Couple in communication

Communication styles in relationships - Painters and Pointers

Quite often, issues in relationships arise due to different communication styles.

While there are many theories in this area, one that we find interesting is the theory of two distinct, perhaps even opposite, communication styles – the ‘Painters’ and the ‘Pointers’.



  • Need to think out loud
  • They ‘paint a picture’ with their communication, citing great detail and often expressing emotion through the story.



  • Pointers arrange their thoughts before they speak
  • Tend to be straight to the main point in their communication and may not convey much emotion.


When communicating in relationships

  • Painters will get frustrated at the lack of emotion expressed by the Pointer and might think the Pointer doesn’t care
  • Pointers will get frustrated at the long story while they are trying to find the point.


How to improve your communication

The reality is that Pointers do care and Painters do have a point!

If you’re in a partnership with someone who has a different communication style, the key to a more fruitful conversation is understanding each other’s style and help your partner provide what you need by directing them through conversation that works for both of you.



  • Listening to a Painter

Painters tend to be the opposite of Pointers – they express lots of emotion and detail. To understand them better it’s important not to interrupt them, as they need the story format to come to the heart of what they’re trying to communicate. Sit back and enjoy the story.

  • How a Painter can adapt their style

Painters can help convey their point better by giving the punch line first, (if they know it beforehand), and then giving the back story. It can also help to make it clear if things are OK before the story starts or it can cause unnecessary anxiety for the listener.



  • Listening to a Pointer

Listen carefully to the first thing the Pointer has to say, that will be the point they are trying to make.

Pointers will not often express emotion, so it’s important for their partner to ask how they are feeling or to elaborate on the points they make to discover more about what makes them tick or how they really feel. It’s vital that you don’t interrupt or attempt to draw them out with a story or they will quickly lose interest.

  • How a Pointer can adapt their style

Pointers can help convey their thoughts better by giving some more detail. It can be helpful to first convey the main point, but then provide a little bit of detail for context. Sharing your feelings helps your partner see that you do care and can express emotion.


Value the differences

It’s important to remember how you got together in the first place – initially the opposing styles may have been refreshing and allowed you the space to express yourself in a way that worked for you. While different styles can be frustrating, they can attract one another as often styles that are too similar cannot work –  two Painters together are forever competing for the same conversation space and two Pointers together are stuck trying to think of what to say to each other!

There are definite ‘pluses’ in being in a partnership with someone with a different style – for example, Painters are great at social events, while Pointers tend to be strong in negotiation. Appreciate each other’s strengths and learn to work these strengths as a team.

By taking time to understand that the way that we communicate, you can find common ground and get what you need without thwarting the natural strengths of your partner’s style! Give it a go!


MensLine Australia has professional counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing confidential and anonymous information and support for all relationship issues.

Call us on 1300 78 99 78 or access online counselling.