Good communication can make or break a team
What is your style?
Imagine you have a bucket of the cleanest, most pure water in the world.
Now, imagine you take a drop of urine and place it in the water. Through the process of diffusion, the drop of urine permeates the entire bucket and contaminates the whole thing.
This is what happens when you have toxic communicators on your team; they can contaminate your whole environment.
Let’s take Patrick Lencioni’s framework, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and apply this thinking. The five dysfunctions are:
Harmful communication erodes each level of the pyramid.
- It erodes the foundation of trust;
- It creates an environment where there is fear of conflict;
- It creates an environment where team-members won’t commit to decisions;
- It fosters opportunities to “pass the buck” and not each other, or the team, accountable;
- It degrades the focus on shared team success.
It’s impossible to meaningfully compartmentalize every human being’s communication style neatly into one of four categories.
Nonetheless, each one of us has a primary communication style, and it undoubtedly affects the health of our relationships.
How you communicate directly impacts how the message is received. I will also stipulate that communication effectiveness can (and should) be situationally impacted.
For example, if there is an emergency, a more aggressive communication approach may be necessary to command the actions of others to escape peril.
But for everyday purposes, it is essential to be self-aware of your natural method of verbal expression.
This way, you can also understand the responses you receive. After all, effective communication is a two-way street.
Are you a passive communicator?
Passive communicators often fail to express their own needs. This manifests in a bunch of different ways. They may act indifferently when asked a question, for example:
Q: Where you like to eat?
A: I don’t care; you choose.
This indifference typically results in yielding to others’ needs.
Passive communicators are quick to avoid confrontation and often defer to others when pressed. People often like passive communicators because they are often perceived as easy-going.
Passive individuals generally don’t respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations. Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup.
Once they have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident.
After the outburst, however, they may feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.
Passive communicators will often:
- fail to assert for themselves;
- allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights;
- fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions;
- tend to speak softly or apologetically;
- exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture.
Passive communicators come from a place where: My boundaries don’t matter. Only your boundaries matter.
Are you an aggressive communicator?
The aggressive communicator comes across as demanding, defensive, and at times, hostile.
They do not listen to others and often alienate those around them as a result. They tend to speak in a commanding tone and ask questions in a rude manner.
These people often rationalize acting like an asshole with,
Hey, I am a direct communicator.
I am just speaking the truth.
These communicators have complete disregard for the feeling and emotions of others.
A force-multiplier on this type of communicator is the “no offense” statement. Aggressive communicators often use this mantra to somehow mitigate saying something ignorant.
Aggressive communicators will often:
- try to dominate others;
- use humiliation to control others;
- criticize, blame, or attack others;
- be very impulsive;
- have low frustration tolerance;
- speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice;
- act threateningly and rudely;
- not listen well;
- interrupt frequently;
- use “you” statements.
The aggressive communicator comes from a place where: Only my boundaries matter. Your boundaries don’t matter.
Are you a passive-aggressive communicator?
A passive-aggressive communicator will appear indifferent on the surface. Don’t be fooled.
They are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful — in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments.
Passive-aggressive communication can be subtle. For example, a person might repeatedly claim that they are not mad or that they are fine — even when they are apparently furious and not okay.
Deliberately procrastinating is another characteristic of passive-aggressive behavior. When confronted with tasks that they do not want to do or appointments they do not wish to keep, the passive-aggressive individual will drag their feet.
If they have been asked to complete a task at work, they will put it off until the very last second. They may even turn it in late in order to punish the person who assigned the task.
They may exert the control they desire by utilizing sarcasm or indirect communication, i.e. subtle insults or the “silent treatment.”
Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:
- mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue;
- have difficulty acknowledging their anger;
- use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel — i.e., smiling when angry;
- use sarcasm;
- deny there is a problem;
- appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt;
- use subtle sabotage to get even.
The passive-aggressive communicator comes from a place where: My boundaries matter, but I can’t voice them. Since I can’t, I’ll degrade your boundaries.
Are you an assertive communicator?
Assertive communicators are the most effective out of the four types. These individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. They value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.
These communicators offer an open link without coming across as overbearing. They maintain eye contact, a confident tone, and consistent body language. They can express their own needs while being considerate of the needs of others.
Assertive communicators will:
- state their needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully;
- use “I” statements;
- communicate respect for others;
- listen well without interrupting;
- have good eye contact;
- speak in a calm and clear tone of voice;
- have a relaxed body posture;
- not allow others to abuse or manipulate them;
- stand up for their rights.
During a conflict, they will look for a win-win situation.
Unfortunately, direct and honest communication is often misinterpreted as aggressive behavior, especially when women are the ones being direct and honest.
Assertive communicators come from a place where: My boundaries matter. Your boundaries matter.
All of this begs the question; what is your style?