Posted March 27, 2018 by Daniel Karell

GIF of two heads talking.

Every person has a unique communication style, a way in which they interact and exchange information with others.

There are four basic communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive.

It’s important to understand each communication style, and why individuals use them. For example, the assertive communication style has been found to be most effective, because it incorporates the best aspects of all the other styles.

When we break down these four styles, we’ll better understand the characteristics of each style, standard phrases and what makes them unique.

Passive

Individuals who use the passive communication style often act indifferently, yielding to others. Passive communicators usually fail to express their feelings or needs, allowing others to express themselves. Frequently, a passive communicator’s lack of outward communication can lead to misunderstanding, anger build-up or resentment. At the same time, these communicators can be safer to speak with when a conflict arises, because they most likely will avoid a confrontation or defer to others.

Passive communicators often display a lack of eye contact, poor body posture and an inability to say “no.” Passive communicators also act in a way that states “people never consider my feelings.”

But passive communicators are also easy to get along with as they follow others and “go with the flow.”

Examples of phrases that those who use a passive communication style would say or may believe include:

  • “It really doesn’t matter that much.”
  • “I just want to keep the peace”

Aggressive

It’s often apparent when someone communicates in an aggressive manner. You’ll hear it. You’ll see it. You may even feel it.

The aggressive communication style is emphasized by speaking in a loud and demanding voice, maintaining intense eye contact and dominating or controlling others by blaming, intimidating, criticizing, threatening or attacking them, among other traits.

Aggressive communicators often issue commands, ask questions rudely and fail to listen to others. But they can also be considered leaders and command respect from those around them.

Examples of phrases that an aggressive communicator would use include:

  • “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
  • “I’ll get my way no matter what.”
  • “It’s all your fault.”

Passive-Aggressive

Passive-aggressive communication style users appear passive on the surface, but within he or she may feel powerless or stuck, building up a resentment that leads to seething or acting out in subtle, indirect or secret ways.

Most passive-aggressive communicators will mutter to themselves rather than confront a person or issue. They have difficulty acknowledging their anger, use facial expressions that don’t correlate with how they feel and even deny there is a problem.

Passive-aggressive communicators are most likely to communicate with body language or a lack of open communication to another person, such as giving someone the silent treatment, spreading rumors behind people’s backs or sabotaging others’ efforts. Passive-aggressive communicators may also appear cooperative, but may silently be doing the opposite.

Ultimately, passive-aggressive communicators are aware of their needs, but at times struggle to voice them.

Examples of phrases that a passive-aggressive communicator would use include:

  • “That’s fine with me, but don’t be surprised if someone else gets mad.”
  • “Sure, we can do things your way” (then mutters to self that “your way” is stupid).

Assertive

Thought to be the most effective form of communication, the assertive communication style features an open communication link while not being overbearing. Assertive communicators can express their own needs, desires, ideas and feelings, while also considering the needs of others. Assertive communicators aim for both sides to win in a situation, balancing one’s rights with the rights of others.

Assertive communicators can express their own needs, desires, ideas and feelings, while also considering the needs of others.

One of the keys to assertive communication is using “I” statements, such as “I feel frustrated when you are late for a meeting,” or, “I don’t like having to explain this over and over.” It indicates ownership of feelings and behaviors without blaming the other person.

Examples of phrases an assertive communicator would use include:

  • “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”
  • “I realize I have choices in my life, and I consider my options.”
  • “I respect the rights of others.”

How to Become an Assertive Communicator 

Understanding how others communicate can be key to getting your message across to them. In order to develop a more assertive communication style, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Take ownership (use “I” statements)
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Voice your needs and desires confidently

Now that you’ve learned about the four basic communication styles, take that knowledge and apply it to a degree. You’ll learn even more about effective communication with Alvernia University’s fully online B.A. in Communication. Choose your track — either Strategic Communications or PR & Advertising — while learning the fundamentals of mass communication.

Alvernia’s students can take advantage of a rich liberal arts education grounded in Franciscan values and taught by personable faculty who have your success in mind. At Alvernia, our program features a flexible online format, allowing you to balance your studies with your busy life.

Filed under: Communication


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