What kind of communicator are you?

Understanding your style can make you a better speaker, a better listener, and ultimately, a better communicator

Shannon Litt
5 min readAug 31, 2021
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

As I began writing this article, my husband interrupted to tell me a tragic tale about the loneliest whale in the world.

This whale lives in a pod with other whales, but he sings at a frequency that the others can’t understand. Meaningful communication is impossible. He cannot understand others of his kind, and they cannot understand him. This whale may technically exist with other whales, but really, he is alone.

After dropping this incredibly heartbreaking story into my lap, my husband said, “Anyways, I know you’re working on your article, so I’ll leave you to it”.

First of all, rude!

Second, this poor lonely whale represents everything that terrifies us about communication. What if what we’re saying is misunderstood? What if it’s lost in translation? Or worst, what if it isn’t being heard at all?

If there is a spectrum, effective communication must be on one side, and loneliness must be on the other.

I imagine that every once in a while, we all feel like this whale. We all feel a bit lonely, like what we’re saying isn’t being heard the way we want it to be heard. We struggle to find different ways of expressing ourselves, so that our words have the impact that we want.

We all know the importance of good communication. I hope that today, we can explore the 4 communication styles, learn a bit about each of them, and avoid a fate like the loneliest whale in the world.

There are many communication style quizzes. The one that I took has 4 possible results: you can be a Direct communicator, an Initiating communicator, a Supportive communicator, or an Analytical communicator.

(If you barely registered any of those terms because they’re super bland, you’re not alone. But they each do have their own unique traits.)

Anyways, I did the quiz and was surprised to see that I fell, rather strongly, into the Supportive category.

“What?!” I thought. “I’m not Supportive! I took the last bit of coffee this morning, rather than offering it to my husband. Is that something a Supportive communicator would do? I think not!”

But then again, I do text my friends a whole lot. And I do send everyone in my family birthday cards every year. And I am that friend who sides 100% with another friend in an argument — even if they’re dead wrong — because that’s what friends do.

So…maybe I do kind of fit into the Supportive category?

I looked at the other categories, to see how they compared.

Direct communicators are strong-willed and to the point. They don’t bother beating around the bush. This would be Tony Stark — Iron Man.

Initiating communicators are sociable and persuasive. They’re very self-assured, like Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy.

Analytical communicators are logical and precise. They’re used to being called perfectionists. This would be Captain America, or Captain Marvel.

Maybe you relate to one of these categories. Maybe you recognize your family or friends or colleagues in one of these categories.

My sister, for example, is definitely a Direct communicator. When she is tired of talking to me on the phone, she’ll say, “okay, I’m bored. I’m going to go watch TV now, goodnight”. To a sensitive Supportive communicator like myself, who needs a lot of empathy, this could be really hurtful. But we’ve been sisters for more than 30 years, and I don’t take it personally. That’s just the way my sister communicates. I didn’t have a term for our different tendencies before, like “different communication styles”, but now I do.

I found myself thinking of the 4 communication styles as the 4 Hogwarts houses.

Direct would be Gryffindor, home of the outspoken and brave of heart. Initiating would be Slytherin, for the assertive and convincing. Analytical would be Ravenclaw, for the sharp of mind and wit.

…and — as much as it hurts me to write this — Supportive would be Hufflepuff, who are loyal and, I don’t know, like cheese.

As you can tell, I wasn’t thrilled with this comparison, because Hufflepuffs were always considered the “lame” house. They never win Quidditch, or the House Cup, and they haven’t contributed much to the Wizarding World beyond Newt Scamander—and Cedric Diggory (credit to Simon Dillon for the reminder!).

But then I remembered that there’s an opposing school of thought that argues Hufflepuffs are the unsung heroes of Harry Potter.

They’re good people who do the right thing — maybe not for valour like Gryffindor, but for personal integrity. They create kind, encouraging spaces for people to be their best selves. And they try. They may not succeed, but they try anyway.

As someone on TikTok wisely once said, the world would be a better place if there were more Hufflepuffs in it.

Plus, their common room is beside the kitchens — so maybe being loyal and liking cheese isn’t so bad. And maybe having a Supportive communication style isn’t bad, either.

Being in the Supportive category means that I appreciate calm and steady communication. I need patience, and supportive language, and constant validation—but while I may need these things, other people may not. Other people may appreciate directness, or engaging stories, or precision.

And this is valuable information, because we need to recognize that other people have different communication styles. And if we want to learn how to communicate effectively with them, sometimes that means meeting them on their turf, or halfway.

If you are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye with someone, Maybe take note of their communication style. Are they Direct? Try being Direct back and see if it gets you anywhere. Are they Initiating? Try being Intiating back. Are they Analytical, or Supportive? Try being Analytical or Supportive back.

To summarize, each of the 4 communication styles is very unique. I suggest you spend 5 minutes taking a quiz and find out your communication style! If we know our own communication style, and are aware of the communication styles around us, we can more easily navigate the world.

And if you find yourself thinking back to the loneliest whale in the world, like I did, don’t worry. They made a documentary about the whale and discovered that maybe he isn’t as lonely as we might imagine. Now, instead of being called “The Loneliest Whale in the World”, he is simply known as “52Hz”, for the unique range at which he sings.