A company’s wellness committee leader presents an idea for a bold new program to the CEO. Their argument is heartfelt; they are confident that their program will drastically improve employee morale, engagement, and productivity. They illustrate their points with anecdotes and empathy, emphasizing the potential long-term positive outcomes.

The CEO, however, is hesitant. The presentation lacks detail, focusing instead on the bigger picture. They have questions, which feel to them most crucial to answer first: “How do we put this plan into action? What resources will it take to make it work?”

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This is a classic example of mismatched business communication styles. There is nothing inherently wrong with the committee lead’s intuitive approach, but their style is different from the CEO’s functional concerns, which creates a disconnect that may be difficult for them to move past. 

Understanding different styles—as well as when and how to use them—will help you and your team members collaborate more effectively and efficiently for the benefit of all.

Understanding four important business communication styles

Everyone has their unique approach to communication, and people sometimes fluctuate between different styles depending on the situation and their audience. Still, we all have communication styles that can feel most natural to us. Recognizing the fundamental differences between various styles will empower you to reach anyone effectively, regardless of their—and your—instinctive style.

Mark Murphy, author and founder of Leadership IQ, identified the four most commonly recognized business communication styles as the following:

  • Analytical
  • Functional
  • Intuitive
  • Personal

Let’s explore the characteristics of these styles and how to adapt your approach to match each.

Analytical

An analytical approach to communication prioritizes logic and thoroughness. An analytical person emphasizes (and responds to) complex data and facts rather than appealing to emotions. Vague language undermines authority in their eyes; they tend to equate a lack of specificity with a lack of understanding of the issue.

When connecting with a colleague whose communication style is analytical:

  • Be specific and direct. Analytical people typically find small talk tedious. Keep your audience rapt by focusing on what matters most to them: proof of concept. The more precise your data, the more interested they will be.
  • Write your thoughts down (when applicable). Written communication allows an analytical mind to pore over all of the available data before formulating a response. Be sure to check your spelling and grammar before you hit “send”; this reader is more likely than most to notice even minor mistakes.
  • Avoid emotive language. Keep your tone professional. While some form of empathy is key to success in any communication, in this situation you’ll want to keep your main focus on the data rather than your (or your audience’s) feelings.

Imagine, for example, a marketing team manager approaches an analytically minded sales team leader with an idea for a collaborative project. Rather than focus on how a brand campaign could increase sales, they should support their statement with specific metrics and goals.

To identify an analytical communicator, look for the following traits:

  • Avoids emotional language and expressions
  • Always knows the numbers—and if they don’t know, it’s the first thing they ask about
  • Approaches problem-solving logically
  • Uses lots of hard evidence to support arguments

Functional 

People with a functional communication style rely on step-by-step instructions and regular feedback to stay on track. They have much in common with analytical individuals, though they are more focused on the details of a process itself rather than the evidence to support it. They appreciate specificity and dislike ambiguity. Having all the facts ahead of time empowers them to do their best work. 

When connecting with a colleague whose communication style is functional:

  • Be thorough. Avoid unnecessarily frustrating these team members by giving them all the information they need up front.
  • Prepare for verbal communication with written materials. Like analytical individuals, employees with a functional approach will appreciate the freedom of reviewing written communication at their own pace—ideally before you meet.
  • Encourage discourse. Let them know that questions are welcome and that you will do your best to offer thoughtful, thorough answers.

For instance, the CEO’s communication style in our opening example was more functional, while the committee leader was more intuitive. Instead of extolling the program’s benefits, the committee leader might have found quicker success by including a precise outline of every step—and resource—it would take to put their plan into action.

To identify a functional communicator, look for the following traits:

  • Focuses on details and is frustrated by vague directions
  • Prefers to ask “how?” rather than “why?”
  • Is a meticulous planner; wants to clarify every step before taking action
  • Often asks for feedback and checks work against guidelines

Intuitive

In contrast to both the analytical and functional styles, the intuitive communication style inclines toward big ideas rather than small details. These individuals enjoy the creative side of their work and thrive when thinking and working outside of the box. They are most interested in the long-term vision of a project rather than specific data or minute details.

