The 2 Types Of Communication Styles That'll Make Or Break Your Relationship

Why you and your partner have a hard time communicating.

Communication between couple Prostock-Studio, Negative Space | Canva

Communication can be a funny thing.

You may think you are being very clear with your words, your tone, and your humor, and yet...miscommunication happens all the time.

This is especially a big deal when it comes to your partner in your relationship. 

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Partner 1: I thought you said...

Partner 2: But I didn't say that.

Partner 1: But the words you said, were...


Partner 2: Yes, but what I meant was...

Partner 1: Then why didn't you say that?

Partner 2: I did!

Sound familiar?

Chances are, you and your partner have different communication styles and different levels of listening skills. The good news is that learning how to improve communication skills is easy to work on...once you know how.

While researchers will say there are several types of communication, there are two that will be most helpful to look for in healthy relationships: inferential communicators and literal communicators.

To learn how to communicate effectively, here is how these 2 communication styles in relationships affect your love life.


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Here are how 2 types of communication styles can make or break your relationship:

1. Inferential communicator

An Inferential communicator likes to infer, guess, speculate, conclude, or judge, based on the information you put together. Notice that it says "you" put together, not necessarily the information from your partner.

As an inferential listener, you read between the lines of what someone is saying, rather than taking it at face value.

Challenges can arise swiftly for inferential listeners, as they are often looking for meaning in communication that may or may not be there.


Living in their head and their heart, inferential listeners will use the info they already have, which may be from their past experiences with others, plus a combination of their feelings and the story they weave in their mind, to come up with the conclusion or inference about what is "really" going on.

At the same time, inferential listeners can be great nurturers because you are always guessing about what your partner needs and seeking to accommodate or help.

You can see how this style could lead to some interesting relationship dynamics.

As an inferential speaker, you hint, or give subtle clues or suggestions, hoping the person receiving the communication will "get it", rather than stating things simply and clearly.




We expect everyone to think like us. Thus, we think that they understand what we are saying in the way we say it. However, the truth is that everyone else is doing the same thing, including your partner.

So as an inferential speaker, you may give hints because you are trying to be sensitive to your partner's feelings. Or maybe you are trying to sort out who is trustworthy, by who gets your subliminal messages.

Either way, some people will get you, solidifying the bond of understanding, and others will be totally confused, leaving you completely frustrated and feeling unheard.


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2. Literal communicator

A literal listener takes people's words at face value. If they want something, you will hear it in their words because they will clearly and directly ask for it. If they don't, they won't. Simple as that.

Although it may seem that literal listener have it easy, that's not always the case. Literal listeners can also struggle. Subtle suggestions may go over your head and you might miss "inside jokes" or sarcasm because you are looking for specific words to guide you.

If your partner's words are not clear, you may end up feeling confused, or frustrated, judge them or yourself, and move on from people who don't speak the language you understand. 


As a literal listener, you may be labeled as insensitive, inconsiderate, or uncreative by your partner. Since you won't respond unless they ask for what they want, you won't anticipate what they might be hinting at or even know to ask or offer something.

At the same time, literal listeners can be very respectful of their partner's autonomy and independence, trusting that their partner will speak up and say what they need or want.

As a literal speaker, you like to say it the way it is...literally. You mean the words you say or you don't say them. People know very clearly when you are asking for something, or making a statement because you simply communicate it, as it is according to you.

At times, you may receive questions like, "Did you mean that?" or "How could you say that?" because you can be so clear and precise with your words.


For you also, some people will enjoy your clear direct communication, reaffirming that you are being heard and understood. Others may find you too blunt or bold and not hear how easy communication can be for a literal speaker.

Each communication style has very specific types of listening and speaking.

You can be one type of speaker and a different type of listener. What?! I know, right?


So you could be a literal listener and an inferential speaker. Or an inferential listener and a literal speaker. Or a literal speaker and listener. Or an inferential speaker and listener.

It's fun to see how the different combinations interact in a social setting and it can be easy to see why certain people click and others are like oil and water.

Many times, couples will have similar styles of communicating and that's not always a good thing. While birds of a feather flock together, sometimes it's the opposites that attract.



The important thing to remember is that the sooner you discover your communication styles and that of your partner, the sooner you can begin to practice speaking in your partner's language. The awareness of each other's styles puts things in a whole new light for understanding where each other is coming from.


Truly, practicing both styles of listening and speaking is a huge advantage to your communication in general, and for your partner relationship, trust me, it can mean the difference between a healthy relationship that lasts, or a miserable one that ends and ends badly.

So do yourself and your partner a favor by identifying your communication styles and talking about them. Make a deal to practice each other's styles, and before long, smooth communication will be a natural skill that you can both enjoy!

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Kimberly Pereira is a registered psychotherapist and Canadian certified counselor practicing client-centered therapy since 2006. She has presented research at the Canadian Psychological Association conferences, and university conferences, including Laurier and Brock.