Dysfunctional Communication
Styles in the Workplace

Dysfunctional communication styles are patterns of speaking and interacting that shut down true connection, inhibit forward action, become energy draining, lower self-esteem, and affect the overall health and well-being of a relationship, whether personal or professional.

Dysfunctional communication styles

When we are unaware of dysfunctional communications in our interactions, they can affect us in these and other ways:

  • $Dulling of our alertness
  • $Flight (desire to leave the interaction ASAP)
  • $Rise in agitation
  • $Feeling incomplete
  • $Increasing our vocal volume (in an attempt to top the situation)
  • $A shift from a cooperative to an adversarial stance
  • $Feeling drained after an encounter

Why are they important?

Forward action is the most important aspect of any organization’s health and function. There are goals to be met, projects to complete, strategies to implement, and product/services to deliver.

Dysfunctional communication styles often pause, or completely shut down, these necessary actions and result in the following:

Time wasting

Delaying action

Stopping action

Creating chaos

We have identified 15 different dysfunctional communication styles that can disrupt productivity, collaboration, and culture in an organization.

We are often called in to speak, train, and coach on dysfunctional communication styles. It can be an organization-wide (culture) problem, or an ongoing issue between two people.

The History of Dysfunctional Communication Styles

Dysfunctional Communication Styles is the culmination of a lifetime body of work of Mark Shuler, Senior Consultant and Trainer at The Shuler Group, LLC. With a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a private psychotherapy practice for over 28 years, he has been analyzing, researching, and applying his experience with these styles.

There were often specific circumstances and/or persons where Mark found himself trying to figure out why certain behaviors kept happening, and so he reverse-engineered the pattern using his skills in psychology and as a psychotherapist. He realized that without the understanding of what actually happened in a given interaction, he was just left with a bad feeling, or the perception of incompletion.

So originally Mark did this research to preserve his own well-being and to understand what was not working in particular interactions. At some point, he realized this information and system could also be valuable to others, and thus the Dysfunctional Communication Styles system and trainings came into being.

Online Course

Dysfunctional communication styles online course

While we teach this program live for organizations, it may be useful to take the online, self-paced version so that you can go through it at your convenience, as well as revisit as necessary. We strive to make our online courses as engaging and interactive as possible, with exercises and activities you can work through as you follow along in the course.

The online course consists of 8 modules:


Introduction to functional communication, dysfunctional communication styles, and a brief overview of all 15 styles.


Defenses against dysfunctional communication styles: boundaries, buffers, deflectors, and neutralizers


Deep dive into 3 dysfunctional communication styles – Psychological Cycle of Violence, Shutting Down of Possibilities, Attack Parry Riposte


Deep dive into 3 dysfunctional communication styles – Debate Club, Monologue, Conversation Domination


Deep dive into 3 dysfunctional communication styles – Injecting Process Comments, Unsolicited Advice, Making Stuff Up


Deep dive into 3 dysfunctional communication styles – Invalidating Statements, Stuck on a Problem, Contrary


Deep dive into 3 dysfunctional communication styles – Unauthorized Declarations, Class Clown, Non-acknowledgement of Communications


Recap, what to do about this in the “Real World,” and self-assessment

Along with the 8 modules, you’ll also have access to workbook to take notes and follow along with the exercises and activities.

Pick the option that works best for you below. For the course itself, you get lifetime access. You may also decide to add a single coaching session or a package of coaching sessions. (You can always add coaching sessions later.)

Live Training for Organizations

Dysfunctional Communication Styles - The Shuler Group LLC

For Dysfunctional Communication Styles in the Workplace, we do live speaking and training in several formats: lunch ‘n’ learns, ½-day workshops, full-day workshops, and retreats. Whether you want an introduction to the material or an in-depth format with group breakouts and activities, we can adjust and customize the material to meet your needs.

We can also do a combination of the online course with a follow-up Q&A, in-person workshop, and/or coaching sessions.

Interested in Learning More?

Let’s have a conversation about how we can help you.