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The Four Styles of Communication

What's Your Communication Style? We’ve talked about the importance of communication here before.  A lot.  It is a vital component to all healthy relationships – romantic relationships, parent-child bonds, even friendship require us to be able to communicate well.  It is how we connect with one another.   It’s also how we alienate one another.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness – you need to be aware of the impact your communication style has on those around you.  Understanding your personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create harmonious and rewarding relationships with others.  Which of the following descriptions sounds most familiar to you?  

 PASSIVE COMMUNICATION: In this communication style, individuals have developed a pattern of NOT expressing their opinions or feelings or protecting their rights.  They do not clearly identify their needs or make any direct efforts at getting those needs met. Often, people exhibiting a passive communication style believe that they are “not worth much.” As a result, passive individuals allow hurtful behaviors to continue and grievances to accumulate, usually unaware of the buildup. They do whatever it takes to avoid “rocking the boat.”  But, even they can only take so much.  Once a passive person reaches their (very high) threshold, there is likely to be an explosive outburst, far out of proportion to the triggering event. These rages seem to “come out of the blue” and are followed by guilt, shame, and remorse. 

 AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION:  The aggressive communicator expresses his feelings and opinions in a way that violates the rights of others. This communication style places the needs, wants, and opinions of the speaker far above those of the listener.  Aggressive communicators are often verbally and/or physically abusive. Like passive communicators, aggressive individuals are likely to suffer from self-esteem issues. The aggressive communicator feels he must shout, bully, and push in order to protect himself.

 PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION:  This is a tricky communication style.  The individual will appear passive on the surface but are actually acting out in a subtle, indirect ways.. People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful.  Because they feel incapable of dealing directly with others, they express their anger by subtly undermining or sabotaging the efforts of others. They smile at you while secretly plotting your downfall.

 ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION: This is the gold standard in communication.  Assertive people clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication requires that we feel that we are equal to others – neither more nor less important and worthy of respect. These individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. An assertive person is able to establish and maintain their own boundaries without violating others in the process.  They are strong advocates for themselves while remaining respectful of the rights of others.

Here’s a handy one-page printable that will help you clarify your own communication style.  We can all benefit from spending some time honing this important skill! And if you would like even more information on effective communication, check out these other resources: 


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