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We have already connected the dots on channels and ways of communicating with development teams to make the process smooth and effective. You might be wondering what styles do IT people prefer. This is the right question indeed, as sometimes, not only WHAT you say is important but HOW do you say that is.

The ITExpert team is happy to share more tips for effective communication with software developers. Meet the checklist for business owners and managers – it will help you convey the sense of your thoughts to them easier!

Four Basic Communication Styles at Work

First, let’s start with the basics. There are several common styles people use:

1. Passive

This style can be described as being passive and indifferent, poor expression of emotions and an inability to say ‘No’. This style almost always leads to misunderstanding and conflicts, as a result, people who use the passive style of communication feel like no one considers their feelings.

In difficult situations, passive communicators avoid confrontation and prefer to keep quiet, so they might be sure that people don’t pay attention to them and their thoughts.

The main positive feature of this style is ‘going with the flow’, so these people easily get along with other team members and never argue on tasks.

This style suits teams which work independently from others or bear own responsibilities. For example, if a team can find an issue and fix it without addressing to other teams or experts, why not? Still, we recommend moving towards assertive behavior anyway.

2. Aggressive

It’s no need to mention that you can even feel that some person uses aggressive communication. These people speak loudly, in a demanding and dominating manner. During working conflicts, people who use this style can criticize, blame or even attack others.

This style is very much undesirable for managers and business owners, still, some bosses use it from time to time to demonstrate their leadership.

Surprisingly, aggressive communication, if used in moderation, can be very fruitful. Remember how motivational speakers do that – they are confident so much that every listener absorbs this confidence. They exude power every leader needs.

This style is great for teams where almost all members are of Junior or Middle level, so that they need outer guidance. The good news is when they become Seniors, they will be able to make decisions themselves, without boss’ approvals. Communication style is such teams can evolve to assertive over time. 

3. Passive-aggressive

We consider this communication style the most unproductive. People who use it have problems at work, as they are left alone with their dissatisfaction. In any conflict, they’d mutter to themselves but not loudly tell others what’s wrong. They know what they need, but for some reason, struggle to voice these needs.

As a business owner, you should always keep in mind that introverts usually avoid demonstrating their feelings and thoughts. Developers are commonly introverts, so it’s crucial to detect who wants to express thyself but can’t.

Here are some phrases which will help you find out who needs your help or clarification:

– “Okay, we will do this your way” – and mutters something next.
– “That’s ok, but don’t be surprised if others don’t like that”.
– “We will do that still this is not the most important task”.

If you notice that one of your team uses this style, try to bring them to the next level, as this will affect their inner motivation and confidence in what they do as well! If it’s not possible to switch to assertive style, try to start with aggressive.

4. Assertive

This is the most productive style. It implies openness without being overbearing. People who use it express their ideas, feelings, needs, desires without hesitation and are attentive to the needs of others. This is a ‘win-win’ situation, as there is a balance between both communicators.

You might have heard of a technique when people use ‘I feel…’, ‘I’d like…’, ‘It seems to me…’ and other phrases expressing their own thoughts instead of making judgments.

For example:

– ‘I think that we could make some improvements to this feature to make it even more user-friendly, this will help us sell the product later’.
– ‘You could do it another way, this is not the feature we were expecting’.
– ‘Okay, it’s not the worst option, we’ll use it, but it’s not what our customers want’.
Which one seems to be the most positive and motivational? Do you see this obvious difference between assertive, aggressive and passive-aggressive styles.

As a manager or business owner, you should become an assertive communicator to get the most of your professional IT teams. Be confident, respect your employees, say ‘No’ if necessary but be concise when explaining the mistakes to the staff. Motivate them and be honest!

As you can see, the democracy is key in this style and leaders often combine formal and informal leadership styles. Still, assertive communication works better in Senior teams, where all members are ready to bear responsibilities.

Developing Communication Skills

First, if you see an issue of poor communication in your company or team, start with yourself. You might know that people in any team take an example of formal and informal leaders.

The microclimate of a team greatly depends on how their boss or managers behave. If a department head speaks fuzzy, gives inaccurate tasks, misses important points in speech and gives information only partially, the whole working process will become chaotic. 

Here are eight tips for developing your communication skills in a team:

1. Make it a priority. If you notice that there’s room for improvements when it comes to transmitting information from you to your employees, start fixing that before you face more serious problems (failed deadlines, low-quality products, poor services, etc). Read books and articles, take specialized classes from the best communication practitioners in IT, look for a mentor or just learn from people whom you consider more master interlocutors than yourself.

2. Make your message simple. Don’t try to speak in a vague manner – be simple and straightforward. If you are still doubting this works, keep in mind Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln which consisted of 286 words. His speech lasted for only TWO minutes, still, the effect was enormous. Simplifying and staying on the message are key!

3. Engage people you speak to. Your communication should not be a monologue. It’s not enough to ask developers to do some tasks and let them think about the details. As a business owner and experienced manager, you need to invite their opinions and seek for questions. That won’t mean they haven’t understood your idea – they are just trying to find out the details to achieve better results. What’s more, feedback from employees has already improved thousands of products. Brainstorming works great even if it wasn’t planned.

4. Work on your listening skills. Valuable ideas can be often lost in the information noise. Besides that, you should always notice people’s emotions staying behind their phrases. Did a developer agree to add some feature but they seemed to be frustrated? Ask them what’s wrong, maybe it’s not the right time to add this feature or there are better options.

5. Take your time to respond. The majority of mistakes in communication are made due to the lack of time to think of an idea. Weigh the pros and cons in your mind, make an imaginary ‘draft’ and only after this brief analysis, let people know what you think.

6. Ensure others get your message. You can’t blame people for not understanding your tasks. Before passing a task to a team, ask them whether everything is clear and rephrase unclear points – the result depends on that!

7. Non-verbal communication is important too. More than 60% of all communication is performed by gestures, movements and eye contact. Straight eye contact makes people understand you’re listening to them carefully, and the body language will assist in agreeing or disagreeing with something. This is not a number-one tip, but keep it in mind!

8. Respect your employees. Treat the development team (and any other team) as professionals. Please, pay attention to what they say. People feel your attitude and work better when they feel that company leaders consider their ideas and respect their expertise.

The Bottom Line

Always keep in mind that developers are used not only to coding, they are people who want to be heard. Grow your communication literacy and it won’t be an issue to find the approach to anyone, be they extravert sales managers or introvert software developers.

Listen to your teams – have their expertize in mind – and they will bring your product or service to the next level!

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