When connecting with a colleague whose communication style is intuitive:

  • Offer a bird’s-eye view of the issue. Intuitive individuals derive motivation from understanding the impact of their actions in the context of the bigger picture.
  • Be concise. Intuitive team members can feel overwhelmed by too many details. Instead, keep your discussion brief by focusing on what they need to do and—just as importantly—why they need to do it.
  • Nurture inspiration. Make space for innovation by encouraging these individuals to express their ideas. Offer empathetic responses that let them know their voices are heard and valued.

Picture a content team manager meeting with an intuitive group of direct reports to discuss ideas for revamping the company website. Rather than begin by trying to formulate a step-by-step implementation plan, the manager opens the conversation by discussing why the website needs work and what they aim to achieve with this project. This allows the team to come up with some original solutions that go above and beyond initial expectations without diving right away into deliverables.

To identify an intuitive communicator, look for the following traits:

  • Takes a creative and insightful approach
  • Is open to exploring options and discovering new alternatives
  • Can become easily bored or overwhelmed by too much detail
  • Gets to the point; often begins with a high-level recommendation, followed by reasoning

Personal

Of the four styles, a personal communication style is perhaps the most strongly influenced by emotion. Individuals who use this style tend to be the people others go to when they need an empathetic ear. They are often skilled at solving issues with impressive diplomacy and tact. Like intuitive individuals, they often see the forest better than the trees and prefer to focus on asking “why?” rather than “how?”

When connecting with a colleague whose communication style is intuitive:

  • Warm up first. Personal communicators are motivated by strong connections to both their work and colleagues. Before diving into an issue, it’s worth taking a moment to check in with them to establish that connection first.
  • Check your tone. These team members will typically respond to a warmer, friendlier approach. This is especially important in written communication, where tone can easily be misinterpreted. When in doubt, use a tone detector to ensure you come across as you intend before sending your note.
  • Support your message with context. Sharing the thought process that went into making a decision or request will help these individuals feel more confident in their next steps.

Imagine that you are setting up a one-on-one meeting with a direct report to discuss their recent performance evaluation. An analytical or functional communicator might want to jump straight into the results. However, a personal communicator would feel much more comfortable and open to feedback if you start by expressing support for their professional development.

To identify a personal communicator, look for the following traits:

  • Is emotionally open and expressive
  • Begins conversations by asking after others’ well-being
  • Responds poorly to purely logical or data-driven presentations
  • Often wants to know the reasons behind a decision or request

 TIP: It can take time to understand and recognize individual communication styles fully. When you’re meeting with someone new and need to quickly get a sense of which style a person is likely to connect with, start by asking what information they’re most interested in hearing.

Asking for data and figures points to an analytical approach, while asking about the end goal indicates an intuitive one. Wanting to know the exact details of how a project or situation will be approached likely indicates a functional communicator, whereas expressing interest in why the project or situation is important can be characteristic of a more personal style. 

Why understanding different communication styles matters

Familiarizing yourself with different business communication styles will allow you to recognize—and adapt to—how others wish to connect and collaborate with you. You will be better able to avoid and manage clashes between team members with different styles. It will also help you recognize your own natural tendencies, enabling you to lean into your strengths as a communicator while identifying your areas for improvement.

In short, communication style is the key to fostering positive relationships, avoiding miscommunications, and ensuring the message you send is the message that will be understood by your colleague. The advantages are even more pronounced in a business context, where effective communication is essential to success on an individual, team, and company-wide level.

Using Grammarly Business to tailor written communication to different styles

Written communication can be daunting to master because so many of the clues that we typically rely on to interpret a message—such as facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal signals—are removed from the equation. It also poses unique challenges, such as spelling words correctly, understanding grammar conventions, and communicating tone through words alone.

A digital writing assistant like Grammarly Business makes it easy to review messages and tailor them to various communication styles and needs. Its ability to detect tone, for example, will help you add warmth and empathy to messages intended for personal or intuitive communicators. Likewise, you can use the customizable style guide feature to tailor word usage and leverage company-specific terms before sending a message to colleagues who prefer a functional or analytical approach. 

With a bit of digital support, you and your team can collaborate more easily and effectively with anyone—no matter what their preferred business communication style may be.

Grammarly Business offers an AI-powered communication assistant that is ideally suited to help you and your team understand and adapt to a wide range of business communication styles. Get started with Grammarly Business today—or contact us for more information.

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