Communicate Better with Different Types of People

Are you an over eager talk-a-holic? Learn how to adjust your communication style.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read


Do You Talk Too Much?

I was once a Chatty Patty or talk-aholic. In fact, when I was a young marketing intern at IBM, I still remember a conversation I had with one of the sales representatives. After a client meeting, we were driving back to the office and he said, "Lisa, you have diarrhea of the mouth. You've got to learn to watch for signals from the people you talk to. If you hear him or her say, 'yes' in any form, then STOP TALKING! You don't need to continue convincing them, they've already agreed!"

That was the first time I had heard that phrase “diarrhea of the mouth.” I remember feeling embarrassed. The thing is, I didn't want to be viewed as a dumb intern and I thought sharing every detail was a way to show that I wasn't dumb.

How to Communicate Better

Fortunately, the sales rep was patient with me. He taught me to observe body language and to let the other person lead the conversation. Basically, he taught me to talk less and listen more.

He told me, "Just share a little bit, and then ask a question. That way, you'll know what the other person wants to hear about. Don’t worry about not giving all the information. If the other person wants to know, they’ll ask." I've always thought that was good advice.

People Communicate Differently

Another good source of fundamental information that relates to this topic is in a book called, People Styles at Work. I have recommended this book to several young professionals throughout my career. I like the book because it introduces several concepts that I think are important.

First, and maybe most importantly, it explains that different people communicate differently--not worse, not better, just different. I’ve found that many young professionals make the mistake of thinking that their own behavioral communication style is the best way (or only way) to communicate effectively. This book is like a step-by-step guide that explains how to recognize someone’s preferred communication style. Then it explains how to slightly adjust or flex your own style to build better relationships.

It's Important to Realize How Others Communicate

Communicate better by evaluating how others communicate; then slightly adjust your own behavior to be more similar to theirs.

I also like the book because it focuses on preferred behaviors--it’s not about personality or attitude. Instead, it suggests we carefully evaluate the specific behaviors we observe in others (such as how fast they talk, how directive they are, or how aware of others' feelings they are). Then slightly adjust our own behaviors to be more similar.

I appreciated that the authors defined only four styles (so I can always remember them): analytical, amiable, driver, and expressive. I’ll describe each of them briefly--but, please keep in mind I’m simplifying the descriptions significantly.

The Analytical Communicator

First, the analytical communicator. This type of communicator prefers data and facts. Details and accuracy are very important. This person doesn’t mind spending extra time to make sure things are right. If I had to choose a single word to describe this style of communication, I’d choose “details.”

The Amiable Communicator

Next, is the amiable communicator. Amiables focus on maintaining relationships with people and are natural peacemakers. A person who prefers this style is a team player and doesn’t seek the spotlight. The single word I’d choose for amiables is “feelings.”

The Expressive Communicator

Expressives are good at grasping the big picture. This style is the most outgoing, flamboyant, energetic and spontaneous. The word I’d choose for expressives is “perceptions.”

The Driver

Finally, drivers are very results oriented and very direct, practical, impatient and time-sensitive. Drivers are focused on the bottom line. For drivers, I’d choose the word “results” or “when?”

How to Communicate Better with Different Types of People

So again, the four styles are analytical (that’s details), amiable (that’s feelings), expressive (that’s perceptions), and driver (that’s results). And the main idea is to learn the four styles and the associated behaviors so you can flex on the fly.

For example, if you are a driver and you need to provide information to an analytical, you’ll know that it’s important to slow down and take extra time to not only provide a summary, but also provide details of the information requested. And then give the person time to think through the information before requesting a response.

Again, I am simplifying quite a bit, clearly, not everyone is only one style. We are often a combination of styles. Still I’ve found this model extremely helpful for creating quick and dirty style profiles that have helped me to quickly understand and build relationships.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; your success is my business.

If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

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About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.