Four key communication styles and what they mean for you
An essential part of coaching, being coached, and playing in a team sport, is the ability to effectively communicate.
If you can’t communicate your ideas as a coach or leader, you won’t be able to teach effectively. If you can’t communicate what’s going on as a player and teammate, you will not be able to reach your full potential. It’s that simple.
Luckily, communication is also easy to improve if you take the time to understand how other people think, and how to get the most out of people that use different communication styles.
The first step to developing more effective communication techniques is to understand the type of communicator that you naturally are. We know, it can be hard to sit down, self-reflect and analyse yourself. But trust us – it’s worth it.
Four key communication styles
Take a look at all the self-reflection tools out there, and you’ll see there are many interpretations of what the key communication styles are and what they mean. But one thing’s common – that when communication breaks down between these styles, major problems can occur.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the four key communication styles as identified by Mark Murphy: Analytical, Intuitive, Functional and Personal.
While you’re reading this, think about yourself and how you interact with your players, students, teammates or coach.
What communication categories do they fit into?
How do you communicate with them?
And how can you communicate differently to get the most out of your students, players or team members?
Analytical communicators are logical thinkers that prefer to leave emotion out of their discussions. If you’re an analytical communicator, you’re likely to prefer specific language and accurate data to back things up. You might get frustrated when communicating with particularly emotional people, as you don’t see the relevance of the emotional aspect of the discussion, and often want more facts about the situation than these people might offer.
If you’re coaching an Analytical communicator, don’t just tell them that something was good or bad – tell them exactly what made it that way, and if you have numbers to back it up, then use them!
For example, if you tell an Analytical player that they did well after a game, explain why – did they make more metres, passes, intercepts, tackles, catches or less mistakes? You’ll find that your player becomes more motivated through seeing real results, instead of just ‘feeling’ like they did a good job.
If you’re an Analytical player or coach, understand that your tendency to avoid emotion in your communication might be perceived as ‘cold’, and you might need to work on that to get the most out of your team or teammates. On the other hand, your team or teammates might perceive you to have a high level of informational understanding or expertise, and may trust you when making decisions as a result – if you present the information in the right way.
When you’re working, playing with or coaching others, you’ll get the best results if you’re patient with people like the Personal types, who tend to prefer ‘warm’ friendly conversations and are outwardly more emotional than you may be.
Are you a fan of the ‘big picture’ and don’t like to get stuck in the nitty-gritty of it all? Then you’re most likely an Intuitive communicator. Your team or teammates might be inspired by your big ideas and ambition and will look to you for motivation when it counts. But, be careful, you’ll find it easy to get impatient when discussing the details – which are often more important than you’d think.
If you’re coaching Intuitive communicators, it’s helpful to keep reminding them of the big goal – the outcome of next game and/or the whole season – to keep them motivated. These players don’t need to go through all the details to feel inspired, and they’re comfortable with ambitious ideas and big thinking. Your Intuitive players love the challenge, but it is important to make sure they are listening when you drill down into the ‘how’ of the next game or upcoming season’s goals.
If you are an Intuitive coach, player or teammate, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively by understanding that some people do need to hear or think about the finer details in potential situations or goals. You might become impatient when others want to discuss the step-by-step details – but try to be patient, and you might hold on to some useful information by taking more time to listen.
When you’re communicating with your team, teammates or coaches, share your big ideas and get them motivated – but take a breath and let them discuss the nitty gritty, too.
Are you a fan of the finer details in plans? Does having a clear process, timeline and comprehensive step-by-step plan make you feel comfortable that nothing important will be missed? Then you’re most likely a Functional communicator. The ‘big picture’ won’t necessarily do here – you need to know the ins and outs of the plan or goal to feel good about it.
If you’re coaching Functional communicators, or you can already identify teammates that fit into this category, remember when you’re talking about goals to include the details of how to achieve them. What exact steps need to be taken for success to happen? Tell your team what the big picture goal is, but break this down into smaller goals and steps for your Functional players to get the most out of them.
If you’re a Functional communicator, remember that some of your players or teammates will not appreciate all the nitty gritty detail and you could lose their attention well before you finish speaking. Learn how to pick and choose the details to keep it (relatively) brief for other, less patient, communicators in your group.
However, your attention to detail is likely to give people confidence that you’re trustworthy to implement a solid plan and lead your team to success.
Are you always trying to figure out how your players or teammates feel, and are you perceived as the good listener in your team, or someone that others can turn to when needed? If you value the emotional connection and language in all your relationships both on and off the field, you’re most likely a Personal communicator.
When you’re coaching players that are Personal communicators, you’ll notice that they respond well to emotive language and feeling like essential members of the team. They will value your relationship with them, so take the time every now and then to tell them when they’re doing a good job in the team. Build a good rapport with these players, and you’ll see better and better results.
If you are a Personal communicator, it’s important to find the balance between your emotional approach to coaching or interacting with your teammates, and focusing on the key facts, processes and goals. A Personal communication style might come across as too ‘touchy feely’ for some players (Analytical communicators, we’re looking at you!), but on the other hand, you’ll be that valuable person with the skills to hold the team together when challenges arise.
Find a balance
By now you may have been able to find yourself, more or less, into one or more of categories above. Murphy’s is not the only categorisation – there are others, but the main objective is to take the time to consider how you and others in your team communicate.
Think about how you currently communicate with your team, what issues you face with others, what type of communicators those people are, and what you can change next time to improve your interactions.
Remember that no communication style is better or worse than the other. These styles are simply useful to understand in order to become more effective coaches, players and athletes on your journey to self-improvement.
Find a balance that suits you and your team, and make sure you take the time to include every individual in your team. Take time out personally and communicate with them when they need it. Think about how they might best benefit from your conversation. Next time you’re in a team discussion, take note of what questions you’re being asked consistently, and the team’s attention levels as you’re speaking. Is there a ‘disinterested’ player, and if so, what does that player respond to?
Could you include more detail from the start, or are some players losing focus half-way through? If so, remind them of the big goals: why they’re here in the first place. Do some players want solid metrics to confirm improvement, or do some need extra encouragement that they’re doing the right thing? Can you adjust your style to consider others? When asked a question can you provide the answer in a different style than when you first presented the content?
Even small changes can make a huge difference to your team dynamics. Go on, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose and you can only get to know yourself and your players better.
Coach’s Companion can help
If you’re involved in team sports and want to work on your own and your team’s communication, the Appraisal and Development features in Coach’s Companion are a great place to start. You can evaluate your team and assign reflection tasks, development objectives or learning to help you and your team improve particular aspects of interaction and communication within the team.
Read more about team management and development with Coach’s Companion.