There are four styles of communication: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.
The Passive Person
Passive behavior is the avoidance of the expression of opinions or feelings, protecting one’s rights, and identifying and meeting one’s needs. Passive individuals exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture, and tend to speak softly or apologetically. Passive people express statements implying that:
- “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”
- “I don’t know what my rights are.”
- “I get stepped on by everyone.”
- “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”
- “People never consider my feelings.”
The Aggressive Person
An aggressive individual communicates in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally or physically abusive, or both. Aggressive communication is born of low self-esteem, often caused by past physical or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.
Aggressive individuals display a low tolerance for frustration, use humiliation, interrupt frequently, and use criticism or blame to attack others. They use piercing eye contact, and are not good listeners. Aggressive people express statements implying that:
- The other person is inferior, wrong, and not worth anything
- The problem is the other person’s fault
- They are superior and right
- They will get their way regardless of the consequences
- They are entitled, and that the other person “owes” them.
The Passive-Aggressive Person
The passive-aggressive person uses a communication style in which the individual appears passive on the surface, but is really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.
Passive-aggressive people usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful. Alienated from others, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Rather, they express their anger by subtly undermining the real or imagined object of their resentments. Frequently they mutter to themselves instead of confronting another person. They often smile at you, even though they are angry, use subtle sabotage, or speak with sarcasm.
Passive-aggressive individuals use communication that implies:
- “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”
- “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”
- “I will appear cooperative, but I’m not.”
The Assertive Person
An assertive individual communicates in a way that clearly states his or her opinions and feelings, and firmly advocates for his or her rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem. Assertive people value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. They are strong advocates for themselves — while being very respectful of the rights of others.
Assertive people feel connected to other people. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Feeling in control of themselves, they speak in calm and clear tones, are good listeners, and maintain good eye contact. They create a respectful environment for others, and do not allow others to abuse or manipulate them.
The assertive person uses statements that imply:
- “I am confident about who I am.”
- “I cannot control others, but I control myself.”
- “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”
- “I know I have choices in my life, and I consider my options. I am fully responsible for my own happiness.”
- “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”