Each of us has a unique way of expressing ourselves because our personalities, cultures, and life experiences shape the way we communicate with others.
At the same time, we can all work toward becoming more effective communicators. When we communicate effectively, we express ourselves while also helping others feel heard and understood.
Effective communication with others helps us:
So how can you use more effective communication with others?
Identifying your personal communication style is the first step.
Exercise: How do you communicate during conflict?
This exercise can help you identify how you communicate during conflict, according to your cultural communication style1. Note that all communication styles are valuable, and certain styles aren’t “better” or “worse” than others. Understanding your communication style can help you better navigate conflict with others.
Imagine you’re having a difficult conversation or disagreement with someone you trust.
Review the statements in Sections 1 and 2. Select the statements that most resemble your behavior.
Please remember that there are no right or wrong answers. If you notice yourself judging your responses, remind yourself that all communication styles are valuable.
|A Statements||B Statements|
|• You prefer face-to-face interactions and lean on specific language to explain yourself.|
• You value clarity and transparency.
|• You rely on stories and metaphors to explain yourself and believe others can read between the lines.|
• You try to maintain harmony and mutual respect.
|A Statements||B Statements|
|• You prefer to contain or hide strong emotions both verbally and non-verbally. |
• You believe it’s important to avoid showing too much emotion during conflict.
|• You show your feelings through facial expressions, tone of voice, body movement, gestures, tears, or laughter. |
• You believe it’s important to express emotions when communicating with others.
Note: If you selected statements in A and B equally, you may have a mixed communication style, which is not uncommon.
What does this mean for you and your interactions with others?
After you’ve identified your communication styles, review the matrix below, which describes four common communication styles.
Communication Style Matrix
The four different communication styles include:
Take a moment to assess where you land on the matrix. For example, if the results from the previous exercise showed that you communicate indirectly and expressively, you may have a dynamic communication style.
Please remember that you might not fit neatly into one category but may fall somewhere between two or three styles. No style is ‘better’ or ‘more right’ than the other. It’s also important to consider that this exercise asked you to consider your communication in a trusted relationship, which may point to the way you feel most comfortable communicating. However, your communication style may vary across different relationships and environments.
Why is this matrix important?
This matrix can help you understand how you interact with others and make sense of their behavior. When we communicate with someone using a different style than our own, conflict and misunderstanding may happen more frequently. For example, if you communicate directly and with restraint, you may feel uncomfortable, confused, or frustrated when communicating with someone who communicates indirectly and expressively.
Take some time to consider the following:
1 Hammer, M. R. (2009). Solving problems and resolving conflict using the intercultural conflict style model and inventory. Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence: Exploring the cross-cultural dynamics within organizations, 219-232.