During a women’s leadership program last week, we were discussing the four primary styles of communication: 

Supportive, Directive, Analytical and Expressive.

It comes as no surprise to learn that women often use the Supportive style. After all, we have been primed for this style since elementary school recess. 

I asked everyone to choose a style that was in need of development. Why? Because the most effective communicators can access all four styles to ensure their message lands and listeners don’t have to work hard to understand the meaning of what was said. 

As we were discussing the styles, a participant asked a question that deserves more airtime: 

How can I use the directing style without being called a bitch?

Great question!

Communication is about 

  • what you say, 
  • how you say it, 
  • why you say it, and 
  • when you say it

When you are clear on your purpose and you’ve chosen the right moment to speak, the directing style is often the most helpful and appreciated. That requires being fully present and NOT undermining yourself with the mental chatter that keeps us from speaking assertively. [Insert name of Inner Critic here and tell her to back off.]

Let’s stop the hostile takeover of our own power with needless worrying about the possibility of being called a bitch. The thought has been baked into our mental script even before we speak. Many of us have a bogus early detection system that keeps us from using a more assertive style of communication. 

Think of it as choosing the right tool for the job. If the goal is to move the project along, gain clarity on roles and responsibilities, or meet a deadline, then you are doing a disservice to your audience if you don’t use a directing style. It would be like trying to hang a shelf with a pair of scissors. 

Here’s an example from this week:

SpeakWell:  We ran a program on resilience for you last March. Wondering if you are interested in holding another one this year.

Client:  Thanks for thinking of us!

This is a classic Expressive Style response that is friendly, but devoid of any meaning.  A Directive Style would have included a “Yes, No, We’ll get back to you by…”.

Next, remember that there are people in your orbit who gravitate to the directing style of communication. Find them and make them your allies. 

Finally, alignment:  when your tone of voice is engaging, your body language is calm and confident, and your verbal delivery is clear and concise, then the directing style of communication is a gift. 

I’ll leave you with a mental image of Directing Style best practice:

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”