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“Did you hear what Joe said?” And so it circles around the office.

Substitute “Joe,” and this phrase is uttered every day in workplaces across the country. Joe said, or did something unimaginable, right? And so did Sue yesterday, and John the day before.

Often, the gossip about what was “said” sparks because of communication styles. One person’s style is opposite to another’s, which causes a communication breakdown. By recognizing the different styles, you can hold each other accountable for the healthiest forms of communication.

One way to bypass the initial breakdown is to understand the different styles. There are four basic communication styles: assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive.

ASSERTIVE: Although many people associate assertiveness with negative connotations, this is actually the healthiest style within the workplace. It’s how we naturally express ourselves when our self-esteem is intact, giving us the confidence to communicate without games and manipulation.

Through honest communication, people work to create solutions. We communicate our needs clearly. We care about the relationship.

AGGRESSIVE: This style involves manipulation. We attempt to make people do what we want by using control tactics. We want our needs met – and now! This is an unhealthy approach to take.

PASSIVE: This style is based on avoiding confrontation at all costs. We don’t talk much, question even less, and DO very little. It’s all about not rocking the boat. The problem is if you put all of your energy into not rocking the boat, how are you going to go anywhere?

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE: The most deadly style in the workplace! This style tries to win by avoiding direct confrontation but attempting to get even through manipulation. This style breeds sneaky behavior.

What style do you tend to use? The only one that truly works is assertiveness. Although we know this, the other styles are tempting – especially since many of us have been practicing them for most of our lives. They are practiced to the point of becoming habits.

How do you un-do a habit? By making a habit out of NOT doing it. Consciously choosing your communication style is the only way to stay “clean” with minimum craziness.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

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