Communication is an under-supported aspect of our workplace interpersonal dynamics, often dismissed as a nebulous “soft skill.”
Many job descriptions, for example, state a preference for “excellent communication skills,” which can carry an abundance of meanings, or call for proficiency in written and verbal communication. This doesn’t do much to acknowledge the nuanced nature of communication itself.
Limiting the definition or role of workplace communication doesn’t make it any easier to navigate. Asking a teammate a question, explaining metrics, or delivering feedback are all communicated differently, yet they’re all tasks a single employee would handle within a typical workday.
It’s time we recognize workplace communication as a mutable, contextual characteristic and constant practice in an effort to become better performing employees, managers, and teams. Doing so will allow us to develop more respectful and meaningful bonds with our colleagues, removing interpersonal barriers that prevent us from delivering our best work. Best of all, it only takes three steps to start.
Humans are inherently social creatures; we start communicating from the very moment we’re born. Taking a moment to explore the fundamental ways that we communicate is a first step to better understand your own — and others’ — unique communication style to adapt to any workplace scenario.
According to Principles of Management there are three major types of communication:
While you may have a preferred type of communication, the medium isn’t the only factor to take into consideration. Examples within these categories also include forms of asynchronous and synchronous communication, which account for the timing and the context of the exchange.
Asynchronous communication involves a lag between the sender and recipient, while synchronous communication occurs in “real time.”
Here are some examples of asynchronous and synchronous forms of communication:
Visual methods of asynchronous verbal communication also capture non-verbal cues, eye-contact, facial expressions and hand gestures.
Visual methods of synchronous verbal communication also capture non-verbal cues, like the ones noted above.
Many of these examples can span different categories — the level of formality or forethought around them changes depending on if they’re asynchronous or synchronous.
All this to say that communication operates on a spectrum. You aren’t only proficient at written communication or verbal communication, as many resume writing guides and job descriptions would lead you to believe. It’s more realistic to say that you have particular preferences and approaches to different types of communication, depending on the timing and context.
So, how can you best get a sense of your own communication style?
Your communication style is unique to you. No one else has the same writing style, vocal intonation, or even emoji preferences you do.
The best way to understand your communication style is to bring awareness to how you generally approach communicating with others. Consider how you’d approach these following scenarios:
This exercise can help you begin to exposit your own communication style. Think about your preferred ways of communicating, the communication tools you rely on, and your communication pet peeves. Writing (or recording) a user manual for yourself with this information can give your colleagues a better sense on what it’s like to work and communicate with you.
Personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, and Enneagram, can also give you general insight into your working style, including your communication style. (If you’re curious to gauge your strengths, values, and ideals, you can take all three assessments and more with Crystal.)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular choice for those seeking insight into their communication styles, as it assesses extroversion and introversion. While extroversion and introversion are meant to capture how you predominantly derive and direct your energy, they have also emerged as helpful indicators of one’s communication preferences.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on a general overview of how extroverts and introverts communicate:
Every person has qualities of both extroversion and introversion; for most of us, one quality is predominant. Understanding whether you’re more extroverted or introverted can help shape the way that you describe your communication style to others, especially if you decide to create a user manual.
Your workplace communication style is a single piece in a larger puzzle — now let’s talk about how to make all of the pieces fit together.
Communication connects us all, yet every individual has their own particular way of communicating with others. This makes developing systems and processes around workplace communication that apply to everyone especially challenging. How can you feel empowered to embrace your individual communication style and also work efficiently with your teammates who have different communication styles to reach your shared goals?
Once we’re able to turn the mirror on ourselves to see what we’re bringing to the interactions we have at work, we’re ready to start to build empathy for the way others communicate. This allows for communication to flow synergistically, instead of being contained within silos.
Below are a few measures you can take to communicate more effectively and thoughtfully at work:
The days when communication was treated as a monolithic skill are behind us. This shouldn’t make approaches to workplace communication more difficult, but rather, encourage us to continuously work toward becoming more flexible, accommodating, open-minded — and, overall, better — communicators. Because when we do, we can boost company morale, expedite workflows, and reach our goals faster. And who wouldn’t want work to feel like, well, less work?
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