Effective communication is an essential skill in any relationship. It is the foundation of a healthy marriage, as well as parent and child interaction. It is the key to a good relationship between an employer and employee and various other types of relationships one may engage in. However, there are various types of communication styles in which individuals may express themselves.
One type of communication style is the passive approach. Someone who is passive rarely expresses his/her thoughts, feelings, or needs to others. This individual is often looking to please others as a means of gaining others’ approval and is willing to do so at his/her own expense. For instance, a passive spouse may agree to go to a restaurant chosen by his/her mate, despite the fact that the food there always makes him/her ill.
Another type of communication style is the passive-aggressive approach. Similarly, individuals who are passive-aggressive rarely express their own thoughts, feelings, or needs to those that they need to communicate with. However, people will often seek indirect revenge on the individual they perceive not to have understood them. This type of individual may manipulate others with this communication style in order to achieve what it is he/she does want. Then he/she may complain to others about the failed communication. Similar to the passive approach, an individual who is passive-aggressive exhibits indirect communication and leaves others confused and often frustrated. The passive-aggressive employee who wants to be recognized for his/her contributions may take on extra work and then complain to his/her coworkers about having too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. This same individual may later complain to a supervisor, in the presence of the coworkers, that no one else was willing to help get the work completed.
Another communication style is the aggressive approach. An individual who is aggressive often seeks to control situations and causes others to feel inferior. Rather than the passive approach where communication fails at the individual’s own expense, the aggressive individual communicates his/her thoughts, feelings, or needs at the expense of others. This type of individual is often rude, humiliating, and hurtful. An aggressive child may let his mother know about the candy he wants by demanding she buy it and calling her names and yelling until she complies.
On the other hand, the most effective communication style is the assertive approach. This approach to communicating thoughts, feelings, or needs often presents a win-win situation. It is direct and respectful of the individual and the intended receiver. This communication style allows one to feel confident and can be empowering. For instance, the assertive individual politely declines his/her friend’s movie suggestion and then offers an alternative suggestion upon which they both agree.
Communication is a give and take interaction. Denying one’s own thoughts, feelings, or needs or denying someone else’s right to express the same, results in equally poor communication. Communicating effectively may take practice. Learning to accept responsibility for one’s communication style and to become assertive often takes practice. It can be even more difficult to maintain this approach when others communicate from one of the alternative approaches. However, assuming the following assertive philosophy can be helpful:
I recognize that everyone has well practiced communication habits and long standing attitudes that support and defend these habits.
- I accept the communication habits of others as fact.
- I will offer assertive communication and a “win-win” attitude even when others are offering nonassertive or aggressive styles.
- I understand that people change only when they choose to change.
- I select my personal standard of communication rather than react to those of others.
- I know others are different from me and all kinds of people are okay.
- I accept responsibility for my feelings, thoughts, opinions, and behavior. I realize I cannot be responsible for the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and behaviors of others.
- I accept that every relationship involves each person having 50% of the responsibility for the success or failure of that relationship.
- I know that being nonassertive and aggressive is part of being human.
- I know that every assertive choice precludes a nonassertive or aggressive choice and improves the chances for success at work and at home.
Take the time to think about your communication style and the communication style of those to whom you seem to have difficulty expressing your thoughts, feelings, or needs. Remember that improving the effectiveness of your communication can also improve your relationships with others.Tags: aggressive approach, being assertive, Effective Communication, passive-aggressive
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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