Difference between task oriented communication and relationship oriented communication

What is the difference (and importance) of task oriented communication and relationship oriented communication?

First, why is it important that we understand the difference between two “styles” or approaches to communication? When two people communicate they form perceptions of each other. When they differ in terms of how they are communicating (and why), there is a risk that each will perceive the other as obstructive or difficult, not because they are difficult but because they are communicating to different purposes. Hence, you can have conflict that comes, not from disagreement about the issues, but simply because of communication style or purpose differences.

A common stylistic difference involves the degree to which a person is communicating in a task oriented way, or a relationship oriented way. Both are valid and equally useful ways of interacting, but serve different purposes.

Someone using a task oriented style focuses on “getting things done” efficiently, and is less focused on developing and maintaining good interpersonal relationships with the other person. The relationship oriented person is less concerned with getting things done, but more interested in building and maintaining good relationships with people and ensuring others are comfortable with the interactions.

They are not mutually exclusive, and people can shift from one to the other, although people have a tendency to go one way or another.

What’s important is that any work group or team requires both functions, or roles. Neither is inherently better or worse. However, when conflict occurs in groups, it’s useful to analyze whether it’s simply a result of different approaches to communication.

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