Communication Styles and How to Create a Bridge Between Them

No, this isn’t a tech comparison between texts, tweets, and PMs. Sure, that’s one way to assess communication preferences. Some like the phone. Others only text. Many choose e-mail. But those are more about delivery than style.

Communication styles say a lot about how each of us choose to share information. Of course, these styles can sometimes blur into each other. However, there are some clear lines to be discussed and well communicated.

What types of communication styles are there?

Here are some broad but common categories:


Think of this style as collaborative. The affiliative communicator is comfortable sharing power. In the case of couples, they will almost always get their partner’s input before making a decision. Some characteristics of an affiliative/indirect communicator include:

  • A desire to work out problems collectively
  • Does not want or appreciate direct challenges
  • A bluntly stated disagreement may be perceived as hostile
  • May take disagreements personally
  • Will remain quiet until all sides have presented their case

When interacting with an affiliative/indirect communicator, you may have to do some work to fully grasp their intentions. In their quest to avoid tension or confrontation, they’ll start with “maybe” before stating a clear “no.”


This communication style is the flip side of the affiliative communicator. A competitive communicator isn’t necessarily “competing” but they’re unafraid to challenge those around them and/or make decisions on their own. The competitive/direct communicator is:

  • Willing to dominate discussions
  • Ready to get right to the point
  • Comfortable with immediately speaking up when faced with disagreeable topic
  • A direction giver and decision maker
  • At their best when working within a clear power structure
  • Appreciative of bluntness, honesty, and short answers

As you might imagine, the competitive/direct communicator uses clear language when declaring their intentions, wants, and needs. In turn, their default setting is to take the other person’s words at face value.

How can we create a bridge between these styles?

Generally speaking, competitive/direct communication reduces the risk of a misunderstanding. However, the likelihood of offending the listener is higher. The reverse is true for affiliative/indirect communication. To follow are some suggestions for addressing this paradox.

  1. Identify your communication style

We must begin with a clear knowledge and acceptance of how we communicate. This isn’t about right or wrong. If you’re not sure where you fit on the scale, talk to trusted friends and family members. They will certainly know.

  1. Identify the communication styles of those around you

Once you have a grasp of your own communication strengths and weaknesses, it’s essential to assess the people closest to you. Who do you communicate with most often? Your partner, boss, neighbor, children, co-workers? The better you learn their style, the sooner your connection improves.

  1. Have a conversation about your conversations

Be proactive. Set aside time to speak with the people you identified in suggestion #2. Let them know you want to improve your connection. These preemptive conversations lay the groundwork for healthier communication.

  1. Accept imperfection and disagreement

Conflict is inevitable and often productive in the long run. Do not flee from it or judge yourself as a failure when it happens. Learn from it. Accept the challenge to learn and grow. Staying open during times of conflict can turn out to be the most amazing teaching moments.

How can couples bridge these gaps?

When communication breaks down, we cannot retreat. For couples, it’s time to consider counselling. Working with a therapist empowers both partners with an experienced and unbiased mediator. You learn to recognize your personal patterns and triggers. In addition, you’ll better understand your partner’s needs and learn effective communication tools. This is a powerful foundation for bridging the communication gap.




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