Relationship Fitness

S14: Communication Skills E4: Be Aware of Your Style

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 14 Episode 4 titled “Be Aware of Your Communication Style,” Vince highlights the crucial role of non-verbal cues in effective communication. He delves into the 7-38-55 rule, illustrating that the impact of tone of voice and body language often surpasses that of words alone. Vince breaks down five non-verbal communication styles—eye contact, body posture, facial expressions, voice, and fluency—and their influence on conversations. Additionally, he contrasts weak communication styles (aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive) with the strong, assertive style that fosters clarity and mutual respect. This episode encourages listeners to refine their communication approach, emphasizing that how something is said can be as important as what is said, for maintaining a healthy and understanding relationship.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 14 Episode 4: Be Aware of Your Style

In this episode, we discuss Relationship Workout Communication Skill #3: Be Aware of Your Communication Style.

Clearly, the words said are extremely important to communication. However, there is another dimension to communication, and this centers on communication style. 

Here, how you say things can have as much, if not more, impact on what you have to say. 

Although granted this is an oversimplification, Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s if often quoted to have originated what’s called the 7-38-55 rule. This rule states that in communication, 7% is conveyed through words, 38% through tone of voice, and 55% through body language. Regardless of whether these percentages are precisely correct or not, the point still stands that non-verbal communication can play a role in your difficult conversations.

That said, here are five non-verbal communication styles that can impact your conversation.

One, Eye Contact: eyes are an important part of nonverbal communication. Eye contact emphasizes a point and establish trust. A strong approach to eye contact is to keep your head up, while varying the direction of your gaze. A week approach is to stare off into space or keep your eyes glued to your feet.

Two, Body Posture: How you carry yourself sends a double nonverbal message. It reveals what you think about yourself and what you think about your listener. A strong approach is to be poised and relaxed, alert but not tense. A week approach is to slouch, which conveys an attitude of indifference. Another weak approach is to be rigid and uptight, which communicates anxiety and insecurity.

Three, Facial Expressions: Effective communication requires facial expressions that agree with what is being said. A sincere smile can convey warmth. Saying something funny accompanied with a smile can solicit a smile in return. Accompanying even the most serious of conversations with a smile can provide variety and contrast to the dialogue. A strong approach is to show a face that says the same things as your words. And also smile. A weak approach includes facial expressions that don’t match with what you’re saying. And also there are no smiles.

Four, Voice: Your voice is one of your most vital body tools in communication. For instance, words spoken through clenched teeth in anger offer an entirely different message than when the same words are shouted with joy or whispered in fear. A level, well-modulated conversational tone is persuasive without being intimidating. This is a strong approach. A weak approach, on the other hand, is to use a whispered monotone voice that makes it hard to convince others that you mean business.

Five, Fluency: A smooth flow of speech helps get your point across. A strong approach is to make clear and slow comments that are easily understood. A weak approach is to use speech that is interrupted and erratic with long hesitations, causing your listener to become bored.

There is also your personal style of communicating that can either create bridges or walls in terms of how well the other person “hears” what you have to say. There are three basic weak styles: aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive 

  • Aggressive Communication always involves manipulation, by inducing guilt or by using intimidation and control tactics. Covert or overt, you want your needs met, and met right now!
  • Passive Communication is about going with the flow in hopes of avoiding any confrontation. There is little conversation and no rocking the boat. It feels safer not to react and better to disappear than to stand up and assert your rights.
  • Passive-Aggressive Communication is a combination of passive and aggressive styles. It avoids direct confrontation (passive), but attempts to get even through manipulation (aggressive). For instance, it’s passive-aggressive to try to make someone suffer because you think they need to learn a lesson.

There is also one strong communication style:

  • Assertive Communication, which is the most effective and strongest form of communication styles. It is how we naturally express ourselves when our self-esteem is intact, giving us the confidence to communicate without games and manipulation.

To get more detail on each of these four non-verbal communication styles, go to RelationshipWorkout.com/resources and look for Core #12: Communication Styles. You’ll find several examples under each style in a PDF that you can easily download to keep it as a handy reference.

So clearly, if you want to be understood, you not only have to be aware of what you have to say, but also how you say it. You may have some amazingly insightful ideas to share, but if the person on the other end is completely put off by how you’re attempting to communicate, you might as well be talking with your head in a toilet bowl. What a shame to flush those nuggets of Wisdom (that might hold the key to resolving the issue) right down the toilet.

Worse yet, a weak communication style can make the issue uglier. For instance, even if the decision you unilaterally force down your partner’s throat – assisted with the rolling of your eyes to convey contempt toward your partner for not getting it that your way is the right way — proves to be an obviously superior decision for all parties involved, you nonetheless could very well still build resentment. In this example, the aggressive non-verbal communication style has now potentially expanded the original issue to include her feeling severely disconnect to you. After all, how can you expect her to feel close to her when your rolling of the eyes essentially said you think she’s an idiot? 

To play it strong is to use an assertive communication style. When you’re assertive, you care about the other person’s needs along with your own. You work hard to create mutual, win-win solutions. You communicate your needs clearly and with complete honesty. You know your limits and you refuse to be pushed beyond them.

But remember, you can lose it in the blink of an eye.

If you add uncontrolled emotional urgency to any one of these styles, you can easily fall into a Weak Anger Play such as Aggressive or Passive Anger. 

For example, perhaps you’ve been playing it controlled and strong with an assertive communication style, as you discuss a point very near and dear to your heart. Then, she goes on the attack by saying something that she knows will push one of your hot buttons.

Let’s say you even see the attempted manipulation coming, but you decide you’re going to raise your voice and step closer to her just to accentuate your point. In response, she yells something back even more biting, right up in your grill. In an exchange that could have lasted mere seconds, you now find yourself in an Aggressive Anger shouting match, control handed over on a platter to one of your Demons. Lost in the blink of an eye.

The thing is that difficult conversations ebb and flow along with the challenge to control yourself. What you need to do is constantly monitor yourself, witness your thoughts, words, non-verbal communication, and personal communication style. 

For instance, if you find your mind racing with judgmental thoughts, then stop and find compassion toward her and yourself. If you find your body language showing anything but collaborative intention, readjust. If you find you’re being aggressive or passive, reset yourself to be more assertive.

In the final analysis, you both have immense control over the quality of your relationship. Do the work, which includes being a master of your non-verbal and personal communication styles. You only live once, why not live it intentionally spending more time having fun together, versus self-creating more and more drama?

So with that, we wrap up Relationship Workout Communication Skill #3: Be Aware of Your Communication Style.

In the next episode, we explore Relationship Workout Communication Skill #4: Learn Your Trigger Patterns.

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