Have you ever found yourself struggling to be understood? Maybe feeling frustrated you never get your point across, or you nod and smile when you really disagree? Have you been described as aggressive or not a good listener?
Good communication is key to delivering your message, being understood, and building healthy relationships. Communicating effectively is not as simple as we may all expect. Our experiences and interactions shape our ability to communicate, and as such some people may have built a pattern of behaviour over time that is difficult to change.
In this edition we wanted to explore and explain the four different basic styles of communication – how these can impact on those around you and how you can change your style to improve your relationships and experiences.
The four basic styles of communication are: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive and Assertive. There are loads of great online resources about the communication styles, but we have captured a snapshot here. Let’s take a closer look -
Passive communication is a form of communication where the sender is unable to convey his or her thoughts or views out of fear of confrontation by others. They normally consider themselves not eligible to provide opinions or views. It is a very ineffective and maladaptive type of communication. This style of communication can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, depression and helplessness. Passive communication can be a result of low self-esteem. As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful situations – they may allow grievances to build up and boil over and make them feel shame, guilt or confusion. Passive communication usually involves vague requests for help, such as, "I wish the house were tidier for our guests this evening," or a failure to assert an opinion.
Signs of Passive Communication
Fail to assert for themselves
Allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights
Fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions
Tend to speak softly or apologetically
Exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture
Some sayings & behaviours
Long rambling sentences, beat‐around‐the‐bush
Hesitant, filled with pauses, frequent throat clearing
Apologise inappropriately in a soft unsteady voice
Using phrases such as “if it wouldn’t be too much trouble…”
Fill in words, e.g., “maybe” , “er”, “um”, “sort of”
Voice often dull and monotonous
Tone may be sing‐song or whining
Over‐soft or over‐warm
Quiet often dropping away
Frequent justifications, e.g., “I wouldn’t normally say anything”
Apologies, e.g., “I’m sorry to bother you..”
How can it make you feel?
Loss of self esteem
Prone to a build-up of stress and anger
Stuck in relationships or situations that aren't healthy and difficult to change
Anxious because life seems out of your control
Depressed because you feel stuck and hopeless
Confused because you ignore your own feelings
Aggressive communication is a method of expressing needs and desires that do not take in to account the welfare of others. Those who communicate in an aggressive manner are generally perceived as selfish and unwilling to compromise. An aggressive communication style is usually linked to a desire to hurt others or exact revenge, or may reflect poor emotional development.
Signs of Aggressive Communication
Use “you” statements
Try to dominate others
Use humiliation to control others
Criticise, blame, or attack others
Speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice
Act threateningly and rudely
Not listen well
Have an overbearing posture
Some sayings and behaviours
“I’m right and you’re wrong.”
“I’m loud, bossy and pushy.”
“I can dominate and intimidate you.”
"I need to get my way.”
“You’re not worth anything.”
“It’s your fault.”
How can it make you (or others) feel?
Sense of paranoia and fear- difficult to relax when you are controlling others
Become alienated from others
Generate fear and resentment in others
Always blame others instead of owning their issues
Feelings of guilt and shame
Decreasing self-confidence and self-esteem
Passive-aggressive behaviour takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. Passive-aggressive behaviour is recognisable by the disconnect between what is being said and what is being done. It is where you are angry with someone but do not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when you feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed you may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behaviour, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. It may also involve indirectly resisting requests from others by evading or creating confusion around the issue. Not going along with things. It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious). A passive aggressive communicator might not always show that they are angry or resentful. They might appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on - hence the term "Passive-Aggressive".
Signs of Passive-Aggressive Communication
Vent privately rather than confront the person or issue
Have difficulty acknowledging their anger
Use facial expressions that don't match how they feel - i.e., smiling when angry
Deny there is a problem
Appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt
Rather than say ‘No’, passive aggressive people sometimes find it easier to deliberately perform poorly at a task.
Deliberate procrastination - The passive aggressive person will delay completing the request until the very last moment, or later, instead of raising concerns at the start
Disguising criticism with compliments and having the last word – a subtle jibe or masked dig
The silent treatment
Everything is viewed as an attack on them. When something doesn't go their way, it is seen as unfair or an injustice.
How can this make you feel?
Become alienated from those around you
Remain stuck in a position of powerlessness
Real issues are never addressed so a sense of frustration and bottled up resentment
Pervading sense of negativity and victim-mentality.
Assertive communication is the straightforward and open expression of your needs, desires, thoughts and feelings. Assertive communication involves advocating for your own needs while still considering and respecting the needs of others. An example of assertive communication is: “That’s a good idea, and how about if we did this too…” or “I can see that, but I’d really like...”
Individuals who communicate in an assertive style are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.
Signs of Assertive communication
Use “I” statements
State needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
Express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
Communicate respect for others
Listen well without interrupting
Feel in control of self
Have good eye contact and a relaxed body posture
Speak in a calm and clear tone of voice
Feel connected to others
Feel competent and in control
Not allow others to abuse or manipulate them
Stand up for their rights
Some sayings and behaviours
Firm, relaxed voice
Fluent, few hesitations
Steady even pace
Tone is middle range, rich and warm
Sincere and clear
Not over‐loud or quiet
Voice appropriately loud for the situation
“I” statements (“I like”, “I want”, “I don’t like”) that are brief and to the point
Co‐operative phrases, e.g., “What are your thoughts on this”
Emphatic statements of interest, e.g., “I would like to”
Distinction between fact and opinion, e.g., “My experience is different”
Suggestions without “shoulds” or “oughts” e.g., “How about…” or “Would you like consider ...'
Constructive criticism without blame, e.g., “I feel irritated when you interrupt”
Seeking others opinions, e.g., “How does this fit in with your ideas”
Willingness to explore other solutions, e.g., “How can we get around this problem"
How can this make you feel?
The more you stand up for yourself and act in a manner you respect, the higher your self esteem
Your chances of getting what you want out of life improve greatly
Expressing yourself directly at the time means that resentment doesn’t build up
Feel connected to others
Feel in control of your life
Are able to mature because you address issues and problems as they arise
Create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature
Clearly, assertive communication is the most productive and rewarding form of communication. When you communicate assertively, you communicate honestly but appropriately.
Have a think about your communication style? If some of these resonate with you, it’s worth considering the impact it may have on those you live with, work with and care for.
Is there a better way of getting your message across?
In our next blog we are going to provide some practical tips on how to communicate assertively in the workplace. It might just get you those results and changes are you after!
If you would like support to improve your communication style and change your relationships for the better, give us a call and make an appointment (07) 3161 1950 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org