of people. They need to promote trust and positivity, and if needs be become a leader.

They should concentrate on eliminating organisational silos, both departmental and interdepartmental, encourage open dialogue and focus on making sure that collaborators are valued.

6. Transactional communication

Transactional communication explains the exchange of information in a clear and efficient manner by creating social realities that draw from cultural, relational and social surroundings.

This two-way mode of communication can be done in-person or virtually, either through a face-to-face verbal or digital exchange through social media, emailing, or even video conferencing.

Transactional communication is different from relational communication because it focuses on getting things done and achieving favourable outcomes whilst relational communication is more in line with behaviours and enhancing interpersonal relationships.

Why transactional communicators should be valued

Understanding transactional communication and how it differs from other forms of communication allows people to communicate more effectively in a range of circumstances.

For instance, video conferences differ from workplace conversations. People need to understand both social cues to know when their input is required and abide by video conferencing etiquette. 🖥️

Moreover, transactional communication focuses on an information change regardless of the context whilst boosting clarity and efficiency in all communication.

Challenges for transactional communicators

As beneficial as transactional communication can be, there are a handful of challenges that transactional communicators, and the workplace as a whole, should employ to hone their communication prowess.

For one, transactional communication does provide sufficient scope for feedback. This is vital to gaining performance insight. There’s also the problem that transactional communication doesn’t allow people to build on existing ideas to develop a rapport.

Lastly, transactional communication is sometimes considered to be quite formal or stilted. It’s impersonal and limits creativity and the spontaneity of conversations.

To combat these challenges transactional communication can be employed alongside more one-to-one, personal communication styles, such as transactional or collaborative communication.

This will reinforce the overall learning message and allow people to benefit from different learning styles, hone more skills, and become a better communicator, something that benefits the whole organisation. 🙌

7. Transformational communication

The last communication style commonplace within the workplace is transformational communication. This type of communication is when organisations or individuals prioritise passing on purpose as opposed to merely sharing information.

Stellar leaders instil an emotional connection with everyone. A sense of purpose.

They make that all-important emotional connection with everyone. This makes everyone feel like they’re part of something special. This is transformational communication.

Why transformational communicators should be valued

Transformational communicators encourage communication and feedback whilst acknowledging the dynamic nature of communication.

They are influencers, thrive collaborating with people and are capable of getting the job done.

Moreover, they are great at recognising and adapting to contextual situations, such as communicating with diverse types of people and motivating colleagues when needed.

Challenges for transformational communicators

There are several key challenges that transformational communicators face in the workplace. These include maintaining a clear and compelling vision to guide the direction and purpose of the organisation, one that appeals to everyone, balancing individual and collective needs of individuals and groups, developing and sustaining innovation to achieve stronger ideas, products, services, processes, and more.

Let’s not forget that there are other challenges too.

These include building and maintaining, the foundation of effective leadership communication, trust, and positioning and developing yourself as a transformational leader.

Deciding between different communication styles

Truly effective communication in the workplace doesn’t rely solely on promoting one style primarily. Regardless of where you work, the sector, organisation, or department, will balance a full range of personalities.

To decide which communication style you should promote, it’s particularly important that you understand workplace personalities and your organisational culture.

Librarians may not respond favourably to an aggressive communication style just as sales offices will hardly prosper with a bunch of passive communicators.

Thankfully, there is a criterion for organisations to follow to identify the right communication method. Below is a general overview of what organisations should follow to decide on the ideal communication style.👇

1. Know your audience

✅ This one is straightforward, and we’ve already hinted at it above, but knowing your audience is paramount.

You need to choose a communication style that resonates with who you’re communicating with.

This means that you need to understand the differences in people’s personalities and how to communicate with them. 📢

2. Make sure it reflects organisational culture

✅ No one comes to work in a library because they’re a result-driven, action-oriented, competitive person just as no one with a caring, nurturing personality, someone with a meticulous nature who likes to take their time completing specific tasks.

Be sure that any communication style you implement reflects your organisational culture. If not, you will encounter adoption resistance and even struggle to attract candidates who possess the requisite skillset to help your business thrive.

