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As human beings, we are a social species. We constantly communicate with one another. Sometimes to ask directions to the nearest pharmacy, sometimes to ask for the time, sometimes to communicate displeasure, sometimes to offer a compliment, sometimes to resolve disputes, sometimes to turn down requests, sometimes to accept, express gratitude,, sadness, …etc. …etc.
When communicating with each other, we use a mixture of communicative styles to share either information, experiences, views or ideas, which - can or cannot - be selectively used for a variety of reasons. The different communication styles can be indicated and described as follows…
1. Passive Style
The passive communication style is designed to avoid any form and manifestation of unproductive conflict at all costs, which often results in…
- Giving in to unreasonable demands from others.
- Going along with the crowd.
- Not offering your opinion or view until others have already offered theirs.
- Never criticise or give negative feedback.
- Never do or say anything that might attract a “negative” comment or any form of disapproval.
The outcome of the passive communication style? We give control over our lives to other people… even when we don’t want to do so.
In wild dog packs, there is an established order of dominance between the animals. When two wild dogs meet, the less dominant one will behave (i.e. communicate) as though to say… “Yes, you are more important than I am. I submit to you. Please, don’t attack me”. When we use the passive communication style we behave in much the same way. Like submissive wild dogs, we may avoid eye contact, appear nervous, look downward and make ourselves small. We can think of the passive communication style as a posture of submission to others.
Naming this style “passive” can be grossly misleading. It suggests that the person just sits around saying nothing. Sometimes this is exactly what happens. But - more often than not - a person using a passive communication style is more active than anyone else… scurrying around, working twice as hard as others, constantly explaining and justifying his/her actions, trying desperately to gain approval and striving to solve everyone else’s problems.
However, all of us can think of certain times and circumstances in which we would willingly hand the lead over to others. For example, the first time we go mountain climbing, we might be quite happy - even wise - to have an expert give us orders. It would be quite alarming to have the climbing instructor ask us what to do. In some situations, it is just fine to take a secondary or submissive position.
The passive communication style - when contextually balanced - can productively achieve what we either need or desire. Unfortunately, a passive communication style is habitually used out of context because of…
How does the passive communication style develop?
There are plenty of reasons why people mainly adopt a passive communication style. For example…
- Some people grow up in extremely considerate families. “Oh, don’t ask Jane to do that; she’s busy enough already”. As a result, they never get any practice saying “no”, and establish a belief that others will look out for their well-being.
- Some children are taught to be perfectly obedient and submissive. Although obedience to others, may be useful - to some extent - during childhood, we all need to rethink this belief, when we mature and become adults.
- In some families, children’s requests, needs or boundaries are never respected. Then, why would you ever becomeif it never works?
- In some families, assertiveness, unfortunately, leads to abuse. “How dare you say ‘no’ to me! I’ll show you!”
- Some people just never see assertiveness in action. All they see as they grow up is either aggression or passivity. And if you’ve never seen it, it’s hard to imagine what assertiveness would be like.
The passive communication style can be quite useful at times. As the only option - however - it generally leads to much misery in life.
2. Aggressive Style
When we overuse the Communication Styles behaviour also is the cause of many of our problems. Although the Communication Styles communication style made us look frightening and powerful, it normally originated - as aggression almost always does - in fear. We have a profound fear of what might happen when we were not in control of our situation and everyone around us. The Communication Styles communication style was designed to assert control. Unfortunately - as it often happens - it has the effect of causing control to gradually slip away from us.communication style, we normally see our behaviour as the result of our circumstances… as an effect of. We are less aware that our
The Communication Styles communication style is the flip side of the passive communication style. Instead of submitting to others, we try to get others to submit to us. It is important for us to win, regardless of the cost to others. We aim to control the behaviour and actions of others through intimidation. Their opinions, boundaries, goals and requests are regarded as irrelevant and inconvenient barriers to be overcome. We are the dominant wild dog, bending others to our will.
However - the peculiar thing is - Communication Styles individuals usually don’t feel all that dominant. Instead, they often feel helpless, abused and the victim of unreasonable and excessive demands. The Communication Styles communication style - almost always - is the result of feeling threatened and reacting with anger seems perfectly justified in many instances.
What are the advantages of an Communication Styles communication style?
Aggressive behaviour and actions usually are pretty ineffective for achieving one’s goals in the long run. But in the short term, there are some real advantages to the Communication Styles communication style…
- Intimidating others into doing what you want may get things done for a while (though eventually, people will resent you, have little incentive to do things well and feel little affection or loyalty toward you).
- If others fear you, they may make fewer demands (though they will also make fewer pleasant interactions, and when you were more Communication Styles, you could comfortably deal with their unpleasant demands).
