Master These Five Communication Styles
- Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
- Monday, January 1, 2024
Effective communicators know their audience. They tailor their message based on who's hearing it. Here's how to share your message based on five types of listeners.
When communicating with another person, whether it be vocally, visually, or by some kind of text (email, document, instant message) you will be more effective in getting your message across if you express it in the way the audience prefers to receive it.
The trick is to know what kind of listener is on the receiving end of your message.
Just like people have preferred ways of learning new things (hands-on, interactively, etc.), there are also different ways people prefer to communicate.
It is very convenient that the way someone prefers to communicate with you is also the way they prefer you communicate with them.
These communication styles fall into five broad categories:
- Bullet Points
- Facts. Facts. Facts.
The first "Bullet Points" personality type is all about action. Getting things done and leaving their mark on the world is their modus operandi. They don't have the patience for long-winded speeches or multiple pages of data.
These people (whom we'll call "Builders") are all about bullet points. Give them the highlights without long-winded elaboration, then stand back and watch them get things done.
To communicate with a Builder, be brief. The equivalent of three bullet points is all your written message will need to be effective. Speak succinctly and to the point. Give them what they need, not what you think they want.
Another personality type, the "Storyteller," is hard to miss. Go to any cocktail party and they will likely be the center of attention. You may not remember everything they say but you will definitely remember how they make you feel.
These folks (whom we'll call "Merchants") tell stories. They aren't succinct and find it difficult to convey information without embellishment or elaboration. When they do talk about a specific topic, they will often express it in the context of people and emotions rather than dry facts.
When communicating with a Merchant, think about how your information will make them feel. Recitation of facts will bore a Merchant, but if you can put a human spin on it, expressed in the form of an anecdote or story, you will keep them engaged.
The third personality type you will encounter, the "Brainstormer," loves to solve problems. When others say, "It can't be done," this person (we'll call them "Innovators") says, "What if we ...?" They are always seeking answers, and even when they're stressed out and in the middle of an argument, they will resort to interrogation, asking leading questions.
Finding the solution to a problem gives the Innovator their greatest source of joy, and this influences how they communicate with others. Their cooperative style often relies on brainstorming and other interactive approaches.
To communicate with an Innovator, remember their motivation. Their primary joy is to be the best source of wisdom in the room. They want to find the answer — the best answer — to a problem. Anything that makes them feel unwise or foolish with be an instant turn-off. If you convey your message in the form of a question, you'll hold their attention. "Here's the challenge. How would you solve it?"
Facts. Facts. Facts.
"Just the facts, ma'am," as the saying from the show/movie goes. This individual deals in the tangible and thoroughly researched data and information of the world. Their primary motivation is to be the definitive source of knowledge on a topic and this is reflected in the way they communicate.
This personality type is called the "Banker." Bankers operate in definitive, black-and-white terms. They don't mess about with loosey-goosey stories that may or may not be true (in their mind) like their friend the Merchant might do, nor do they lead from the front in a commanding way like a Builder.
Bankers value completeness. They want all the information and are happy to consume it. When communicating with a Banker, don't skimp on the details like you would a Builder. Avoid personalized stories like a Merchant. Endless questions are for Innovators. Instead, be thorough, be complete, and don't be afraid to cite your references (the Banker will read every one).
Finally, we get to the universal communicator. This person likely has a blend of the other four personality types. They instinctually shift their way of listening based on the way you are communicating with them.
The universal personality type is perhaps the most difficult to identify because they can behave and communicate in any of the other four ways. From one conversation to the next, they'll deftly shift based on what's needed in the moment.
They are also the easiest listeners to please because they can receive your message regardless of how you convey it.
Identify Your Target
How can you tell which personality type is on the other end of your message?
First, if you are communicating to a group, it's best to be somewhat to the point with a bit of a human touch (story) and let your audience members respond as they prefer. Make available the full facts list for the Bankers that want more information (but don't lead with that), and engage the Innovators in the group by asking some questions, even if they are rhetorical.
If you are communicating with an individual, pay close attention to how they communicate with you. If they are brief and to the point or if they have a storytelling human touch, they are likely Builders or Merchants, respectively. If they ask questions seeking clarity and seem to approach their message from a problem-solver's perspective, they are likely Innovators. If they seem cautious, are long-winded when conveying information, focus on fully detailed facts and seem to value precision, the are likely Bankers.
If you can't tell what personality type the other person may be, assume they are a blend of two or more. You can shift your communication style later once you get a better hint about their preferred method.
Ultimately, you want to communicate based on the preferences of your audience. The trick is figuring out what that preference is.
When in doubt, communicate with the other person the way they communicate with you.
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.
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