Typically, we think of communication as a “two-way street”, either we are listening to someone talk or we are doing the talking (and hoping that the other person is listening!). But there is much more to communication than that. Communication styles are more of a four-lane highway and sometimes we may weave in-between lanes depending on who we are communicating with, but for the most part we tend to stay in one of these four lanes: “Passive”, “Passive-Aggressive”, “Aggressive”, or the “Assertive” lane.
A passive communicator may have a hard time recognizing their own needs, or they may feel as though others’ needs take precedence over their own. They might avoid expressing their emotions and opinions and be overly apologetic. Passive communicators also tend to exhibit uncomfortable body language and feel anxious when dealing with any sort of confrontation.
Passive-aggressive communicators are indirect, just as passive communicators are. The difference is that a passive-aggressive communicator might make subtle jabs that their needs and desires are not being taken into account. On the surface, passive-aggressive communicators may appear passive, but they tend to act out in anger including using sarcasm, the silent treatment, and even spreading rumors.
An aggressive communicator often alienates and hurts others. They directly communicate their needs, but at the expense of others’ rights in order to support their own. They may say things like, “It is either my way of the highway” or “I don’t care what you have to say, this is the way we are doing it”. They may make intense eye contact, cross their arms, and even point fingers.
Assertive communication is the healthiest form of communication. People who are assertive communicators are direct, expressive, and take into account the rights of others. They are able to fully listen to another person speaking, and not just wait until it is their turn to speak. They are attentive during the conversation and may say things such as “Please don't walk away from me while we're having a conversation” or “I respect your opinion, but let's agree to disagree”.
We know communicating is hard, especially if you have developed the habit of an ineffective communication style. Here at 253 Therapy and Consult we are here to help! If you feel like you are struggling to communicate with someone important in your life, please reach out to schedule a consultation. We can help you identify your communication style and help you gain the skills needed to be more assertive, advocate for your rights, and resolve conflict.