- Being Communication Styles can make you feel powerful (though it makes others feel worse and the feeling of power lasts only for a short time, usually followed by more frustration and helplessness).
- Aggression can seem like a good way of getting even for past wrongs done to you (though it usually starts an unpleasant exchange, that leaves neither person feeling “even”, and - the chances are likely - that you will wind up worse off than you were before).
- Sometimes it feels like you need to blow off a little steam (though the research suggests that “blowing off steam” makes you angrier - not less - in the long run).
After behaving aggressively, the feeling of power and justification usually fades rather quickly. In its place come guilt for hurting the feelings of others, shame at not being able to deal with situations and people more rationally, which reduce self-esteem. Sometimes these consequences are covered over by intensive, long and angry self-justifications for the Communication Styles actions (“they deserved it because…”). But the situation has usually been made worse, not better. The disagreement is still there, but now resentment has been added to the equation, as a result of behaving badly toward them.
Why do we act aggressively?
How does the Communication Styles communication style develop? Here are just a few possibilities…
- Low self-esteem that causes you to feel threatened by minor difficulties (“I can’t handle this situation unless I intimidate the other person into silence.”).
- Initial experiences of obtaining what you want through aggression (“Hey, it worked with Dad/Mom.. I’ve gotta try this more often!”).
- Failing to see the negative consequences of aggression (“I wonder why she’s been so emotionally distant ever since I convinced her to see things my way? Maybe it’s time for me to get angry with her again.”)
Normally when we felt or feel helpless, small and powerless in the presence of an , we become determined to avoid feeling that way with anyone else, because we feel anxious whenever anyone has any kind of power over us, and we normally defend ourselves with rage. Everyone - especially family members - have the potential to affect and control us, and therefore are potential targets for our aggression.
3. Passive-Aggressive Style
We - normally - use the passive-Communication Styles communication style when we experienced intense anger, but have difficulty acknowledging it, even to ourselves. Instead, the anger transforms into “disappointment” or “frustration”. We are fearful of the consequences when we state our point of view directly. As a result, we seldom declined unwelcome projects or tasks and don't even mention over-extended requests and accompanied workloads. Instead, we adopt an indirect communication strategy, that would get us our way, without necessitating an open and candid discussion. The passive-Communication Styles communication style was designed to enable attacking others, without ever having to take responsibility for our actions.
As the name suggests, the passive-Communication Styles communication style combines elements of both the passive and the Communication Styles communication styles. The anger of the Communication Styles and the fear of the passive communication styles have an influence. The anger makes us want to “get” the other person, but the fear holds us back from doing it directly. When we are passive-Communication Styles we disguise our aggression, so we can avoid taking responsibility for it.
Consider the following example… Alan's manager has asked for a report by noon Friday, even though he was already overloaded with work. Rather than yelling at him (Communication Styles), staying up all night to finish the report (passive) or explaining the situation (Communication Styles), he simply “forget” to do the report. He gets his way, frustrates his manager and remains able to deny responsibility for his actions, after all, anyone can forget things now and then.
Some more examples of passive-Communication Styles behaviour…
- Undermining coworkers by bad-mouthing them to the boss.
- “Accidentally” dropping a can of paint all over the basement floor.
- Not being able to find time to do the favour as promised.
- Routinely showing up late for appointments, always with an excuse in hand.
- Developing a “headache” just when you were supposed to go to your spouse’s office party.
- Doing a household chore badly enough that someone else takes over.
In all cases, we get our way, but we have a plausible justification which allows us to escape taking responsibility for our actions. We manage to avoid being confronted by others who are affected. When they try to confront us, we can always deny any malicious intent (“No, I wanted to be on time, but the bus was late”). Not every mistake, missed appointment or late arrival is passive-Communication Styles. Some people really are busy, sometimes we really do forget and some jobs really are unexpectedly difficult. The question is… whether, at some level, we intended the bad outcome to happen.
This can be hard and difficult to figure out. We may think our intentions were honourable. But was there a hint of satisfaction when things went wrong? Do we routinely do the same things, even though they always turn out awkwardly for someone else? Are we almost always late? Do we repeatedly take on projects that we should know we will never complete? If so, we may be using a passive-Communication Styles style without knowing it.
The passive-Communication Styles communication style is based on a misperception: The idea that there are no consequences of deniable aggression. But there are. Eventually, other people begin to see us as unreliable, irresponsible, disorganized or inconsiderate. Although they may never be able to point to specific examples, their general opinion of us will gradually decline.
The passive-Communication Styles emotional consequences, combine the worst of both the passive and Communication Styles communication styles. Self-esteem drops. Anxiety builds because we never know when someone will see through our passivity and confront us. We feel that we are not in control of our own lives. And shame and guilt can build up from constantly letting others down.
Where does the passive-Communication Styles style come from?
