Communication Styles in 10 Infographics

Communication Styles in 10 Infographics

Here are 10 Straight Talk communication styles images drawn from our blog posts.

1: How to Identify Communication Styles

Research shows us people have four different styles of communicating. We call these styles: Director, Expresser, Thinker and Harmonizer. Each style has its own way of seeing the world. Each favors a certain way of listening, responding, making decisions, and solving problems. Key characteristics of each style are shown in the chart below.

communication style images

A few points to keep in mind: Most people use two styles more frequently; this blend determines how you communicate. It’s especially important to understand your primary communication style, since this is the one you use most often. No style is best, but it may be to your advantage to play up one over another, depending on the situation.

Exercise: Identify a Communication Style

​​​​​​​Circle each behavior that applies, then total the number of squares you circled in each column. The two columns that get the highest scores will tell you that person’s preferred styles of communicating.

communication styles images

Once you’ve circled two styles at the bottom of the chart, use the next chart to determine a person’s primary style.

identifying communication styles

Read more about the “3 Steps to Identify Communication Styles

2: The Matrix of Communication Styles

The Matrix of Communication Styles can be a very useful tool once you understand how it works. Once you instill in your mind a mental image of the Matrix, you can use it to identify another person’s communication style, even if he or she hasn’t taken the communication styles survey.

the matrix of communication styles

If you split the Matrix into equal quarters, or quadrants, then each quadrant illustrates a primary style—Director, Expresser, Thinker, or Harmonizer.

communication style graphics

Each quadrant contains four more squares. Your secondary style determines your particular square within each quadrant. Take the survey to discover your style!

The combined workings of filters and frames – both of which occur within our subconscious – help us define the four basic styles of communicating. Some people set their filters so that more attention is placed on facts; some set them to allow more feelings to come through. Some people set their frames so that their responses are more assertive; some set their frames so that they respond with questions.

Now you can start to appreciate how the styles at the top of the Matrix are the most assertive, while those at the bottom are the least so. Those on the left side are the most analytical, while those on the right are the most intuitive. This is not to say that the only thing that distinguishes Directors from Expressers is that one filters for facts and the other for feelings. The behaviors of each communication style are more complex and varied than that. But certain behaviors are “markers” for each style, and these markers can help us identify a person’s style.

3: The Four Types of Intent

Understanding intent is key to improving the quality of communication. There are four types of intent that underlie all communication: affirming, controlling, defending, and withdrawing. Everyone displays all four types of intent, but the object of excellent communicators is an affirming intent.

We exhibit controlling, relinquishing, and defending intents more often than we like to admit. When you feel yourself becoming defensive or controlling, tell people why you are feeling that way. If you explain what is motivating you, and then inquire into the other person’s concerns and motivations, you can quickly defuse the situation.

While there are circumstances where an affirming intent is difficult, it’s still the case that the most effective communication occurs when it’s present. The key message is: When the stakes are high, and the outcomes are important to you, learn the discipline of using affirming intent. It will always work in your favor.

What aspects of communication reflect an affirming intent?

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Showing genuine interest in my views.
  • A moderate tone of voice.
  • Friendly body language.
  • Respect.

Which of these forms of intent do you see most in your workplace? How much more productive would your workplace be if everyone used an affirming intent?

4: How to Modify Your Style

You can “flex” other styles as you would a muscle. The more you practice flexing different styles in communication with others, the stronger a communicator you become. Some people find adopting a different style to be unnatural. And it can be. The trick is to act yourself into a way of believing. By adopting the body language, style of speaking, and mannerisms of a particular style, you will find it less of a stretch than you think.

speaking to each communication style

5: The Rule of the Center

The Greek philosopher Aristotle espoused a simple philosophy of life. “All things in moderation,” he said. Being too courageous meant you were foolhardy. Being too talkative, you were a gossip. If you were too quiet, you were a recluse. The best course lay in the center. The Matrix has a law of the center, too.

If you need to communicate frequently with many different styles, then it helps to modify your style toward the center of the Matrix. The Rule of the Center is simply a formula for being successful in many different settings with many different people.

Here’s a set of rules to help you apply the Rule of the Center:

the rule of the center

6: The Assumptions of Each Communication Style

Each communication style makes assumptions about other communication styles because of the way that style processes and interprets information. To communicate productively, a group has to be able to challenge its members’ assumptions.

When discussing an issue or solving a problem, people often jump to conclusions before they spend time talking about what the problem is – or what data they have at hand. The Circle of Assumptions teaches us an orderly way to think about problems, starting with data and building toward conclusions.

It enables us to see how easily our communication can be garbled by our failure to be aware of our own assumptions – and how they affect the conclusions we reach.

the circle of assumptions

7: Managing Effective Meetings

Is your goal to deal with a tough, multifaceted issue? Or is to exchange information? Is it a “get to know you” meeting? Or are you looking for creative input? These different goals each require a different type of meeting, and a different style of communication.

Essentially, there are five types of meetings:

  • Informational – people exchange information
  • Problem-solving – people try to solve a specific problem
  • Brain-storming – people define objectives and generate ideas
  • Performance review – people review individual and group performance
  • Strategic – people wrestle with large issues cutting to the heart of the organization’s future, and set goals and priorities

As you might guess, different styles of communicating work best in each type of meeting. This point has an important corollary: Each style prefers a certain type of meeting.

meeting styles of communication

The Ground Rules

The following ground rules have proven successful time after time. Each ground rule points to one of the tools or skills embodied in straight talk.

  1. Understand each other’s styles
  2. Agree on the meaning of key words
  3. Tackle issues, not people
  4. Permit one speaker at a time (avoid side conversations)
  5. Bring issues to the table (avoid “back room” discussions)
  6. Keep discussions focused
  7. Explain the reasoning leading to your conclusions
  8. Invite inquiry into your views
  9. Inquire into the reasoning of others
  10. Make “undiscussable” ideas discussible
  11. Identify missing data

Read more in the post The Eleven Ground Rules.

8: Managing Conflict

Each communication style tries to manage conflict in different ways. The following chart shows how each style approaches conflict and responds to it, both in positive and negative ways.

conflict communication styles

Each style has certain “triggers” that spark them to react in negative ways.

  • Directors are triggered by the perception that their authority has been reduced.
  • Expressers, it’s feeling that their ideas aren’t valued.
  • Thinkers, it’s thinking that procedures aren’t followed.
  • Harmonizers, it’s thinking that other people’s feelings aren’t considered.

9: Organizational Cultures

The following chart shows the predictable tendencies of each different type of culture:

communication styles culture
Nine times out of ten, senior leaders dictate the style of the organization. The organization will mirror that. A lack of balance in senior management will affect the styles of hundreds, even thousands, of subordinates, and cause the organization to behave in predictable ways.

10: Achieving a Balanced Culture

The following chart contains a checklist of possible actions that can be taken to address the weaknesses that crop up in each type of culture

Knowing how to achieve a balance of styles is a sign of mature management. But the reverse occurs more frequently. The boss selects subordinates who are similar in style to his own; key managers reinforce behaviors they’re comfortable with, rather than those that might provide the necessary balance.


Ideally, these tools will help you improve the process of communicating—by learning the critical principles and tools that facilitate that process. And they will help you improve the content of what is communicated, by learning how to untangle the assumptions embedded in what is said and to focus on the missing data.​​​​​​​

Buy the Book to learn more, or Preview the Video Course you can share with your team.

Lesson 25: The Language of Each Communication Style Lesson 27: The Four Powers of Communication

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