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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraNew communication skills for the New Year

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

As we kick-off the New Year, we also begin to turn our minds to how we could do things differently in the New Year. Some of the resolutions we commonly hear are things like, “I will go to the gym more often,” “I will try to lose weight,” or “I will finally complete the home improvement project I have been working on for five years.”

One thing that is often overlooked is the way we communicate with others at work, whether it is done in person, in writing or in electronic form. It is great to have personal resolutions, however, instead of taking the “traditional” route it, may also be a great idea to think about positive career goals since we spend as much time at work as we do at home.

The ability to communicate effectively is a highly important skill in today’s world especially in the workplace. Unfortunately, there are still very many people who struggle to communicate effectively, either in writing or speaking. Communication is only successful when both the sender and receiver understand the message being shared. The way we communicate affects every facet of our working life, regardless of our expertise and skills in our field. Research also shows that good communication is one of the top “soft skills” that managers look for in employees.

Our communication style can tremendously impact our relationships at work and it can influence our future in the organization. Having said that, there are four basic communication styles that are commonly used


Individuals who use this type of style often are quiet; they do not voice their feelings or express their desires; they defer to others to make a decision to avoid conflict; and they trust others but not themselves. This style often leads to misunderstanding, unresolved issues or resentment. A person who uses this style may say things like, “whatever you want is fine with me,” or “it’s fine, don’t worry about it.”


This style of communication disrespects others and violates the rights of others. It involves expressing feelings and needs at the expense of others; they ignore the rights of others in order to get what they want; they are defensive when confronted. A person who uses this style may say things like, “this is what we’re doing, end of story.”


This style is a combination of the passive and aggressive styles of communication. The best way to explain this style of communication is through a social media lens, particularly when it comes to “vaguebook.” The urban dictionary defines “vaguebook” as “an intentionally vague or one-worded status update, alluding to something else.” Basically, any posts that are vague and cryptic that appear to have been intentionally written to elicit attention or a response is called “vaguebooking.” They post ambiguous messages on their status instead of dealing with the issue they are faced with in real life. On their post, they rant about their current situation. For example, if someone cut them off at a store during boxing day and they got really upset by it, but in reality they did not actually have the courage to say anything to the other person so, they may post something like, “To the guy in a red shirt at XYZ Store today, have some manners!”

People who uses the passive-aggressive style of communication at work are often sarcastic, complaining or gossiping. They may appear passive on the surface but deep within they are acting out anger. They use indirect communication to avoid a conversation and will often give you the silent treatment. They may say things like, “Sure, we can do things your way,” then thinks to himself or herself that the other person’s idea is stupid.


This style is direct and honest and it communicates with respecting the feelings and needs of others while also asserting their own. This style has also been known to be the most effective as it uses “I” statements such as, “I feel frustrated when your reports are late.” Using “I” statements indicates ownership of feelings without putting the blame on the other person.

When we communicate with others, it is important to recognize each communication style and in which context they are used. When we encounter coworkers who do not use our preferred way of communicating, we may find ourselves in a conflict situation. By becoming aware of our own communication style and recognizing our coworkers’ style, we can adapt more easily to an appropriate communication style suitable in any given situation.

If you have not heard of any of these communication styles, the New Year would definitely be a great year to start becoming familiar and becoming more aware of the styles that we prefer to use. Healthy communication will ensure that healthy work conflict-free relationships are maintained all year round.

This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.



Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP is an Advanced Certified HR Professional with the International Personnel Management Association. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management). E-mail her at

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