What's Your Communication Style?

People talking in group at work

Photograph: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
​​Illustration: Shirley Ren/Shutterstock
 

Find out what kind of communicator you are by taking this quick quiz

How the world perceives us and the way we come across to others is so important, that in my book How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know, I put my thoughts about effective communication right up front in Chapter One. In this quiz we’ll assess your communication style and pinpoint any problem areas that may be hindering you.

This quiz breaks our communication styles down into three categories. Choose option A, B, or C for the questions below; answer the answer that best fits how you might respond in the particular scenario.

1. When I am involved in a disagreement with someone important to me:
A. It's easier to walk away or back down immediately to avoid conflict.
B. I will engage in the discussion no matter how heated it becomes until I’m sure I’ve gotten my point across.It's important that my voice be heard.
C. The relationship is more important than the outcome of this argument, so I respond based on wanting to stay connected, despite our disagreements.

2. When I feel my needs are not being met in a relationship:
A. I rarely ask directly for what I want. I hope they the other person will figure it out on their own and do it for me.
B. I tend to be demanding. If I don't put it out there, I know I won't get it.
C. I find a way to discuss it or ask for it that provides the least conflict but gives me the best chance of getting what I want.

3. When it comes to having a heart-to-heart with someone I care about:
A. I don't have heart-to-heart conversations. I just let the relationship play out and adjust to whatever the other person says and does.
B. I often become angry and accusatory during serious discussions. It's hard for me to stay calm when I discuss important matters.
C. I express what I am trying to say calmly and give the other person a chance to express themselves. I want things to remain peaceful.

4. When it comes to expressing myself at work:
A. Typically, I can’t articulate my long-term goals, and find it difficult to approach those in a position to help me. I keep my head down and do what’s asked of me.
B. I know exactly what I want and need, and am very vocal in expressing it to my superiors. I will achieve my professional goals at any cost.
C. I take time to consider the best person to approach for what I want to take away from our conversation. I have a definite plan is in place before I communicate.

5. In a high-stress situation like a job interview:
A. I get so panicked thinking about all the possible negative outcomes that I am unprepared for the actual discussion and often feel I left much unsaid.
B. I am demanding and to the point. I have been told that my style could be considered aggressive or abrasive, but I look at it as getting what I need.
C. I carefully prepare the points I want to make, the questions I have, and chose a good time for a calm discussion.

6. My style of talking could best be described as:
A. Quiet, self-deprecating, and quick to agree and placate. I will always give in to get along.
B. Loud and boisterous. I generally set the agenda or plans and others follow.
C. I shift styles based on where I am and which friend or business associate I’m dealing with. I go with what feels right in the moment.

7. At social gatherings like parties or events:
A. I prefer not to attend events full of strangers. But if I do go, I prefer to blend in. I often sit in a corner and keep a low profile.
B. I am often described as the life of the party. I generate most of the conversation, and feel a sense of obligation to keep things moving along – sometimes inappropriately (excess drinking, gossiping, etc.).
C. I can function well in large parties of mostly strangers, and am completely comfortable in familiar settings with friends.

8. When I am with others and not feeling well or in a good mood:
A. I hide it all costs and try to stay quiet and hope no one notices. “I’m fine,” is my mantra.
B. I tell everyone. There’s no hiding it, so I’m not shy about telling everyone why I’m so miserable. Maybe they can help, and at least they’ll listen.
C. I am open about what is going on in my life if I feel the time is right to confide, but not if it will adversely impact the mood or flow.

9. When I am involved in a negative interaction:
A. I withdraw from the situation. I get quiet and retreat into myself.
B. I get frustrated and have a hard time shaking it off. It impacts my mood for some time.
C. I adjust to the situation and move on as quickly as possible in order to make the best of an uncomfortable experience.

10. When I am in line in a crowded retail store and someone cuts in front of me in line:
A. I say nothing.
B. I loudly let her know that she has cut in line, and tell her to go to the end.
C. I tap her politely on the shoulder and casually let her know that she may not have realized it but she has cut in front of me.

If you answered:

Mostly A’s, you are a Passive Communicator. Passive communicators tend to be fearful and avoid confrontation at all costs. It might be that you feel that you are not entitled or worthy enough to ask for or receive what you want, or perhaps you are willing to sacrifice your own wishes in exchange for avoiding conflict or confrontation. This style of communication might ultimately lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, depression and helplessness, which can certainly impact your ability to be personally happy and professionally successful.

Mostly B’s, you are an Aggressive Communicator. Aggressive communicators tend to be confrontational and angry. Your (very) direct way of expressing your feelings and communicating can leave others feeling unheard, insignificant and even violated. This style of communication may ultimately lead to feelings of isolation, powerlessness and agitation, which can ultimately alienate you from getting what you want from others.

Mostly C’s, congratulations, you are a Dynamic Communicator—the most effective kind of communicator. A dynamic communicator always wants both sides to walk away feeling somewhat satisfied; they are so successful in their skills that they can easily impact others with their words and style. Translation: Dynamic Communicators get more of what they want more often, with less conflict. A dynamic communicator lets go of the need to win and instead knows that the real winning comes when communication is effective and relationships are solid.

For more about becoming a dynamic communicator, see Stacy Kaiser's column in the April 2014 issue of Live Happy magazine.