One of the most important, yet underrated, skills in our careers is our ability to communicate effectively. And yet, no one puts much stock in it when you put ‘excellent communicator’ on your resume. Because in some way, everyone can communicate. We can all use our voice and body language to convey a message. We do it constantly, even when we aren't paying attention.
Just because it's something we have all been doing since the day we were born doesn't mean we have all developed it as an effective workplace skill. To be effective communicators, we need to learn some specific skills—not all of which come naturally.
We need to learn when to listen and when to interrupt—and not just when we feel we have something to say. We need to be clear, concise and consistent, open-minded, empathetic and confident. And we need to assume positive intent for everyone we speak to. Some days doing all of that can be hard. It really does take practice and patience to be an effective communicator.
We all have days when we wish someone would communicate a little more like us. Maybe that’s clear and concise like Threes, Eights and Fives. Or to be more consistent like Ones and Sixes. Or to be more empathetic listeners like Twos and Fours. Or maybe it’s to tell stories and share practical examples like Sevens and Nines.
We all have our own default style based on how we believe people should communicate. If we have a better understanding of our own style, then we can get a better sense of how to adapt it to different audiences and situations. It will also help you see why others' styles bug you so much. Hopefully, we can all develop a little more patience for ourselves, and each other, as we learn to express ourselves a little better.
To watch my video on this topic go here: https://youtu.be/jqpjBwqu2U0
Enneagram Ones tend to communicate in a style that sounds like a set of instructions. They like to tell you what’s correct, what is the correct thing to do and how it should be done. They are natural teachers, and can sound a little preachy at times.
Ones find it easy to interrupt others and share their opinion. They can forget to praise people for what’s been working, as their mind naturally focuses on imperfections or the next task. They can also overlook the need to celebrate successes.
Whatever they are talking about, Ones tend to be clear, objective, detailed, and organized, and approach a topic in a linear fashion—as if they are teaching it to you.
Enneagram Two’s communication style is warm, personal and approachable. They are never detached or cold, as they want the other person to feel good about them. Twos are proactive communicators, approaching people to offer compliments, help or advice.
Twos offer a lot of advice to others with the aim of being helpful or appreciated in some way. They can get a little frustrated when people don’t take their advice, even though they may not show their resentment. Their informal style allows people to open up to them, sharing personal stories and struggles.
Whatever they are talking about, they want the other person to leave the conversation with positive feelings about them.
The Enneagram Three’s communication style focuses on their accomplishments. They naturally promote themselves or the work they have done. That might be an idea they have had, sales figures for a new product, or a way in which they have helped a customer succeed.
They will adapt their communication style to their audience. But as they wish to be the center of attention, they aren't always the best listeners. They want to be listened to and to have an impact on their audience.
While it can feel like they are selling you something, it is easy to get drawn into the engaging style of a Three.
Enneagram Fours communicate with intensity and emotional expression. They describe situations in colorful, vivid language and listeners will feel emotionally drawn into the story.
They tend to focus on what’s missing, and talk about being unsatisfied or not overly happy with what’s happening. They will draw you in with their nostalgia for the past or their vision for the future, but can be a bit flat when trying to describe the present.
Those who are less in touch with their emotions can find the Four intense, simply because they don’t experience their feelings like a Four does. But telling the Four to downplay their feelings only makes them feel less heard and they will redouble their efforts to be understood.
The communication style of the Enneagram Five can be a little professor-like, saying either too little or too much. They can share their entire analysis and research about a subject, or just convey a few key words that don’t give the listener enough context to act.
Fives prefer to be precise, wanting to choose the right word to convey the concept. They can be technical, impartial and formal, wanting to convey information without making space for any personal drama. And they can speak even less if they are annoyed by someone.
They lack the enthusiasm of other types, often speaking in a calm, monotone style that can make it hard for people to remain engaged. They benefit from adding some charisma into their communication style.
Enneagram Sixes tend to communicate in terms of limitations. Instead of being clear and decisive, they will slow things down by wanting to double check things, review contingency plans and ask questions to assess whether something has been properly thought through.
And if they aren’t answering a question with a question, they are saying “it depends.” Sixes talk about the problems they are seeing, wanting to make sure everything is safe and sound before moving to the next step.
Sixes spend a lot of time thinking about worst-case scenarios and how to prepare for them. They raise issues others haven't considered but don’t always appreciate hearing about.
Enneagram Sevens communicate in a style that is enthusiastic, positive and engaging. They use practical examples to illustrate what they are talking about. Their passionate and charismatic style motivates others, and they use their body language to help tell their story.
Sevens are easily distracted, going off on tangents and sometimes even forgetting to finish their original story. Their eyes go off in many directions, not wanting to look at one person for too long. And they tend to gloss over the difficult or painful parts of a story, turning it into something exciting or skipping over it altogether.
People can be drawn to a Seven’s storytelling style, feeling uplifted, inspired and engaged to take action or get behind a cause. But Sevens can talk a little too much about themselves, and need to find a balance between the two.
Enneagram Eights communicate like they are dictating a series of orders. Clear, direct and to the point, Eights sound like they are in charge, even if that isn't their intent. They don’t go into details, speaking (or emailing) in concise bullet points that focus on what needs to be done now.
This energized and assertive style can shock some people—especially as Eights can sound angry even if they aren’t. They are simply trying to have an immediate impact, which can be misconstrued.
An Enneagram Nine’s communication style tends to be quite detailed and very indirect. They like to tell a story from start to end, making sure not to skip a point along the way. Nines don’t like to be interrupted, and if they are, will start their story again from the beginning.
Nines are excellent listeners, putting their phone away so they can fully listen to someone. People often feel valued and heard by them. They are smiling and friendly, tending not to exhibit any signs of stress even if that’s what they are feeling.
Nines tend to talk more about others than themselves and benefit from both putting themselves in the picture more and being a little more direct and objective.
Start by observing your own communication style. When you are talking about something important at work, which of the above styles do you default to? And what about when you are socializing with colleagues or friends? What about in team meetings or with your boss?
Once you have a clearer idea of your own style, then start to notice the style the people around you use most often, especially the people whose style endlessly annoys you. The better you can understand your own styles, and theirs, the more quickly you can become an effective communicator.