Usually, the person who overuses this style has a history which includes elements of both the passive and the Communication Styles communication styles. They experience significant anger and a desire for control, but they fear the consequences of expressing themselves directly to others. Openly Communication Styles or Communication Styles behaviour may have been punished in the past. There may also be a desire for rescue… “If I behave helplessly enough, surely someone will come and help me.”
The passive-Communication Styles communication style sometimes works under specific circumstances. However - as the only option - the general outcome is less effective and frequently results in unproductive actions and activities.
4. Assertive Style
Sometimes the previous communication styles are effective, under certain circumstances and in the short term. In the long term, all have negative effects on our relationships. None involve an open and honest exchange, in which everyone’s wishes and desires are respected. The Communication Styles communication style is designed to counteract and eliminate the long-term shortcoming of the passive, Communication Styles and passive-Communication Styles communication styles, by offering a way of communication that is open, honest and transparent without either disrespecting, judging or denying ourselves or others.
Assertiveness is not a communication style for getting our way. Instead, it recognizes that we are in charge of our own actions and that we decide what we will and will not do. Similarly - the Communication Styles communication style - also involves recognizing that other people are in charge of their own behaviour and does not attempt to take that control from them. When we behave assertively, we are able to acknowledge our own thoughts and wishes honestly, without the expectation that others will automatically give in to us. We express respect for the feelings and opinions of others without necessarily adopting their opinions or doing what they expect or demand.
This does not mean that we become inconsiderate of the wishes of others. We listen to their wishes and expectations, then we decide whether or not to go along with them. We might choose to do so, even if we would prefer to do something else. But it is our choice. Whenever we go along with others, it is our decision to do so anyway. But we can often feel helpless because we tend to forget that we are under our own control. And when we are under the control of another, it is because we allow and permit him/her to do so.
When we are being Communication Styles, we may also express our preferences for the behaviour and actions of others. We might assertively request that someone speak to us in a kinder way, do a favour for us, or complete a task that they have undertaken. But we will acknowledge that whether they do any of these things is really up to them… as indeed it is.
Assertiveness skills can be difficult to master. Many of us grow up without learning to use them effectively. To complicate matters a little more, assertiveness sometimes goes against our temptations. Sometimes we want to push other people to do our bidding. Sometimes we are desperately afraid of conflict. Assertiveness may mean holding ourselves back from our habitual ways of doing things, and that - in itself - requires effort and doesn’t come easily.
Some key benefits of assertiveness…
- It allows us to relate to others with less conflict, anxiety and resentment.
- It allows us to be relaxed around others because we know that we will be able to handle most situations reasonably well.
- It helps us to focus on the present situation, rather than allowing our communication to be contaminated by old resentments from the past (“This is just like the time you…”) or unrealistic fears about the future (“I can’t set a precedent by giving in”. “What if she takes this to mean…”).
- It allows us to retain our self-respect without trampling that of other people. Although it enables others to think whatever they want to think about us, it tends to build their respect for us as well.
- It increases self-confidence by reducing our attempts to live up to the standards of others by reducing the need for approval.
- It acknowledges the right of other people to live their lives, with the result that they feel less resentment toward us for attempting to control them.
- It gives us control over our own lives and - by reducing feelings of helplessness - assertiveness may reduce depression as well.
- It is the only communication style and strategy that actually allows us and others to be fully in a relationship, whether personal or professional.
5. Styles Connections
In general, most people think of assertiveness as the middle ground between passivity and aggressiveness. That is, they believe that assertiveness is more Communication Styles than the passive communication style but more passive than the Communication Styles communication style. An opinion or belief that - as a matter of fact - merely manifests as a differently applied passive-Communication Styles communication style. This leads them to worry that they will “overshoot” when they try to be more Communication Styles. Maybe they will become too Communication Styles (if they used to be too passive) or too passive (when they used to be Communication Styles).
Here’s a better way of looking at it… Assertiveness is NOT a ”trade-off“ integration and delicate ”balancing act“ between passivity, aggressiveness and passive-Communication Styles action or behaviour. Being Communication Styles is a communication style and contextual strategy that is rightfully standing on its own and which is established, driven and sustained by…
- Seizing the moment, with a healthy respect and acceptance of
Given the foregoing, it is hopefully abundantly clear that assertiveness is not merely an exchange between passivity and aggression, but that it is based on a contextual understanding of the people involved, the situation and circumstances in which the communication takes place.
Unfortunately, most people do not apply the Communication Styles communication style as often as they could. As a result, their communication and interactions with other people tend to be frustrating, complicated and quiet unproductive, especially in relation to the bigger picture.
In most personal and professional situations, the Communication Styles communicative style - in the long run - is the most effective and productive of the four described communication styles.