3. Consider the purpose of your organisation

✅ If you want your organisation to be successful you need to have a clear understanding of its purpose…It’s that simple.

Are you determined to be a force for social change?

Is your vision to help customers leverage a more efficient means of, for instance, doing their financial accounts?

Have you decided to empower organisations to reduce costs and protect the environment with sustainable products?

Nail your purpose and you’ll be able to employ candidates who have the right communication styles to drive productivity and excel as a leader in the market.

4. Know your vision

✅ Every successful organisation has a vision. This outlines an organisation’s short and long-term objectives, strategic planning, culture, and company values.

Apple’s vision is to “create technology that empowers people and enriches their lives.” Saudi Aramco’s vision is to “use its resources to help create a better future for the world and its people.” The British Heart Foundation’s mission is “a world free of heart and circulatory diseases.”

A strong vision informs decision-making. And this includes communication styles. Now, of course, different departments will have different communication types, but provided that everyone is singing from the same hymn book, your organisation will have a cohesive, synchronised foundation.

5. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different communication styles

✅ As we’ve already mentioned, different people respond to different communication styles.

It’s part of their personalities. Who they are.

A good organisation recognises this and cultivates a diverse workplace culture – one that appeals to people with a range of communication styles.

This creates a positive, inclusive workplace culture, one where everyone’s individual skills are valued, and productivity is enhanced. 🔥

How to choose the right leadership style for you

Finding the right leadership style is paramount to understanding how to optimise workplace performance. Both your own and your colleagues.

However, choosing that leadership style requires a degree of thought and introspection.

To save you the trouble of figuring out how to become an effective leader, we’ve outlined some ways that may help you to choose how to lead others.

1. Learn about yourself

✅ Take some time to think about who you are, what you value, and how you can positively impact colleagues in the workplace. This could be as simple as writing down your strengths and weaknesses, thinking about environments, people, tasks where you thrive and environments, people, and tasks where you could improve.

Try innovative approaches. Take risks. And learn from all outcomes.

2. Understand your goals and challenges

✅ Try identifying your priorities and areas for improvement. Be sure to pay attention to your values, ethos, and vision. Look for patterns in your behaviour and note examples of experiences that you’ve found challenging and experiences when you felt comfortable.

This will allow you to grow. To turn weaknesses into strengths and achieve more.

3. Learn from leaders you admire

✅ It’s common for people to model themselves on leadership traits exhibited by people they admire. Martin Luther King. Steve Jobs. Winston Churchill. Nelson Mandela. Why? They see something in these leaders that resonates with them.

If you want to be an arresting communicator, an arresting leader promotes your strengths. And most of us find these in the people we already admire.

4. Don’t be afraid to try different leadership philosophies

✅ You might be someone who favours transactional leadership, democratic leadership, or even autocratic leadership. What philosophy you gravitate to is the philosophy you should promote.

Don’t think that because someone you know or admire leads with an autocratic hand that you have to. But don’t be afraid to borrow from their leadership style.

5. Gather feedback from colleagues

✅ People are unable to progress in their career without the guidance, support, and especially feedback from colleagues. This provides leaders with ample opportunity to learn what strategies resonate with colleagues and what styles don’t.

Getting feedback from colleagues is easy. Leaders could email an anonymous questionnaire. Hold an informal workshop or meeting. Even ask for feedback as part of any 1-2-1 or formal meetings.

Finding the best communication style and implementing it is key to organisational prosperity

It’s clear that there’s a wealth of different communication styles that organisations can adopt. The only real question to ask is which one is most profitable for you.

The good news is that once you’re able to identify a communication style that resonates with people across varying departments, even if that involves mixing and matching assorted styles, you can be sure that it will add real value to your business.

This is especially true of L&D. An optimised L&D experience, one that caters to a range of communication styles will enhance the performance and productivity of your organisation.

Interested in learning how Thirst can help you level up your L&D? Book a demo today. 👍


For more e-learning insights, resources and information, discover the Thirst blog

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