Improve Your Relationships by Understanding the 7 Communication Types

by | Relationship Burnout

Whether in business negotiations or with team members, contractors, spouses, friends, or children – communication is key to success. But communication is hard. Have you experienced this? Clear as a bell, you say, “A, B, C.” But what the other person hears is, “X, Y, Z.” So you try again, “A, B, C.” Frustration rises as you realize, once again, they’ve heard, “X, Y, Z.” And on and on it goes. Ugh! Someone put us out of our misery!

Why Communication Skills Are Important

Here’s a real-life example. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs. Larry Dale owns a construction company. And I’m a writer and life coach. He has his office, and I have mine. But since I’m also an accountant, we work together when finalizing all the financial details of his projects. After 35-years years together, we’ve developed a work waltz. However, from time to time, our smooth waltz can turn into a fiery tango.

Such was the case one long weekend. Tension on Friday turned to frustration on Saturday, which sashayed into full-out fighting come Sunday. I gotta tell you, I misbehaved every which way I know how to misbehave.

I woke up Monday morning grieving our weekend. And wondering, Why in the world did I get so mad? How did our communication get so twisted? I prayed and journaled, and cried. And then suddenly, I remembered, We’re different!

Communication is key to success, but I had forgotten to make allowances for how different we are! And our communication suffered greatly as a result. Ugh.

Communication Types

I love peeps who are different from me. They add incredible spice to life. After all, if we were all the same, life would be darn dreary and dull. A bland homogenized existence. Peeps who are wired differently challenge us in new and exciting ways. The opportunity for shifts of perspective and growth never ends.

Did you know there are at least seven key distinctions in how we’re mentally wired – seven communication types? Or said another way, seven mental languages. Seven subconscious filters shape our perceptions, sieve the information we take in, and form the words we speak.

Out of the seven communication types, Larry Dale and I only have two in common. Yep, in five out of 7, we process and communicate in ways that are opposite from one another! No wonder I find him so fascinating. And no wonder we sometimes clash. But you know what?! Here’s some really great news! Our mental differences – our communication types are clashing, not us!

Okay, that last statement is so important. Let’s rinse and repeat – the differences in our communication types are clashing, not us.

So, how are you wired? How is your spouse wired? Your team members? Clients? Kids? Friends? Everyone has their own unique blend.

A Time Out for Clarity

Now, before we proceed in delving into the seven communication types, please keep a few things in mind:

  1. There are no absolutes here. We don’t respond the exact same way each and every day. But we do have strong tendencies that shape how we process in our minds.
  2. Also, if you think of each of these filters as two extremes, it’s important to remember there’s a massive range of variance between them.
  3. And lastly, differences are good! And when different communication types make space for one another – or even better – find a way to combine their differences – Boom! Beautiful, amazing things happen!

Are you burned out in your relationship? Does pulling out your hair feel like the best plan for dealing with relationship frustration? Can you relate to one of your kids effortlessly….like you’re always in sync with one another, but relating to your other kid seems impossible? Keep reading.

Before you give up, leave, fire them, or let go, Keep Reading! There’s hope here! I promise. Because I’ve personally experienced a massive improvement in relationships when empowered by the Holy Spirit I seek to understand another person’s mental language….their unique blend of the seven communication types.

Okay, let’s get to it. Let’s unpack the seven communication types…

Seek Pleasure or Avoid Pain

The first of the seven communication types – we are either wired to seek pleasure or wired to avoid pain.

Now, we all seek pleasure, and we all wish to avoid pain. But some of us primarily seek pleasure, and some of us primarily work to avoid pain. You can also think of it as moving towards or away. Moving towards pleasure or moving away from pain.

For example, you ask someone, “What do you want?” And usually, those who seek pleasure will be able to tell you, “I want…”

In contrast, those who work to avoid pain when asked, “What do you want?” will often answer with what they don’t want.

Now you may think they were ignoring your question or being coy or cool. But the truth is, they subconsciously filtered your question through the sieve of avoiding pain and gave you an answer authentic for them.

So, if you are trying to connect with someone who primarily wants to seek pleasure, ask them things like, What do you want? What are you hoping for?  

And if you are trying to connect with someone who primarily wants to avoid pain, ask them things like, What don’t you like about the…? What would you like to avoid? 

