The Four Styles of Communication – which one are you?

I was standing in her villa being screamed at, “You’re meant to be making me feel good!”

That was a slightly misplaced presumption, in my view.

I was employed as a Script Writer and Director for a very well known TV Presenter.

I’d become her confidante and advisor but with three production companies now involved after months with just the two of us preparing for a global broadcast, the relationship between the production team and presenter was going downhill faster than an Olympic skier on a slalom.

There were her unrealistic demands relating to costuming and set.

During one of the rehearsals, a provocative, personal comment from a contestant in rehearsals sparked a vicious argument with the presenter.

The producers told me to ditch the ‘supporter’ approach and rain fire on her for not keeping her calm.

That seemed a bit harsh to me so I decided on a gentler approach. Hence, the screaming.

So I changed gear.  Altering the tone of my voice and changing gestures, I repeated myself.

Slightly taken aback, the presenter seemed more considered.

This opened a conversation where we planned how to deal with this particular contestant without compromising her job.

I’m not saying my switch in style was natural to me. It had to be very conscious.

Despite it being slightly uncomfortable, I realised I’d been facilitating behaviour when a more commanding style was necessary.


It’s how you move and some of what you say

When the National Security Agency studied how body and verbal language predict the accuracy of outcomes of 300 criminal cases, they discovered this:

  • When the trial group listened to audio only they were 55% correct;
  • Body language only meant they they had a 65% accuracy in their predictions;
  • This jumped to 85% when they heard and saw the suspects.

This research reflects how important non-verbal language is in deducing intent from others but doesn’t dismiss the significance of the words used in drawing an accurate picture of credibility and trust.


Four different Styles of Communication

Based on the four styles if Communication, as described by Richard Newman in his book, ‘You Were Born To Speak’, this post defines the behaviours that will have people listening to you differently, whether you’re 121 or in a group.

I’ve added videos to show you an example of each of these modes in action.  Notice that not all the bullet points may be embodied in one example but many aspects of the type will appear.


The Motivator:

Purpose – energise people

  • Expansive gestures
  • Strong voice
  • High emotional intensity in vocal tone

Below, you’ll see how Lisa Nichols, motivational speaker and author, embodies this style.


The Commander:

Purpose – serious message, add gravitas

  • Slow speech
  • Hands down gestures
  • Decisive intonation
  • Lower pitch
  • Use of pause
  • Controlled movements

Watch Rory Stewart, academic and diplomat, demonstrate this controlled, downward gesturing approach here:


The Entertainer:

Purpose – lighten the mood

  • Conversational Tone
  • Question tags (“…don’t they?”; “…haven’t you?”)
  • Personal anecdotes
  • Mirroring the audience’s levity (laughing when they laugh, for example, as Ken Robinson does, below)
  • Interplay with audience
  • Floppier gestures or slightly exaggerated, exhibiting a more animated, varied style
  • Exaggerated facial expressions (Jody Urquhart in the first clip below)
  • More varied vocal tone, embodying other characters or moods

Firstly, you’ll see how Jody Urquhart, a motivational speaker with a comedic edge, exaggerates gestures here:

Below you’ll see Sir Ken Robinson, who was an academic and international advisor on education in the arts.

Initially, Sir Ken makes a serious point about brain structure so the gestures have more of a commanding air.

When he starts talking about his home life,  gestures are more expansive but also below the waist. Not encouraged when making a serious point but entirely natural in this context of a humorous personal story, corresponding with the Entertainer mode.

Geoffrey Canada, in the clip below, is an American educator and activist.  You’ll see how embodies the characters and reactions through voice and physicality but, then brings his movement to a controlled downbeat when he asks, “Did anybody stop inventing?” at 56 seconds.

Also note, that generally, putting hands in your pockets is to be discouraged but, in this case, it doesn’t inhibit how he projects himself as Canada has a wide range of movement and easily switches between modes.


The Facilitator:

Purpose – deal with tough objections, more about listening and conducting than projecting personality

  • Talk less
  • More enquiring tone, often ending with upward [questioning] inflection
  • Less expansive and slower gestures
  • Tilting head
  • Non verbal listening such as nodding.

Look at how Kate Garraway from Good Morning Britain displays such behaviour:


Flexibility is key

In one interaction you are likely to embrace more than one of these modes.  Oprah Winfrey, for example, can be very authoritative, then switch to a facilitative style encouraging discussion, follow up with a lighter remark and round up in a more motivational tone.

The ability to increase your flexibility will allow you to communicate the nuances of your message to different audiences so that they actually sit up and take notice.


Your Action Step:

1. Define the style or styles that you fall to comfortably.

2. Now pinpoint the one (s) you could use more.

3. Write it on a Post-It note by your computer so you don’t forget to use it in a forthcoming interaction.



Banner Photo by Haste LeArt V. from Pexels


Want to boost your communication skills or those of your team?  Book a free 15 minute call with me here.  No strings attached: we’ll see if this is for you.

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