Seems elementary, right? But it’s not. Because we naturally speak the mental language we’re wired with. So, if you’re wired to naturally seek pleasure, that’s your default. So saying things like, What do you want? What are you hoping for? Those are completely normal for you. But asking, What don’t you like about the…? What would you like to avoid?  Those don’t trip off the tongue so easily. You have to move past yourself in order to live in awareness of the one you want to connect with.

External or Internal

The second of the seven communication types – do you have an external frame of reference or an internal frame of reference?

Such as, how do you know you’re beautiful or handsome? Where does the proof come from – externally or internally?

If you have an external frame of reference, you’ll need someone to tell you, You’re beautiful! In other words, for you, it’s not true until someone other than yourself says it’s true.

On the other hand, if you have an internal frame of reference, you and only you set the standard. And you and only you make the determination as to whether the standard has been met.

Now listen to me carefully. You can tell a person with an internal frame of reference a thousand times, You’re beautiful! You’re smart. You’re enough. But, because they have an internal frame of reference, no amount of external praising will change their mind from what they have already determined for themselves.

Take work for another example. Great job! Those are words of pure gold for someone wired with an external frame of reference. Their eyes light up, and so does their soul. But for those wired internally, if their work doesn’t measure up to their standard, no amount of convincing on your part will change their minds.

In contrast, if your team member or spouse or child has an internal frame of reference and the work they’ve done measures up to their own internal standard (and maybe not yours or your company’s standard), they’ll tell themselves, Great job! The trick here is to find a way to align your standards.

Self or Others

The third of the seven communication types – do you sort by self or do you sort by others?

Some peeps naturally seek the best interest of themselves. And some peeps naturally seek the best interest of others. If you self-sort, you’ll wonder, What’s in it for me?

And if you others-sort, you’ll naturally wonder, How could this help others?

Now hold on there, tiger, I can hear the wheels of judgment beginning to crank. Just because someone naturally self-sorts doesn’t mean they’re narcissistic. Think of all the inventions created by those who perhaps sought glory for themselves but served millions with their genius!

Another way of observing these two filters; those who others-sort will typically lean in during a conversation and give others clues to communicate their interest. Self-sorters, on the other hand, can often look like they’re not interested during a conversation. Which might cause you to think you’ve lost them or that they don’t care about what you’re talking about. But more than likely, they’re simply processing inwardly. 

Matcher or Mismatcher

The fourth of the seven communication types – we are either wired to see things that match or don’t match.

As you observe our world and the people in it, do you like to find the things that match? Or do you tend to find the things that don’t match?

Do you relish finding and pointing out what we have in common? Or do you prize finding and pointing out our differences?

Imagine you’re placed in a room filled with twenty men dressed in Santa suits. If you’re a matcher, you’ll notice twenty black belts and twenty gold buckles. On the other hand, if you’re a mismatcher, you’ll notice all the different shapes and lengths of beards.

Too often, the mismatches are unjustly labeled devil’s advocates. When in fact, they are simply filtering in their own natural way. And thank goodness for them too. Think of all the many mistakes that have been avoided thanks to their keen eye.

Your Proof Equation

The fifth of the seven communication types – what is your proof equation?

What does it take to convince you? What evidence do you need, and how many times do you need it? The answers to these questions reveal your personal proof equation.

For example, how do you know your child is doing well in school? Do you have to see them doing their homework and studying hard? Or do you need to hear from their teacher? Perhaps you need to study with them to experience their expertise personally. Or do you need the written evidence of their report card? Or some combination of the four?

Okay, now for the time piece of the equation. Are you convinced the first time? Or the second? Perhaps for you, it takes a more extended period of time?

What if mom and dad are wired differently? Think of the angst. Yes. But then, think of the understanding that could be reached if you made allowances for one another. Additionally, might little Miss or Mister learn good things from both parents perspectives? Same principle holds true in business too.

Possibility or Necessity

The sixth of the seven communication types – are you motivated by possibility or necessity?

This mental filter is usually revealed in our language.

Possibility peeps are motivated by what they want to do, or could do, so you’ll hear, I want to… Hey, we could… What if…

Conversely, necessity peeps are motivated by what they believe they have to do – what they believe they must do. So, you’ll likely hear, I can’t take off tomorrow, I have to work. We don’t have time for what ifs, we must get this done now!

In my experience, this is a most trying difference. I think it’s extremely challenging for those motivated by necessity to take those motivated by possibility seriously. For the necessity-prone folks, all the what-if people can come across as flighty and frivolous.

And of course, the what-if folks misjudge the necessity driven as sticks in the mud with no imagination.

So you see, it’s easy for the possibility peeps to annoy the necessity peeps. And vice-versa. Because we take personally something that is not personal. Our mental differences are clashing, not us! And once again, both types of filters are needed and valuable.

Independent or Collaborative

And finally, the seventh of the seven communication types  – do you like to roll independently or collaboratively?

Like when you’re doing a project, do you naturally prefer to work on your own? Or do you love a team dynamic?

Another way of understanding this filter – independent peeps bristle when micro-managed. Whereas others with a more collaborative filter receive feedback and suggestions as welcomed insights, creative dialogue, and helpful direction.

Then there are those who enjoy being part of a team but need their own area of responsibility.

And then there are those who sometimes switch preferences depending on the task. Maybe you like to collaborate at work but savor an independent sport…like running.

Making Space for the Communication Types of Others

Whew! There you have it. Some of the beautiful ways you and I are the same, and some of the beautiful ways we are different. Let’s celebrate both!

I first studied and discovered the value of these 7 communication types decades ago when I first began my career as a professional coach. Through the years, I’ve used them to help transform sales teams, marriages, parent/child dynamics, and friendships. I’ve also used them to better understand my clients, improving our connection which helped me serve them better and at a deeper level.

But I have to say, the most profound value I’ve found is how they help me understand my amazing husband, Larry Dale. OMGOODNESS! The fresh respect for my man and how he is wired was revolutionary! I’ll forever be grateful to God for opening my eyes to see how our differences actually make us stronger as a couple. And how two different perspectives can both be completely valid.

And the things I’ve learned from LD!!! For crying out loud, making space for our differences time and time again has taught me some cool new ways of going about things and has given me a drastically wiser approach in many situations.


What’s your jam? Business. Mentoring. Sales. Teams. Coaching. Parenting. Marriage. Friendship. Evangelizing. Presentations. Leadership. No matter your interests, understanding and making space for how we are individually wired will totally benefit your relationships. This I know for sure!

Practical Tips

As soon as you honor the other person’s communication type, struggle dissolves, and the power and beauty in our differences can begin to flow.

What if each of our different communication types is valid? And not just valid, but beautiful. Powerful. What if the differences are for your good? Your growth and development?

Let’s take a moment to think about marriage (however, this truth applies to all relationships). Most marital arguments never resolve. Year after year, couples try to change one another. Change each other’s behavior. Change each other’s minds. Why don’t these arguments resolve? Because we refuse to accept we’re different from one another. Wired differently. Divinely designed differently.

But here’s the exciting thing, my friend, you can resolve these marital arguments by simply acknowledging and honoring the ways your partner is different from you. I believe we attract people who are opposite us in some way because God has something to teach us. And if you’ll lean into your differences, you’ll grow and develop in ways that astound you.

What if, instead of allowing your natural differences to land you in a fiery tango, you discover the two of you are actually a Dynamic Duo?!

Think about it – could your difference make you stronger? Wiser? More discerning? Could they lead to greater understanding? More creative problem-solving? Absolutely!!! I believe our differences are the beauty and brilliance of God’s perfect design.

Making the 7 Communication Types Actionable

Bravo! If you’ve read this far, clearly, you are someone who takes communication seriously and always seeks to improve! Bravo!

So let’s move from gathering head knowledge about communication types to taking our new knowledge and making it actionable with four simple steps…

  1. Take time to memorize the communication types… there are only seven.
  2. Next, get honest with yourself and acknowledge how you’re wired in each of the seven areas.
  3. And then pay attention to see how those nearest and dearest to you are wired.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, empowered by the Holy Spirit make space in your mind and heart to accommodate and, yes, even celebrate your differences.

And because I know you’re an overachiever, I’ll give you a bonus step! Gather your team, your bestie, your spouse, or your kids, and move through the above four steps together!

Differences add incredible spice to life! They keep us on our toes and navigate us away from boredom. Peeps who are wired differently challenge us in new and exciting ways. Creating shifts of perspective and opportunities for growth year after year!

I’m listening. And would love to hear from you. Email me and let me know your biggest takeaway, insight, or aha from today’s topic.

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Thanks for stopping by! Until we meet again, remember – Trusting in Jesus, you’ll have more treasure than pockets. From my heart to yours,

Sandra Adcock Signature